This is one in a series of stories looking at members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster.
The Pittsburgh Pirates added the first—and as of now, only—southpaw to their 2023 pitching room when they selected RP Jose Hernandez’s contract from the Tulsa Drillers, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate, with the third overall pick in the 2022 Rule 5 Draft’s Major League Phase.
Pittsburgh must keep him on the 26-man roster for a minimum of 90 days this season to avoid his being subject to waivers. Given that and his handedness, he may see significant usage despite never playing above Double A.
Hernandez hails from the Dominican Republic, and Los Angeles signed him as an international free agent in 2016. He missed all of 2019 with an injury before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 MiLB season, but got his career back on track in A ball in 2021.
Hernandez stands 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and relies on a four-seam/slider combination, clocking in the mid-nineties and mid-eighties, respectively. He also mixes in a changeup.
Hernandez pitched to a 3.32 ERA across 52 MiLB games and 59.2 innings in 2022, splitting time between High and Double A. He struck out 69 batters and walked 25, averaging 10.49 strikeouts per nine innings, and allowing 1.21 WHIP and 1.22 HR/9.
In High A, Hernandez served as the closer, notching eight saves in eight opportunities. His numbers fell after his promotion to Double A, which is concerning given his de facto promotion to the big leagues: he blew both save attempts, and his ERA went from 2.14 to 3.96.
Spring training provides a critical opportunity for the Pirates to see what they’ve got in Hernandez against MLB hitters. In a perfect world, the Pirates would deploy Hernandez for low leverage innings if he needs time to adjust. Baseball embodies Murphy’s Law, however, and anything can happen.