With Opening Day for short-season affiliates just around the corner, the Oakland A's are quickly…
'Draft-And-Follow' Hernandez A Competitor
Carlos Hernandez has excellent stuff, but when West Valley head coach Mike Perez is asked about Hernandez, the veteran skipper begins not with a description of Hernandez's pitches, but of the left-hander's character. "His strengths start with his competitiveness. He is just an outstanding competitor on the mound," Perez said. "When adversity hits, he is the first to address it head-on. What separates him from most pitchers is his competitiveness. He has a very even keel out there on the mound." Hernandez, a Santa Clara native, was part of a trio of outstanding left-handed pitchers on a tough West Valley College rotation in 2007. West Valley has a history of developing good professional pitchers. Current A's prospect Jason Windsor pitched at West Valley before attending Cal-State Fullerton. When the A's selected Hernandez in the 35th round last season, it was with the understanding that Oakland would watch him pitch in 2007 for West Valley before deciding whether or not to sign him. The 2006 draft was the final year for teams to make such selections, commonly known as "draft-and-follow" picks. Beginning with the 2007 draft, teams will have until the August after the draft to sign their picks. The 20-year-old Hernandez earned the Coast Conference South Division's "Pitcher of the Year" award in 2007 after going 11-0 with a 2.20 ERA. He struck out 120 in only 106 innings. His 2007 performance for West Valley was enough to convince the A's to sign Hernandez before the deadline to sign players from the 2006 draft. Perez says that the pressure of knowing that the A's were scouting him all season never got to Hernandez. "[Being a draft-and-follow] was never a factor for him this season. He knew he was drafted once and that he would likely be drafted again [if he didn't sign]. He just really wanted to play professional baseball. Scott Kidd [the A's area scout] really worked hard to get him on-board," Perez said. Hernandez turned down a scholarship to Lewis-Clark State in Idaho -- a school that has produced a number of major league pitchers, including Keith Foulke -- to sign with Oakland. According to Perez, Hernandez features three pitches: a fastball, change-up and a curveball. "He is a fastball guy. He regularly sits at 87 MPH with his fastball and can get it up to 89-90, but can live in the 86-88 range. He has a really excellent change-up and a good curve-ball," Perez said. Hernandez developed his change-up during his two seasons at West Valley and Perez points to the pitch as a sign of Hernandez's maturation as a pitcher. "It's different when you are in high school. You can really get away with dominating with your fastball. The biggest thing he had to learn is that the change-up can be his second biggest pitch. He really grew to understand that and I think that has made him a much better pitcher," Perez said. Hernandez is only 5'10'', 170 pounds, and Perez sees size as the biggest hurdle for Hernandez as he develops into a professional pitcher. "I think the key for him will be to get into the weight room and bulk up a bit. He's not a big guy, so he'll need to fill out a bit as he advances. He has all of the tools, but he'll need to get bigger," Perez said. Hernandez is expected to report to extended spring training and will likely be assigned either to short-season A Vancouver or the A's Arizona Rookie League team come the start of the minor league short seasons.
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