Barring any last minute moves, the Washington Nationals 2021 roster looks to be set at all the starting positions and even the majority of the bench is almost set in stone. We know that Ryan Zimmerman will be backing up Josh Bell and providing pop against some lefties. Andrew Stevenson will be the fourth outfielder, Alex Avila will be our back-up catcher and Josh Harrison will be the super utility guy off the bench. With those four being locked up, there is only one spot on the 26-man roster up for grabs. Players like Jordy Mercer, Yasmany Tomas and the “Baby Shark” himself, Gerardo Parra, have all received invites to Spring Training and will have a shot at that last spot.
One name not being mentioned nearly enough is Yadiel Hernandez. He doesn’t bring speed or an amazing glove, but he brings a bat that has done nothing but hit all over the world over the last 11 years. The Cuban defector even hit an important home run for the Nationals last year.
Hernandez was up with the big club for a grand total of 12 games during the 2020 season and while he did not tear the cover off the ball, that is the definition of a short sample size.
The left-handed hitting Hernandez went into the offseason with his first taste of Major League Baseball still lingering, but he did not let that taste allow him to relax. He did what he always has… he got back to work and hit a baseball, really well. He played for the Naranjeros de Hermosillo in the Mexican Pacific Winter League and won the batting title with a .339 batting average and .923 OPS. In 10 foreign seasons of baseball in Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, Hernandez has hit a combined .322 and an OPS of .915.
He knows how to put the bat to the ball and this 33-year-old deserves a real shot to contribute with the big league club.
Though he certainly does not fit the mold of being the multi-tool player that traditionally fills in the last bench spot. Washington has almost every bench need covered already, except for a left-handed bat that they can bring in to face a tough righty. They have Stevenson who will likely be a defensive replacement or pinch runner, but when he is in the game, that will leave a glaring left-handed hole on the bench.
They also have Avila who is left handed, but he is not the batter I would want in a big situation and you’d leave yourself without a back-up catcher for the rest of the game. Yadiel will have to prove that he can get up off the bench, walk to the box and hit. In this position, he will not be able to really build a rhythm in the box day after day, but if he can do that his bat could be very valuable for the Nationals.
As of right now I do not think Hernandez is the top choice for this last bench spot, there is even a chance that the top choice is not even on the roster yet. However, I do think he deserves a real shot and he is certainly a guy worth keeping an eye on this spring.
Edited by: Jonathan Mailloux
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