Cleveland Indians spotlight: Leading off with Cesar Hernandez

CLEVELAND, OHIO - AUGUST 24: Cesar Hernandez #7 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after hitting a solo home run during the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field on August 24, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - AUGUST 24: Cesar Hernandez #7 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after hitting a solo home run during the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field on August 24, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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The Cleveland Indians have struck gold with their seemingly small offseason signing of infielder Cesar Hernandez.

Free agency isn’t a place the Cleveland Indians front office is often active. The offseason leading up to the 2020 season was no different. The lone signing on Cleveland’s roster was second baseman, Cesar Hernandez.

Hernandez signed a one-year deal worth $6.25 million back in December 2019. He assumed second base duties following the departure of long-time fan favorite, Jason Kipnis.

Through the season’s first 42 games, Hernandez has batted leadoff in every game he has started. While there is no rule for lineup construction, the general makeup for a leadoff hitter is someone who can get on base and has above-average speed.

Francisco Lindor had been Cleveland’s predominate leadoff hitter since the second half of the 2017 season. Sliding Lindor down to third in the order sets him up for more at-bats with opportunities to drive in runs.

However, Hernandez has proven more effective than Lindor atop the order as he has gotten on-base at a better clip than Lindor in his career (.351 vs. .347).

Offensively, Hernandez has been as advertised in the 2020 season. His 2020 slash line of .257/.335/.374 is consistent with his career slash line of .276/.351/.382. Aside from power, Cleveland got an offensive upgrade at second base over Kipnis.

Defensively, Hernandez has performed well in the 2020 campaign. His RZR (outs made on batted balls, or fielding percentage including balls that get by the fielder), is the highest in the majors. Over this career, Hernandez has been average in the field, but in 2020 has improved his defensive value.

After the season, to be 31-year old Hernandez would likely look for a 2-3 year deal. With a Lindor trade possible this offseason, the front office may look to the farm system or for more of a utility man to fill the gap at second base.

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Cleveland has brought in a player who adds depth to the top of the lineup. An under the radar move, which improved the position both offensively and defensively. While not the flashiest guy on the field, Hernandez has fit well on the roster and has been a valuable off-season addition.

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