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Washington Nationals’ Yadiel Hernández: What does the future hold for the veteran rookie outfielder?

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Yadiel Hernández debuted as a 32-year-old rookie last season, does he have a role with the 2021 Nationals?

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Yadiel Hernández’s rise to the majors and his debut as a 32-year-old this past September, was one of the feel-good stories out of a disappointing campaign for the Nationals.

“Great story,” Washington’s manager Davey Martinez said once Hernández was called up.

“He’s worked his tail off to get here. Super proud of him. He’ll play some left field, DH some, pinch hit some, but really happy that he’s here, really happy that he’s worked — great kid.”

“He was a good veteran hitter on the Cuban national team,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo explained.

“He was a left-handed bat that our international scouts liked and wanted to sign.

“When those scouts are very passionate about wanting to sign a player, they liked the skill set, but they loved the make-up, and I think that I owe it to those scouts to reward them for their hard work and signing players that they want, if all the determining factors fit for us, and they did.”

Hernández put up a combined .324/.449/.487 line with 96 doubles and 53 home runs over six seasons and 514 games in Cuba, and a .301/.385/.503 line, 61 doubles, and 63 homers over 370 games in the Nationals’ minor league system before he got the call to the majors for the first time.

“The reason that he got to the big leagues is nothing else than he earned it,” Rizzo said.

“He had a terrific season in 2019 in Triple-A and earned his way to the big leagues, and if you don’t get to the big leagues after the season that he had in Triple-A last season, when do you get promoted and what message does that send to the rest of the guys down in the minor leagues?

“We like to reward guys for playing well, and being good teammates, and he certainly has been that throughout his tenure here with the Nats.”

“It’s a huge sacrifice to get here,” Hernández said of his long road to the majors, “but I feel like it’s not just about getting here, it’s about staying here, and helping the team win any way I can, and being that the Nationals are my team, that’s who I want to help, obviously play here for a long time and help them win as many games as possible and obviously have a long career for myself and in doing so, help them any way that I can.”

Hernández put up a .323/.406/.604 line with 22 doubles and 33 home runs in 126 games at Triple-A Fresno in 2019, then spent the summer at the club’s Alternate Training Site down in Fredericksburg, VA this past year before getting his first big league opportunity.

In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this week, Rizzo talked about the outfielder’s 2020 debut and Hernández’s long road to D.C.

“We signed him about four years ago,” Rizzo recounted. “He was one of our international signings, he was an older player, he played on the Cuban national team for years, and was a really good player over there, came to the minor leagues and hit all the way through every stop that we had and in 2019 at Fresno — I forget what he hit — but something like .340 or something like that, and we brought him up to the big leagues, we know he can hit and he showed flashes of it at the big league level last year, and he’s a kid who loves to play baseball and when the season was over here, he immediately went to the Mexican League and started playing down there and he’s raking again down there.”

“The guy can hit, and we feel that our international scouting staff did a hell of a job with signing him, was kind of an unconventional sign because of his age, but when you can hit, we’ll find a place for you, and this guy can hit.”

What does the future hold for Hernández? Is he going to earn a role as a backup outfielder on the 2021 roster?

How would he fare as a bench bat at the big league level, assuming he isn’t going to claim a spot in the big league outfield next spring, with the Nationals in the market for a big bat (at an outfield or corner infield spot)? Does Hernández figure in the club’s plans for 2021?