Yadiel Hernández - Professional Hitter; Adequate Defender:
Yadiel Hernández went 2 for 3 with an RBI single, two-run home run to left, and a swinging K in his three trips to the plate against Giants’ right-hander Logan Webb when Washington and San Francisco played three in D.C. last weekend, and as the Nationals highlighted in the notes for the second game of three in Oracle Park this weekend, “... his last 12 games he is 13-for-42 (.310) with three doubles, a home run, six RBI(s), two walks and three runs scored ... [and he’d] hit safely in nine of 13 games this season.”
Overall on the year, the 34-year-old outfielder had a .289/.313/.422 line in 48 PAs going into Saturday afternoon’s game with the Giants.
Following his two-hit game against Webb in the nation’s capital, manager Davey Martinez told reporters, as he has before, Hernández can just flat-out hit.
“He can hit. I’ve said that. He’s got a good swing,” Martinez said.
“Today, I liked the matchup with him today, but he’s a good hitter, and he stayed on the ball, and as you can see when he stays on the ball, he can hit the ball to left field with power.”
He can also, increasingly, play a serviceable left field. That’s not something his manager could always say about Hernández, and it’s the result, Martinez said, of hard work.
“The one thing I can tell you about him — his defense,” the fifth-year skipper explained, “and I told him, I said, ‘Look, you might not have the greatest arm, but I played with a guy with the Giants that didn’t have a very good arm, but he got to the ball quicker than anybody I’ve ever seen, and that’s Barry Bonds.’ So, I said, ‘You just got to come get the ball and try to hold the runners. We’re not expecting you to throw anybody out, we’re expecting you to throw to the right bases, and we’re expecting you to hold the runner if you can, from advancing. And how do you do that? It’s by coming to get the ball, and he’s done a lot better doing that. He understands, and he has made some decent throws, he really has, so I’m proud of him because he always was a guy that just hit, hit, hit, and never took any pride in — or nobody’s ever told him that, ‘It’s important that you play defense,’ and he’s working really hard to get better and I see his improvement.
“At one point in time him going back to catch a fly ball, was ... not good. And now he can go back and get behind balls and catch balls behind him and do it well.
“I’m proud of how hard he’s been working to get better, and get better all the way around.”
Hard-Throwing Jackson Rutledge:
Jackson Rutledge, 23, and No. 4 on MLB Pipeline’s list of the the Nationals’ top prospects, dealt with injury issues in college and the pros, and the 2019 1st Round pick, who threw at the alternate training site in 2020 with no minor league season, dealt with, “shoulder and blister issues [which] limited him to 36 1/3 innings,” in the minors in 2021.
De Jon Watson, the Nationals’ Director of Player Development, talked about where Rutledge was in terms of his development during Spring Training, telling reporters, as quoted by NBC Sports Washington’s Matt Weyrich, the 6’8’’ right-hander has some things to sort out as he’s working his way through the system:
“He’s been working on his delivery, which is a lot better from the Fall League to where we are right now. It’s really about pitch usage, understanding how his mix is gonna play and how to attack the hitters that he’s facing. So those are some of the areas that we’re gonna really focus on coming out of camp and really, we have to hone in on the role.
“What does he fit? Is he a starter? Is he a reliever? Really understanding the dynamic of the skills and how they play for us and how are they going to play for us in the future. Right now, he’s in the starting rotation, we’re gonna keep him in the rotation but…we’re trying to get the best arms up the minor-league system as quick as we can to provide insurance for our big-league club.”
Rutledge was assigned to Single-A Fredericksburg, but he hasn’t pitched for the Nationals’ affiliate yet this season, starting the year on the IL after dealing with biceps tendinitis this spring. GM Mike Rizzo, talking to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last Wednesday, told the Junkies not to read too much into the fact that Rutledge was assigned to Fredericksburg at his age, and at this point in his development.
“Yeah, he had a slow go out of Spring Training,” Rizzo explained, “that’s why he’s in A-ball, and he’s building up his innings and his pitch count before we move him and accelerate him. He’s an accelerated pitcher, he’s got great stuff, he’s probably the hardest thrower that we’ve got in the system, with a great breaking ball, but he has had some kind of nagging type of injuries where it’s kind of set back his timetable and he hasn’t been able to log the innings that we want him to.
“These guys — player development has no clock, everybody is on their own timetable, and we’ve got an individual plan for each and every guy, and the plan can’t be rushed. And you can’t say just because of chronological age you belong in X-level, the performance and the development of each player will dictate where they go, and we’ve got high hopes for Rutledge, he’s just a step or two behind because he’s been held back because of the injuries, but as far as electric stuff and pure pitching ability, he’s got as much as anybody we’ve got.”
28 to 26-Man Roster:
Washington, and the rest of the teams in the majors, will have to reduce their rosters from the 28 they started the season with to 26 on June 2nd, so there will some decisions for the club to make this weekend, and Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said on Saturday it’s a process that will be discussed amongst the team’s brass in the next day or so.
“We’ve been discussing a lot of things,” Martinez said before the 2nd of 3 with the Giants in Oracle Park this weekend. “Right now, one, we talk about our bench — we don’t want to just get rid of everybody on the bench — and we talk about what we need here, and what we can do otherwise. So we’ve got a lot to talk about after the game today, obviously, but like I said, we still got a couple of days to worry about that. Right now our focus is just on going 1-0 today and trying to win this game today.”
Martinez did say that he didn’t want his pitchers going out there like every appearance is an audition for a spot on the reduced roster.
“We haven’t spoke once about it,” he said, “I don’t think — nobody said anything. They’re all out there, they’re all pitching well too, so it’s going to be a tough decision, but I think they need to understand regardless of what happens the day after tomorrow, they’re going to be needed here, so they’ve got to continue to work hard, and be ready when called upon.”