clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Kiké Hernandez is more than just a utility player

New, 89 comments
MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

Enrique Hernandez, super-utility man, started off the Dodgers’ home run blitz against the Mets on Sunday with a leadoff solo shot to left field. Then he slugged a second home run to left field in the sixth inning. He went 3-for-6 in the game with a single, two home runs, and two RBI. Not only has Kiké been versatile defensively, he’s also been useful offensively this season. He’s slashing .234/.308/.479/.787 with a career-high 13 home runs, 26 RBI and a 113 wRC+ in 71 games.

“Another night, another home run.”- Joe Davis

Monday night at Dodger Stadium, Kiké hit his 13th home run of the year, a solo shot off rookie Duane Underwood Jr. It was his 6th homer over a 13-game span. He’s second on the team in home runs behind Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger who both have 15 round-trippers on the year.

The Dodgers have slugged 48 home runs in June. They have 104 homers on the season, the most in the National League. After Sunday’s 8-7 extra-inning victory and sweep of the Mets, Hernandez told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that home run hitting is just what they do. Hernandez is slugging .569 with six home runs in June.

”That’s what we do. We hit homers,” said Hernandez. “A lot of them.”

Hernandez also executed a perfect safety squeeze in the eighth inning of Saturday’s 8-3 win over the Mets. His slick base running and sliding also helped secure the Dodgers a walk-off win against the Texas Ranger on June 13. It’s not only about the home run ball for the 26-year old utility man.

The Dodgers’ front office values versatility and optimal flexibility when it comes to their roster. Eric took a look at the franchise’s top utility men of all-time quite a few years back. Jolbert Cabrera, Lee Lacy, and Derrel Thomas were his top three candidates, all three having played both infield and outfield. Ultimately Thomas was Eric’s top pick, his five games at catcher in 1980 sealing the deal.

Enrique Hernandez hasn’t caught a game for the Dodgers or pitched yet, but his super utility status goes beyond his ability to play at almost every position on the field. The quirky Kiké has also become an important offensive threat in the Dodgers’ lineup. He’s seized the opportunity to play more regularly since Chris Taylor has been sidelined with hamstring issues.

Since the Dodgers acquired Hernandez from the Miami Marlins in 2014, he’s played 204 games in the outfield (120 games in center field, 103 games in left field, 33 games in right field), 57 games at shortstop, 57 games at second base, 6 games at first base, and he’s been their designated hitter three times. His versatility has been impressive, but his offense has also improved this season.

His epic three-home run performance in NLCS Game 5 against the Cubs last year left Dodger fans wanting more, and he’s done just that this season so far. His ISO is the highest it’s ever been since joining the Dodgers (.245) and 57 points higher than his career mark (.188). He’s hitting more fly balls this year (51 FB%), 11% more than last season.

Kiké’s been barreling the ball up better than ever. His barrel % is at a career-high 11.3 per statcast. That’s slightly better than Cody Bellinger (10.9%) and Yasiel Puig (9.4%). He already has 16 barrels on the year, matching his total from last season already.

One of the most satisfying story lines to Hernandez’s career has been his success against Madison Bumgarner. He’s hitting .455/.471/.970 with a 1.440 OPS and four home runs against MadBum in 33 at-bats. He took the Giants’ southpaw deep this year on June 16, a two-run blast.

Perhaps his inspiration from his “dad” Chase Utley has taken his game to the next level. He used Utley’s bat to hit his home run Monday night against the Cubs.

Even though he has more pop in his bat than ever, he has historically struggled against right-handed pitching in his career. The good news is that his splits have evened out a bit this year. In 104 plate appearances against righties, he’s posted a .223/.282/.468 slash line with 6 home runs compared to 2017 when he hit .159/.244/.255 with one home run in 165 PA against RHP. In 108 plate appearances against lefties this year, Hernandez is hitting .245/.333/.489 with seven home runs. Last season he hit .270/.367/.579 with 10 homers vs. LHP.

It will still be awhile until Kiké lands on the all-time Dodgers utility player list, but his versatility around the diamond plus his burgeoning offense makes him a valuable all-around player for the Dodgers right now. Should he continue to make us go bananas with his offense, it will allow us to reclassify him as more than just a super utility player but simply a super player.