Kiké Hernandez Looking to Build on Stellar Cactus League Play

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(USA TODAY Sports photo)

With all the depth that the Dodgers have on their roster and in their farm system, it’s fitting that they have a player that encompasses all of that himself—self-described super-utility player Enrique Hernandez.

He was acquired from the Miami Marlins in the winter of 2014 along with Chris Hatcher, Austin Barnes and Andrew Heaney in the trade that sent Dee Gordon, among others, to Miami. He had a good first season with the Dodgers, playing at six different positions and posting a .307/.346/.490/.836 slash line including seven homers. 2016 saw a huge decline, when he hit only .190 for the season. He later admitted that the health of his father, who was battling cancer, affected him throughout the season to the detriment of his play.

2017 saw a slight rebound during the season, where he continued to fill in anywhere and everywhere. He played at every position except pitcher and catcher. Dodgers fans will not soon forget when he hit three home runs in Game 5 of the NLCS, including a grand slam, and tying the record for most RBI in a postseason game. He did so after talking to his mother in hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico, as she was off to find a working TV set.

Kiké did not hit well against right handed pitching, and later said that he put too much pressure on himself in those situations, as it got into his head. Hernandez has made it a point to work on that flaw, and it has certainly been showing this spring.

“Kiké has had an outstanding Spring” Orel opined Sunday night on the SNLA broadcast. “People talk about the bat, but he has played flawlessly anywhere.”

He continued later, “Kiké has always had lightning in his hands, when the bat is there, the feet have always been quick, just seems like he is making good strides now on being able to call on that power in his hands, in his arms, in his feet, at the correct time. Just a little different focus we have seen through this whole spring training, here with only a few games left.”

An outstanding spring is indeed correct. Kiké leads the team in hits, RBI, and triples. He is tied for second in most homers, and is second in walks. He is sporting a .340/.446/.745/.1.191 slash line with three doubles, two triples and four home runs—all of which have come against right-handed pitching. In fact, his splits show that he is hitting better overall against righties this spring than against lefties.

This is more important than ever because Kiké stands to see a lot more playing time, at least to start the season. With Justin Turner being out with an injury to his hand, Hernandez will be filling in at second for Logan Forsythe, who will be sliding over to the hot corner. Chase Utley would be his platoon partner at second, but I would think Kiké would get the majority of the starts, especially if he carries this hot hitting against righty pitching straight through into the season.

The fact that Kiké can play anywhere helps on a roster that is missing its All-Star third baseman, and one of the captains of the team. He can also bat anywhere up and down the lineup, giving Dave Roberts flexibility when players are out, or platoons are employed. His antics off the field, whether wearing a banana suit in the dugout or standing on a bucket to talk to very tall SportsNet LA hosts bring a little kid love of the game and lightheartedness to a long, tiring season. If the Dodgers want to get themselves back to the World Series, it’s going to be all hands on deck, and the fact that their super-utility player is looking to have the best season of his career will only help propel them to that goal.

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