In December of 2015 the Cincinnati Reds made a non-exciting Triple-A Rule 5 pick, selecting right handed pitcher Ariel Hernandez. He had big problems with control in the past, never having any success out of rookie ball and having been in independent league ball at one point in 2015 before signing with Arizona.
The Cincinnati Reds assigned Ariel Hernandez to the Low-A Dayton Dragons to start the year. He made his debut on April 9th and things didn’t go well. He allowed a run, walking four batters in 0.2 innings. Things went better the next week, allowing one earned in 5.2 innings with three walks and seven strikeouts. In the final three appearances of the month, stretching 10 days, Hernandez dominated. He allowed one hit and two walks in 7.1 innings over three multi-inning appearances with two walks and six strikeouts. For the month he posted a 1.32 ERA in 13.2 innings with nine walks and 13 strikeouts. Opposing hitters had a .071 average against him.
Ariel Hernandez continued his dominance into May for the Dragons. Over the first two weeks of the month he appeared in four games. He allowed just one hit and three walks in 6.2 innings with 10 strikeouts and no runs allowed. In the third week of May, the 24-year-old threw another two shutout appearances of 1.0 inning each. In was the final week of May where he ran into problems. Over that span he allowed four runs in 5.2 innings over three games with four walks. On the month he would post a 2.51 ERA in 14.1 innings with eight walks and 22 strikeouts.
June started out well as Hernandez threw 2.0 shutout innings with two strikeouts, but the next outing was a struggle. Against Forth Wayne he allowed three runs in 1.1 innings with three walks. He was promoted to Daytona following that outing. In his first week with the Tortugas he threw 4.2 shutout innings with four strikeouts. The right hander didn’t pitch for six days before returning to the mound. In the final 10 days of the month he would make five appearances, allowing two earned runs in 5.0 innings. For the month, between his two stops he had 13.0 innings with a 3.46 ERA to go with six walks and 10 strikeouts.
July got out to a slow start as Ariel Hernandez only made one appearance in the first week, throwing a shutout inning on the 4th. The second week of the month saw things pick up as he made three more appearances. He allowed one earned run in 2.2 innings with three walks and five strikeouts. Hernandez struggled on the 18th, allowing two runs in 2.0 innings. The final four games of the month went well, tossing 4.0 shutout innings with four strikeouts and no walks. The right hander had a 2.79 ERA for the month with six walks and 13 strikeouts in 9.2 innings.
The first week of August was a bit of a struggle. In two appearances, Ariel Hernandez allowed a run on four walks in 1.2 innings pitched. The second week went much better. In two appearances he allowed just one hit over 4.0 innings with four strikeouts. The third week of the month was dominant. He threw 3.0 shutout innings on the 18th with six strikeouts and then another shutout appearance on the 21st. The final two appearances of the season were a bit of a struggle, walking five batters in 2.0 innings, but both were hitless and scoreless. The control was a problem in the month, walking 10 batters in 11.1 innings, but posted a 0.79 ERA with 14 strikeouts.
Ariel Hernandez went from a Triple-A Rule 5 pick, which means that the Diamondback had him outside of their top 78 players that were eligible for the Rule 5 draft if left unprotected (including players on their 40-man roster) in their organization, to being added to the Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster following the season a year later. The right hander went out and dominated opposing hitters in 2016, holding them to an insane .136 average and a .164 slugging percentage. He faced 238 batters on the season and allowed 29 hits, three doubles and just one home run.
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Ariel Hernandez Scouting Report
Fastball | The pitch not only has outstanding velocity, working in the 96-99 MPH range and touching triple digits, but it also shows good, late sinking action.
Curveball | Despite throwing a fastball that touches triple digits, it’s the curveball that stands out. It’s a true 80 pitch on the scouting scale. It works in the 85-88 MPH range and has outstanding two plane breaking action with late bite.
Change Up | It doesn’t always come out, but when it does it’s a pitch in the mid 80’s with good arm action and is at least an average offering, but flashes itself as an above-average pitch.
When it comes to pure stuff, there’s not a better arm in the Reds organization. He’s got two plus to plus-plus offerings and a third pitch that flashes itself as above-average. The acquisition only cost the Reds $12,000 in December of 2015 and it’s paid off in spades.
There are some concerns when it comes to his control and ability to throw strikes. Even in his 2016 breakout he walked 5.7 batters per 9-innings pitched. That’s a rate that’s going to have to come down in the future, but it was an enormous step forward from the rest of his career, where he’s walked over a batter per inning since he turned 18. On most nights he actually showed decent enough control, but every so often he would battle the strikezone and rack up the walks in a given outing. If he’s able to find a little more consistency, he’s got the stuff to be a closer at the big league level without question. If his control is going to be inconsistent, he’s still got enough stuff that he’s got the chance to be a 7th or 8th inning pitcher who is going to dominate on most nights.