Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Crystal Ball '08: Ramon Hernandez

After a really good Oriole debut in 2006, Ramon Hernandez put up disappointing numbers (and attitude) in 2007.

To be fair, Hernandez battled the Oriole Oblique Strain(copyright 2006) and a groin injury and probably wasn't healthy until late in the year. Still, Hernandez was one of the better offensive and defensive catcher in the AL in 2006 and the severe dropoff in his play was not expected.

A year after he had thrown out 64% of opposing baserunners, he gunned down fewer than 23% in '07. His OPS dipped more than 100 points (to .715) and easily had his worst year at the plate is since 2002.

Now, being the eternal optimist that I am, I am predicting a strong rebound for Hernandez in 2008. Why?

I think he's healthy now. He hit .241 in the first half but hit .273 after the All-Star break. His slugging was still down but in September he hit .324 with 3 homers and posted an OPS of .852. A strong finish = fully healthy.

Second, he still loves to hit at OPACY. Even in a dismal season, he hit .278 with 4 homers and a .752 OPS at home last year. Those are pretty good numbers for a catcher.

Third, I'm a sucker.

But really, adding health to a friendly home park and that's got to equal good things for Ramon, right? Rest him a bit more this year (Guillermo Quiroz is no Paul Bako), give him some games at DH and we should see the Ramon of 2006.

Hernandez will have every opportunity to regain his form if for no other reason than there is no other alternative anywhere in the organization. Matt Wieters is realistically a full year away and there's no other viable catcher in AAA ready to take a shot. Here's hoping Ramon will be a bright spot this season.

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