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October 12, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Top 40 Season in Review: Chris Hernandez, Christian Vazquez

For the next five weeks, SoxProspects.com will count down its top 40 prospects, recapping their seasons and why they're ranked where we have them in the site's official end-of-season rankings.

#32: Chris Hernandez, LHP
2012 Teams: Portland Sea Dogs/Pawtucket Red Sox
2012 Final Stats: 5-12, 3.26 ERA, 146 1/3 IP, 53 BB, 90 K, 1.333 WHIP


2012 Season in Review: Hernandez proved to be a reliable starter in the upper levels of the minors in 2012, despite long-term projections that he will eventually wind up in the bullpen. His 5.54 strikeouts per nine innings was quite low, but he showed an ability to induce weak contact, posting a 2.00 groundball-to-flyball ratio. He began the year in Portland, and in 103 2/3 innings over 18 starts, posted a 3.18 ERA, striking out 60 and walking 36. That performance earned him a July promotion to Pawtucket, where the 2010 seventh-round selection continued to be a steady presence, compiling a 3.59 ERA in eight appearances, seven starts. During his time in Pawtucket, Hernandez was especially effective against lefties, allowing them to hit just .216 compared to .269 for right-handers.

2013 Outlook: Hernandez will return to Pawtucket's rotation to begin 2013. Although he has had success in a starting role, he will have to continue answering questions about whether he will be able to induce weak contact as consistently at the major league level given his repertoire, including a fastball that sits in the mid-80s, changeup, and curveball. The Red Sox will develop him as a starter for as long as he is successful, but should the need arise for a left-handed reliever in the majors, Hernandez could be an option to move to the bullpen. His splits on the year, allowing a .264/.340/.399 line against right-handed hitters and a .233/.272/.276 line against left-handed hitters, evince a potential career path as a lefty specialist in the majors.

#31: Christian Vazquez, C
2012 Teams: Salem Red Sox/Portland Sea Dogs
Final Stats: .254/.344/.369, 7 HR, 48 BB, 78 K


2012 Season in Review: Coming off of a breakout season in 2011, expectations were high for the 22-year-old Puerto Rican native. Vazquez slumped mightily in May, hitting just .155, but returned to form over the summer, putting up a .969 OPS in June and a 1.003 OPS in July. The hot bat earned Vazquez a promotion to Portland in early August where he struggled getting acclimated, hitting just .205/.280/.260. In the meantime, he continued playing strong defense behind the plate, throwing out 42 percent of runners while he was in Salem, although that number fell a bit to 29 percent in a smaller Double-A sample size.

2013 Outlook: Currently participating in the Arizona Fall League, where he will get more at-bats and defensive reps with top-notch competition. He is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, and may be selected if left unprotected due to his strong defensive reputation, making him a decent, if not certain, bet to be added to the 40-man roster. Assuming he stays with the organization, Vazquez will return to Portland to start the year and attempt to make adjustments to Double-A pitching in the hopes of earning a midseason promotion to Pawtucket.

Photo Credit: Chris Hernandez and Christian Vazquez by Kelly O'Connor