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February 15, 2013 at 6:45 AM

2013 Prospect Previews: Sean Coyle and Chris Hernandez

Position: Second base
2012 Team: Salem Red Sox
2013 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 21

Strengths: Coyle possesses a smooth, compact stroke that fluidly arrives at the point of contact. His strong hands and forearms enable him to generate above-average bat speed, along with assisting in controlling the head of the bat on a consistent plane through the strike zone. The hit tool grades as solid-average, with the ability to develop into a .280s hitter at full utility. Coyle’s hot spot is with pitches middle-in, where he pulls his hands in well and rifles the bat head through the ball. Despite being on the small side at 5-foot-8, his well-filled out base and strong core help him create torque to drive offerings with back spin, especially on the pull side. In the field, Coyle only has about average range at second, but is sure with the glove and technically sound. He anticipates the ball well at the crack of the bat and slows the game down defensively when making plays. The defense projects as about solid-average. Coyle shows a strong aptitude for the game, along with the type of makeup that pushes him to adjust and drives him to be successful.

Development Needs: While Coyle’s swing is quick, he tends to swing-and-miss too much for a hitter that needs to thrive on making contact. He’s slow to pick up secondary offerings, often sitting dead on fastballs, which causes his hands and weight to commit early. This leaves Coyle prone to being too far out front of the ball. In order to make consistent, hard contact against the rising competition and prove his bat won’t level off in the upper levels, improvement in his approach and strike zone judgment is a must. He also doesn’t handle offerings on the outer third well presently and looks like a spot that may always give him trouble. Coyle is inconsistent at keeping his hands above the ball, often slapping or punching at pitches away from him, rather than staying inside of the pitch to drive it hard the other way. The overall major league projection hinges on making progress towards becoming an all-fields hitter and improving the approach. Coyle is limited to second base defensively, which puts pressure on his offense to reach its full potential in order for him to profile as a regular at the big league level.

2013 Outlook: Coyle’s rough edges were exposed in High A last season, but he was also age-advanced and only in his second professional season. A return to the level is likely to begin the season to show that he can continue to make adjustments and is trending ahead of the competition. The most important developmental aspect of 2013 for him is improvement picking up secondary offerings. The quality and ability of opposing pitchers to throw them only continues to rise. Coyle’s success in moving to the next level will be strongly tied into this progress. If things go well, the second baseman has a strong chance to end the season in Double-A, where he’ll get another push and jolt to his approach. The early spring scouting looks at Coyle should be a good clue as to how he’s progressing with these aspects of his game. With the experience under his belt, I see Coyle making the adjustments to push through High A at some point this season and begin his test in the upper levels.

Position: Pitcher
2012 Teams: Portland Sea Dogs/Pawtucket Red Sox
2013 Projected Team: Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 24

Strengths: Hernandez has a strong feel for the game and a high baseball IQ. When scouting him on the mound, it’s evident he’s thinking through sequences and has an idea of what he wants to do. The lefty also isn’t easily rattled on the mound, and is capable of shrugging off a bad inning or stretch and staying focused on the task at hand. Hernandez’s best pitch is an 81-85 mph cut fastball, which he’ll throw with different looks and breaks depending on the situation. He commands the pitch well to both sides of the plate. The cutter’s downward movement and velocity makes it tough for opposing hitters to time, often resulting in weak contact as batters are either jammed or swing over the top of it. Hernandez mixes his cutter well against right-handed batters, balancing his usage between the inside and outside thirds of the plate. Righties often give up on it when he throws it with back-door break. Hernandez’s delivery is also low-stress and very easy. He doesn’t waste any extra energy when delivering the ball, allowing him to efficiently work through outings and keep himself fresh during the long season.

Development Needs: Hernandez walks a fine line with his stuff when it comes to facing major league-caliber hitters. His fastball is very fringy, topping out at 86-87 mph. While it does have some tailing movement, it is a pitch that has to be thrown in the lower tier of the strike zone exclusively and strategically used. Hernandez heavily relies on the cut fastball to set batters up and get them out. He doesn’t miss many bats, which puts the emphasis on the crispness of both his command and control. Hernandez does throw quality strikes, but runs into stretches of being inconsistent in doing so. He can lose his release point when his body opens early causing him to veer off target and drag his arm, especially when throwing his curveball. The 76-79 mph offering grades as fringe-average. The pitch often rolls or loops to the plate, but does show tight, deep break from time to time. More consistency from Hernandez snapping it off will go a long way in having another viable offering to mix into sequences.

2013 Outlook: Hernandez has progressed through the ranks quickly since signing with the organization, and finished up 2012 in Triple-A. He’s set to return to the level to begin the season, where he will continue to take a turn in the rotation every fifth day and work towards putting the finishing touches on the product. Given the stage of his development and proximity to the majors, the organization is likely to stretch him as depth in case of an injury or in the event a spot start is needed, but Hernandez’s ultimate path to stick in the majors long-term lies in relief. The stuff doesn’t profile well when matched up against big league caliber hitters multiple times through a lineup. At some point during the upcoming season, there’s a good chance Hernandez will make his major league debut. In whatever capacity that may be, the experience in Triple-A before then should be a good test, especially after going through the league a second and third time when hitters have had a chance to gauge him. Hernandez provides depth for the big club in 2013, with a look during the season likely being a determining factor in whether he factors into plans for 2014 and beyond.

Photo Credits: Sean Coyle and Chris Hernandez by Dave Letizi. 

Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen