Gabe Kapler: Cesar Hernandez is worthy of All-Star consideration

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

The Philadelphia Phillies haven't had multiple All-Stars since 2013, when Cliff Lee and Domonic Brown represented the club at Citi Field. Despite a rather disastrous weekend in San Francisco, that streak figures to end this year. Manager Gabe Kapler thinks his starting second baseman should be one of the team's All-Star representatives. 

Fan All-Star voting opened Friday. Over the weekend, Kapler vouched for several of his players to the collective media, which included Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, none more adamantly than Cesar Hernandez: 

“He’s leading National League second basemen in on-base percentage (.381), in stolen bases (10) and in walk percentage (15.4),” Kapler said. “For me, I think, from a profile perspective and what he does for our club, those are some pretty important characteristics. It’s an important profile and it’s at least worth considering.”

Last week, I examined six Phillies who could draw serious consideration. Among them was Hernandez, who FanGraphs currently rates as the fourth best second baseman in the National League. As Kapler noted, the 28-year-old does currently lead National League second baseman in stolen bases, despite the feeling from many that missteps on the basepaths in 2016 have left Hernandez gun-shy. Hernandez has hit .294 in consecutive seasons, but is currently batting .264. However, his .373 on-base percentage is on-pace with what he did a year ago. A large part of that is he's increased his walk percentage to 14.9 percent. His increase in walk percentage is fairly remarkable when you consider that he's led the Phillies in walks three consecutive seasons, but as a leadoff hitter, Hernandez has continued to display an ability to get on base, even if he's not hitting for quite as high of an average. 

Where Hernandez has been overlooked is in the field. The Venezuelan-born second baseman has graded out as the best fielding second baseman in the National League since the start of the 2016 season and third best in the majors. With a 2.4 dWAR and a 1.5 UZR, Hernandez currently grades out as the third best fielding second baseman in the National League in 2018, behind two second baseman not expected to garner All-Star interest – Kolten Wong of the St. Louis Cardinals and Ketel Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

Hernandez's case for the National League All-Star team runs into trouble when you look at what players he'll be competing with. Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett is currently batting .342, second in the National League. There's also been a microscope put on his performance because he's expected to draw heavy trade interest before next month's non-waiver trade deadline. Rookie Ozzie Albies has been one of the biggest surprises of the first-half, as the Atlanta Braves second baseman is currently among the league leaders in home runs. Even Asdrubal Cabrera of the New York Mets is in the midst of a career year. 

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The good news for Hernandez's case is that none of the aforementioned three second baseman are likely to be the only All-Stars on their own teams. First base is always competitive, but future Hall of Famer Joey Votto figures to get an All-Star spot, especially now that Giants first baseman Brandon Belt is on the disabled list. One of the other first baseman at the All-Star Game will likely be Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, a teammate of Albies. Nick Markakis, in the midst of a career revival, could also make an All-Star appearance. And for as much as the Mets haven't been able to sustain a hot start, Jacob deGrom has been one of the five best pitchers in the league – he's going to be an All-Star. 

The problem for Hernandez is that if he does make the All-Star team, he will likely be among a group of Phillies to do so. Odubel Herrera is a leading candidate to start in center field for the National League team. It would be a minor shock if Aaron Nola, with a 2.4 fWAR, wasn't one of the pitchers selected to the National League All-Star team. His rotation mates Jake Arrieta and Nick Pivetta will also draw consideration. And Seranthony Dominguez, who has already accumulated a 0.7 fWAR, may also be a candidate. If Hernandez was having this season two or three years ago, he may have made the All-Star Game as the Phillies only representative. Luckily for the Phillies, 2015 and 2016 are in the rearview mirror. 

There's no denying the value that Hernandez has had to the Phillies in 2018. He's forced his way into the long-term discussion. But while he'll draw All-Star consideration, the best guess here is that he'll be an odd man out for the National League All-Star team. That won't stop Kapler from making the case for him.