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Over/Under 2021 Preview: César Hernández

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Will César Hernández be worth more or less than 1.5 fWAR in 2021?

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Based on ZiPS projections, César Hernández is expected to finish 2021 with the following stats:

647 PA, 11 HR, 8 SB, 9.4 BB%, 19.6 K%, .263/.337/.382, 89 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR

Read what our writers think, then vote in the poll below and drop your own opinions in the comments and on the Let’s Go Tribe Discord.

Blake Ruane’s Prediction: OVER

César Hernández was an invaluable member of Cleveland’s ball club last season. He ranked first on the team in hits, first in doubles, second in average, third in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging, and second in wins above replacement.

Now he’ll move up from the No. 2 spot in the lineup to the leadoff spot, where he’ll continue to set the table for José Ramírez.

I have no reason to believe the second baseman, who turns 31 this year, will take a significant step back in 2021. In fact, Hernández has been remarkably consistent throughout his eight seasons in the big leagues, aside from a power surge from 2018-19 that saw him club 29 home runs over two seasons — which is more than he homered in the other six seasons combined. His walk rate has also been a bit erratic over the last three years, peaking at 13.4% in 2018, dropping down to 6.7% in 2019, and then crawling back up to 9.2% in 2020.

But he has never strayed very far from his career .277/.352/.383 slash line. Last season, he even performed above it at .283/.355/.408. His career .339 BABIP might be his most impressive achievement. Not once has Hernández recorded a BABIP worse than .313. The man simply makes better contact than your average hitter and that is exactly what you want from the top of your lineup. ZiPS expects his BABIP to come back down to Earth in 2021 (.319) after he recorded a .364 BABIP last year, and it’s easy to see why they’d dismiss last year as a fluke.

After ranking in the bottom 6% of the league in average exit velocity for two seasons, Hernández notched a career-high 89.1 mph average exit velocity in his first season in Cleveland. He also cut his average launch angle nearly in half, coinciding with career highs in sweet spot percentage (37.3%) and hard-hit rate (37.3%). One more career-high for you: 33.9% of his batted balls were line drives, compared to his previous career-high of 25.8%.

The question here is obvious: Can Hernández sustain last year’s production at the plate over the course of a full season, against pitching outside the Central divisions? We’ll find out, but I believe he can at least come close. More importantly, Cleveland needs him to, because he is now even more important to this lineup than he was a year ago.

Poll

Will César Hernández finish 2021 with an fWAR over or under 1.5?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    Over
    (95 votes)
  • 9%
    Under
    (10 votes)
105 votes total Vote Now