The brightest hope for middle infield help beyond Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins could rest in the hands of 20-year-old infielder Cesar Hernandez.
Hernandez, an elfin, switch-hitting defender who demonstrated some genuine ability to handle the stick in the New York-Penn League last season, has surfaced on a pair of prominent offseason rankings, including a strong endorsement from MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, who rated him as the seventh-best 2B prospect in baseball this week. That’s terrific news for a team that hasn’t had a young middle infielder to get chubbed up about since Rollins and Utley came through the system. The Phils have groomed a fair share of petite run, catch and throw farmhands over the years, but most of them have fallen short on offensive ability, which is the understatement of the year. But Hernandez appears to be cut from a different cloth. His 32 steals rated second in the league and he was sixth in hitting (.325). He finished with a nice .325/.390/.392 in 286 plate appearances.
He doesn’t possess much power potential, and isn’t especially young, but unlike shortstop prospect Jonathan Villar, who was traded Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal, he’s strikingly disciplined (27/26 K/BB) and booted just seven balls in 321 chances, compared to 153 hacks and 53 errors for Villar, albeit in twice as many games. Mayo isn’t the only impressed insider. Jon Sickels of minorleagueball.com listed Hernandez as the club's 11th-best prospect, and best infielder, citing excellent speed and defense in a pitcher-friendly New York-Penn League. “I think he is overlooked,” he writes.
Beer nuts: Right-hander San Larazo Solano, 20, a member of the Phillies' Dominican Summer League team, was suspended 50 games for testing positive for performance enhancers. He was 4-3 with a 2.57 ERA in a 12 appearances, eight as a starter. ... In other news, the Phillies, in their quest to lead the league in sensory overload, have installed a giant scoreboard 2.5-times bigger than the old one. They also plan to raise the volume of their PA system by several decibels to cancel out the noise of passing airplanes, fighter jets and alien invasion.