On a team with a collection of younger players, it helps to have a veteran or two around to help mentor those players. The prospects may well be the future of the franchise, but they need to learn how to be major league players somewhere along the line. Having a veteran presence can help make that transition from minor league prospect to savvy major league contributor a bit easier.
That presence is a part of what made James Shields as valuable as he has been for the Royals. With the young bullpen and prospects such as Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer on the cusp, Shields can help show them how to prepare and go about their business on the mound, even if it is only in Spring Training this year. If the Royals are able to extend him, that mentorship ability may be a factor. In fact, that potential to mentor younger players may be part of why the Royals signed veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez to a minor league contract earlier today.
Although Salvador Perez has spent approximately a season and a half in the majors, and has already won a Gold Glove award and been named an All-Star, he is still just 23 years old. Having a veteran catcher such as Hernandez, who has not only been an All-Star himself in the past, but a decent defensive catcher, can only help. Perez would be able to learn how Hernandez works with the pitching staff and could potentially pick up tips about opposing hitter and preparing for the day’s matchups.
Regardless of whether or not Ramon Hernandez makes the Royals roster to start the season, his presence may be felt more in how the other catchers perform and go about their daily business. Hernandez could almost be another coach, whether or not he is in Kansas City or in Omaha to start the year. Even if he is spending his time in Omaha, he can help develop Francisco Pena from the raw talent he is into a player who might be a viable major league backup.
Signings such as Ramon Hernandez typically fly under the radar, but a veteran leader like Hernandez can help in ways that may not show up in the box score. His signing is not going to break the Royals payroll, and may pay off down the road as Perez continues to develop. That is the type of investment that winning teams make.