KC Royals: Oscar Hernandez joins camp catching mix

(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

Awaiting the returns of Salvador Perez and Meibrys Viloria, the KC Royals recently added two catchers to their Summer Camp. Now, they’ve signed another.

Oscar Hernandez is now a member of the KC Royals.

Who, you might be asking, is Oscar Hernandez?

The far too simple answer is that Hernandez is a catcher with two brief stops in the major leagues. The more complete response is that the 26-year old is the latest backstop brought to Summer Camp to supplement KC’s catching corps during the temporary absences of Salvador Perez and Meibrys Viloria.

Perez made Independence Day news when he disclosed his recent positive test for COVID-19. He’s out indefinitely and can’t return to the club until he receives two negative tests. Viloria has been on the Injured List since July 4.

The magnitude of the loss of six-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glover and two-time Silver Slugger Perez speaks for itself; Viloria served commendably as a big league backup for the KC Royals in parts of the last two campaigns. To help fill the different gaps left by their absences, and beef up the remaining catching cadre of Cam Gallagher, MJ Melendez, and Sebastian Rivero, the club brought Freddy Fermin and Allan de San Miguel to camp earlier this week.

Five active catchers, however, apparently weren’t enough for the Royals, who have now signed Hernandez (released earlier this year by the Cardinals) and thrown him into the Summer Camp mix.

Why five catchers were sufficient before Perez and Viloria were sidelined, but not after, is the first of two reasons the Hernandez signing is curious; the second is that he really doesn’t add much at all.

First, the catching numbers just aren’t in Hernandez’s favor if he wants to break camp with the Royals. Perez was, as of Saturday, asymptomatic and will eventually reclaim his starting spot; Viloria can come off the IL next week; Gallagher is the club’s No. 2 catcher and figures to start if Perez isn’t ready by Opening Day; and Melendez and Rivero are organization mainstays who’ll be around for the foreseeable future. de San Miguel, who’s also coached in the organization, is most likely limited to helping in camp. So, chances are Hernandez won’t keep his spot long.

Simply put, there isn’t any long-term room for him. Even if misfortune befalls more of those ahead of him, the Royals will certainly look elsewhere for a longer-term fix.

That’s because his suitability for the majors is so suspect that his KC time may be limited to workouts. He’s weak at the plate–a .224 career average since breaking into the minors in 2012 makes his small sample size .167 major league average hardly surprising. And although he’s one of two active catchers in camp with major league experience (Gallagher is the other), his time arguably falls short of even the proverbial big league “cup of coffee”–he missed over three months with an injury in 2015, but still appeared in just 22 games across that season and 2016.

It appears, then, that for the KC Royals Hernandez represents an inexpensive, quite temporary solution for a team long on pitchers trying to win jobs but short on training camp catchers to catch them in workouts, intrasquad games and what few exhibition contests might be arranged. And there are too many organization backstops ahead of him to give him any hope of seeing big league action with the club. Release as soon as either Perez or Viloria returns is almost a certainty and will enable the club to add a player with much more potential long-term value.

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The KC Royals have temporary catching needs in Summer Camp. Oscar Hernandez can help meet them, but his stay with the club should, and probably will be short.