Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s KC Royals Projections series for 2022. Between now and Opening Day, our writers are analyzing how various Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Today we consider Carlos Hernández.
Carlos Hernández didn’t break the franchise bank when he signed a $15,000 international free agent deal with the KC Royals in 2016.
Now, he seems headed for future paydays that will dwarf his first professional contract.
Hernández, 25 in March and a veteran of parts of five professional campaigns, began last season in the Kansas City bullpen, was the Opening Day winner in relief, joined the rotation after the All-Star Break, and then went 5-2 with a 3.55 ERA in 11 starts.
That record covered only half a season but constitutes the best body of work among regular Kansas City starters who finished the season with the club—Brad Keller and Mike Minor were both 8-12 with ERAs above 5.00, Kris Bubic went 5-6, 4.77 as a starter, Brady Singer lost twice as many games (10) as he won (five) and had a 4.91 ERA, and Daniel Lynch was 4-6, 5.69 in 15 starts.
Although Hernández was a serviceable reliever (1-0, 3.95 ERA and 11.9 SO9 in 13 appearances), that he’ll start this season in the rotation is a given, especially considering the continuing inconsistency of the starters as a whole.
But can he be as good in 2022 as he was in 2021?
How Baseball Reference and FanGraphs project the KC Royals’ Carlos Hernández.
How will Carlos Hernández actually perform for the KC Royals this season?
If Hernández pitches as well as he did last season, he’ll become a staple of the club’s rotation and take a big step toward a lucrative future contract. (Under baseball’s current system, he’s arbitration-eligible after the 2023 campaign and can’t test free agency until after the 2026 campaign).
Hernández is, based on his 2021 effort, capable of 10-12 (and maybe as many as 15) wins. But to pitch that well, he’ll need to maintain his high-90’s four-seamer and keep the rest of his varied repertoire—curve, sinker, changeup and slider—sharp.
The Royals could, of course, occasionally use Hernández in relief (despite being by then a member of the rotation, he came out of the pen in late August and pitched 5.2 scoreless innings against Seattle).
Whatever his role turns out to be, expect a good 2022 from Carlos Hernández.