It's always nice to get to know the new guys, so each week I'm going to introduce one of the Rockies' newest additions. This week, I'll focus on the Colorado Rockies' new catcher, Ramon Hernandez.
Hernandez was signed by the Oakland Athletics as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela on February 18, 1994. He played his first big league game with the Oakland Athletics in June 1999 as a backup catcher to A.J. Hinch. The Athletics traded A.J. Hinch before the 2000 season and gave the starting catcher job to Hernandez. In the 2000 season, Hernandez set an Oakland record with the most games caught in a single season with 142 games. Hernandez's best season came in 2003 when he hit .273 with 21 home runs and 78 RBI. This landed him on his first and only All-Star team. The Athletics made the playoffs every season (200-2003) with Hernandez as their starting catcher.
Hernandez has played on three teams since parting ways with the Oakland Athletics; the San Diego Padres (2004-2005), Baltimore Orioles (2006-2008), and Cincinnati Reds (2009-2011). In 2004, while with the Padres, Hernandez found himself on the disabled list for the first time with an injured knee due to a collision at home plate. The following season (2005), Hernandez was injured again with a jammed wrist after sliding head first into first base. Hernandez was forced to have surgery on his wrist due to cartilage damage, but he returned to the team in September that year and hit .359 with five home runs and 20 RBI in the month. He was signed by the Orioles as a free agent in 2006 and took over their catching duties. He averaged a .264 average with 16 home runs and 73 RBI a season in his three seasons with the Orioles. He was traded to the Reds in December 2008 for Ryan Freel and two other minor league players. While with the Reds, Hernandez only averaged to play 90 games a season. He hit .280 with 24 home runs and 121 RBI in the three seasons he spent with the Reds. Hernandez signed a two-year deal as a free agent to play with the Rockies on November 30, 2011. He's the veteran catcher that was brought in to replace Chris Ianetta's presence which shouldn't be too difficult for Hernandez.
Hernandez has always been known as an extremely smart catcher that knows how to call games and be able to work well with young pitchers. If that's the case, he'll be a perfect fit with the Rockies, who are overloaded with young pitchers. He will also serve as a mentor to the Rockies' young catching prospects Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco. I feel like he'll have an undeniable presence on the Rockies, and his veteran leadership should work wonders on these young players. I don't expect him to be able to play over 100 games in a season or hit 20 home runs with 75 RBI, but I do believe he'll be able to help develop the Rockies' young pitching staff and catching core for the next two seasons. I'll predict that in 2012 that he'll play in 90 games with a .272 average, 10 home runs, and 43 RBI.
I'm excited to see Ramon Hernandez joining the Rockies. He's always been one of my favorite catchers because of his ability to call games. I've always felt like that's one of the most overlooked assets of a catcher, but one of the most beneficial to a team. The Rockies have a great nucleus of veteran players with the additions of Hernandez, Casey Blake, Michael Cuddyer, and even Jamie Moyer. These players, plus Todd Helton and Jason Giambi, should be able to help coach the younger players, which is what the Rockies desperately need...coaches.