Ben Hernandez didn’t pitch in a game this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Illinois prep right-handed pitcher was four days away from making his first start of the spring when the season was canceled.
With the extra time this spring, Hernandez focused on refining his skills on the mound in preparation for the next step in his baseball career. The two-day MLB draft starts Wednesday, and professional scouts project Hernandez as a potential third-round pick in this year’s five-round draft.
“I’m excited,” Hernandez said. “I’m excited to see where everyone goes. I’m excited for myself and the people I know.
“This process has been different because I am more of a people person. I like to meet people and talk to them in person, but with doing it over Zoom, it is different. You just have to roll with it, though, and make the best out of it.”
Hernandez is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a fastball, changeup, curveball and a cutter from a high three-quarters arm slot. His delivery features little effort and he repeats it well.
His changeup is an outstanding pitch that consistently generates swings and misses. He has a strong feel and impressive command for the pitch. It is the top changeup in this year’s prep class.
He attributes his success for throwing a quality changeup to the fact that he’s had “the same grip since I was 3 years old,” he said.
Hernandez also has a solid fastball that he locates well and features some sinking action. The pitch sits in the low-90s.
With the downtime this spring, Hernandez has worked on changing his delivery. In the offseason, pro scouts gave him advice on what he could improve on, and he also realized changes he needed to make by watching old videos of him pitching, he said.
“I was working more on my stride because my stride was pretty short and not where it needs to be,” Hernandez said. “For my stride to be the length I wanted it, I had to fix my leg lift because that was too short as well. Going to the longer stride, I had to drag my back foot a little more because in old videos you’ll see me pick up my back foot before I release the baseball, which created more tilt glove side.
“I’ve been working on my delivery over the last month and a half and it has gone really well. I am being more consistent with my pitches and have a better feel for how my pitches and body should feel and look.”
With the draft just a day away, it will be a special moment for Hernandez and his family if a major league team selects him.
Hernandez has always had a special bond with his family. The tight-knit relationship also is a major reason why Hernandez committed to the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Despite the draft attention, Hernandez isn’t focused on what the future holds and instead is trying to enjoy the process, he said.
“My mom and dad have always had dreams and ambitions of me playing in the major leagues,” Hernandez said. “All parents want what’s best for their kids. For this to be happening, it’s going to be emotional. My parents put their heart and soul into me, and I gave it 120 percent every time. I saw the struggles we went through and what I had to go through and the adversities I had to deal with.”
Read a detailed story on Ben Hernandez and his development into a MLB draft prospect here.
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.