Detroit Tigers Prospect Report: Wilkel Hernandez

The Detroit Tigers are in rebuilding mode. “Future Friday” is a segment where we examine the bevy of prospects in Detroit and their future impact in the Motor City.

The Detroit Tigers sold off a lot of veteran talent over the past year in exchange for prospects.

While it can be hard for fans to see All-Stars like J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton and Alex Avila dealt, not to mention franchise icon Justin Verlander, the return can be an exciting batch of prospects who will become the next stars in Detroit.

‘Future Fridays,’ is a new weekly column where we pick a prospect and delve into their expected impact on the team. We want to help Tiger fans identify the newest wave of prospects as they move into rebuilding mode.

So far, we have analyzed all the prospects acquired in the Justin Verlander, Justin Upton and Justin Wilson/Alex Avila trades.

The last big piece to be traded was veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler. Kinsler was traded to the Angels in December in exchange for two prospects.

One of those prospects was 18-year-old right-hander Wilkel Hernandez, the subject of today’s Future Friday post.

Wilkel Hernandez

Hernandez was originally signed by the Angels in July of 2015. The Venezuelan right-hander has spent his entire career in instructional leagues up to this point. Last season, Hernandez went 4-1 with a 2.64 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 44.1 innings in the Arizona League.

Hernandez has a fastball that sits between 92 and 94 miles per hour. Scouts rave about his size and projectability. He stands 6’4 and many scouts think he will continue to fill out, which could add increased velocity.

At just 18 years old, Hernandez already has a strong sense of the strike zone. He has flashed a good changeup as well, a pitch that will improve over time. His breaking ball still needs work, but with a good feel for the strike zone, a fastball that will get up into the mid-90’s and a solid changeup, Hernandez has all the makings of a big leaguer.

Here’s more from FanGraphs’ prospect expert Eric Longenhagen:

There’s nothing exceptional about Hernandez, but he is a prospect of interest. He’s got a big-league frame, big-league arm strength, workable breaking-ball feel, and a bit more polish than most other teenage arms. Realistically, he profiles as a No. 4 or 5 starter — and he’s probably a half-decade from being it — but this is exactly the kind of prospect you hand to your player-development staff and see what they can make of him.

The most important note to take away about Hernandez is patience. Unlikely many of the other high-profile prospects the Tigers acquired, Hernandez is a long way away from the big leagues.

Still, if Hernandez can develop a breaking ball and fill out his frame, he could be a solid part of Detroit’s rotation. It will take a few years to see that come to fruition.

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The Tigers are flush with right-handed pitching in the minor leagues. Matt Manning, Beau Burrows, Franklin Perez, Alex Faedo and Kyle Funkhouser could someday make up Detroit’s rotation.

Hernandez may not have the same prospect pedigree as Detroit’s other arms. However, his size and athleticism should land him in a big league rotation someday.

Hopefully, it is wearing the old English D.

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