Friday, November 11, 2016

Although Different, Hernandez And Runzler Both Headed To MLB Camps

Ariel Hernandez and Dan Runzler could not be much different except that both are pitchers.

Hernandez is only 24, born in the Dominican Republic and is a right-hander who has not pitched above Class A, but is considered a major league prospect since he has averaged well over one strikeout per inning since his professional debut as an 18-year-old.

Runzler is 31, a California-born southpaw, who is trying to re-kindle a major league career that started back in '09.

Oh, both have spent a majority of their career in the San Francisco organization although neither is with the Giants now.  And, of course, they have relied on Independent Baseball for some of their recent opportunities.

What brings them together, in a sense, is that both will be in major league spring training camps thanks to recent developments.  Hernandez was promoted to Cincinnati's 40-man winter roster, the only former Indy player to earn this new distinction since the season ended.  Runzler is the first of an eventual 20 or so recent Independent players that we have identified to be a non-roster invitee to spring training, this time with Pittsburgh.

Runzler has been one of the most highly discussed potential major leaguers in any Indy league the last two seasons because of some dazzling bullpen efforts while with the Sugar Land (TX) Skeeters of the Atlantic League.  He had 0.52 and 1.95 earned run averages in these two seasons for Gary Gaetti's Skeeters, with some time at Triple-A for Arizona and Minnesota, respectively, in '15 and '16 without being able to duplicate the tiny ERAs.  The Pirates hope he might help their bullpen, at least matcting the 3.86 ERA he compiled in 89 games spread over four seasons for San Francisco, the last of which was four years ago.

Hernandez's time in the Frontier League was very brief (two relief appearances for the Frontier Greys in the '15 season), although it is not uncommon for these stints to pay off for a player who needs a change of scenery before moving to a new major league organization.  He did strike out five of the eight batters he faced early that season before Arizona picked him up.  He moved on to Cincinnati's farm system this season and after 74 strikeouts and only 29 hits in 62 innings during 43 appearances with two Class A teams the Reds had seen enough to know he needed to be protected at the highest level.  A combined 2.18 ERA appears to be only part of the impressive story.

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