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Winter leagues update -- O's Luis Hernandez

Before I jump into this post, I just wanted to let everyone know that MLB.com is a great resource for statistics from all of the fall and winter leagues. You can get box scores from all of the games, as well as a pretty good tally of the league leaders, player statistics and more. The pages don't seem to include playoff stats, but it's still another example of the Internet making life easier.

Anyway, in case you haven't heard, Erik Bedard and Brian Roberts are still members of the Orioles as I type this post. You know what that means?

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Yes, it means there are a lot of Orioles fans still coming up with several trade scenarios to acquire the most prospects possible for the duo. But, that's not what I meant. It also means that Luis Hernandez is still the most likely candidate to replace Miguel Tejada when the Orioles open up against the Tampa Bay Rays on March 31.

Sidenote: For those who haven't kept up with the Rays this offseason (has anyone outside of Tampa?), they officially dropped "Devil" from their nickname and also picked up new uniforms and colors.

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Whether the Orioles trade for a shortstop before spring training remains to be seen, but Hernandez may not be as bad as some people think. Everyone is calling for the youth movement in Baltimore, so why not give the 23-year-old a chance to prove himself?

In 69 at-bats last season, Hernandez hit .290, which is pretty good considering his career batting average in six minor-league seasons was .250.

Hernandez played for the Tiburones de La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League. So far, it's been a tale of two seasons for the young shortstop.

In the regular season, he only batted .212 in 137 at-bats. Despite his struggles, he's definitely getting the most action out of all of the Orioles playing in the Caribbean this winter. As the starting shortstop for his winter league team, he's getting a lot of valuable experience, which should help him to mature as the regular season approaches.

In fact, the extra at-bats seem to be paying off already for Hernandez. In eight playoff games through Saturday night, Hernandez is hitting .333 (eight-for-24) with two doubles, two RBIs and four runs scored. He has also walked twice and stolen a base.

While I don't think there is a fan in Baltimore who thinks Hernandez is the answer at shortstop, it wouldn't be the end of the world if he starts the year there. And who knows, maybe he'll surprise people and become a solid performer. Stranger things have happened.

Fantasy spin: Hernandez would be one of the top shortstops in fantasy baseball if defensive skills dominated the scoring categories. Unfortunately, defense doesn't win fantasy baseball championships. Only time will tell if Hernandez becomes a solid everyday shortstop, but for now he is not worth picking up in your league. If he is officially named the starting shortstop, keep an eye on his performance early in the season because he may be worth picking up as a free agent, particularly in AL-only leagues.


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