Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Prospect Countdown: #8 Elier Hernandez

8. Elier Hernandez Outfielder

Age: 19
Position: OF
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 200
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Signed as a non-drafted FA in 2011
From: San Cristobal, Dominican Republic

2013 Rank: 13

2012 Rank: 8

Landon Adams (8): I had the privilege of watching the Royals prized 2011 international signing on first hand in the Pioneer League in 2012. While the numbers didn't add up to even a mediocre season for the young Dominican, I was impressed with the raw tools that he displayed. In the few games that I was able to watch Hernandez, I was impressed by excellent bat speed, a strong arm, and a runner who moved quick around the base paths thanks to long graceful strides.

Despite making a return trip to the Pioneer League for 2014, Elier Hernandez rated as the 8th youngest prospect on the circuit. In his encore, Hernandez ranked second in the league with a 25.8% LD%. When you consider that league average at the Pioneer League level is 18.3% and that Hernandez regularly faced players four and five years older than him you realize how impressive he was in 2013. Hernandez will have the opportunity to follow up his strong 2013 performance in the South Atlantic League in 2014.

Paden Bennett (9): I was really excited when the Royals signed Elier Hernandez out of the Dominican in 2011. Obviously, he was a guy that Baseball America thought was one of the top players in his signing class. Unfortunately, Hernandez failed to impress in 2012. Despite that I still loved the upside of the outfield prospect. Prior to last year I predicted that his results would be much better in 2013, and I was right. It will be interesting to see if he can carry his success into full season ball in 2014.

Joe Cox (8): Elier Hernandez was just 18 last season while repeating the rookie level in the Pioneer League.  It looks like he was able to figure out the league a little, showing improvements across the board after a less than stellar 2012 (but at just 17 years old!).   Hernandez is a big kid, standing at 6-3/200, and has the abilities to be a true five tool player.  The right fielder has still yet to flash his power potential, but did manage a slash line of .301/.350/.439 over 289 AB’s.  

The numbers really don’t matter yet for Hernandez, but the fact that he did cut down on K’s and show his skills as one of the younger players in the league is promising.  His skills earned him a $3 million signing bonus in 2011, so the expectations are relatively high.  Reading his scouting reports he reminds me somewhat of current Pirates prospect Gregory Polanco, who struggled quite a bit as a younger player before displaying his potential.  I would imagine the Royals will want to test Hernandez over the course of a full season this year, and he could be a high riser amongst all prospects in baseball if everything pans out.  

Dan Ware (8):  Unlike Landon, Joe, and Nicholas, I did not have the pleasure of being able to watch the 18 year old OF in Idaho Falls. I wish I had.  After a very successful 2nd year in the Pioneer League, Hernandez moves back up to #8 on our countdown, courtesy of a much improved line of .301/.350/.439 with 23 XBH, eight of which were triples.

His second stint with the Chukars obviously showed that he made adjustments to Pioneer League pitching, as his LD% went up 10 points to 25.8%, FB rate also increased to 25.8%, and his GB rate decreased 13 points (42.1%). While being known as an average runner, he added 9 SB in 11 attempts, proving he can steal a bag when the time is right.

Elier already has tremendous size for his age, along with his athleticism and strong arm, he has the makeup to be a solid OF.  Last year's numbers should be good enough for a promotion to Lexington to start 2014.  I don't see him pairing up with OF Bubba Starling, as he is most likely heading to Wilmington.

Nicholas Ian Allen: (--): A second season in Idaho Falls certainly did a lot of good for Elier Hernandez. He played every day for the Chukars, and put together one of the most impressive offensive performances in the league. 

Hernandez got stronger as the season went on, which is a fantastic sign for someone so young. He compiled a .336/.373/.445 line in the second half, and hit .360 in August with 20 RBIs. In all, he had a 25.8 LD% and eight triples, which is impressive in any league, and did so for a short-season club. Nine stolen bases are nothing to sneeze at either, and both are quite surprising given Hernandez is not particularly fast.  While he will likely grow out of that a bit as he matures, it is a great sign of athleticism.

I am excited for the future of Hernandez, and look forward to strong season in Low-A Lexington in 2014. While he will certainly face some stiff competition in his own system, if everything goes well, we could see Hernandez in the mix for the Top 100 prospects in baseball soon. 

Total Points: 91

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