Morning Report: Determination Paying Off For Gorkys Hernandez

When the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Gorkys Hernandez in the 2009 trade of Nate McLouth, he was considered a top ten prospect in the system immediately. The reason for that is he was 21 years old, had above average defense and speed, plus he was in AA already and had a .316 average. There were some red flags, such as an empty average, with 15 walks and only 13 extra-base hits(including no homers). He was very young for the level though and holding his own, so he legitimately deserved to be ranked high in the system.

After joining Altoona, the overall numbers for Hernandez were down, but again, you weigh those numbers against his age and the level, and they were acceptable. He repeated AA the next year and that is when things started to fall apart for him. The numbers were slightly down, he missed the end of the season with a broken finger, and while the age was still good for the level, you expect to see some improvements when a player repeats a level.

When we put out the 2011 Prospect Guide, Hernandez was ranked #17 in the system. After showing improvements in AAA in 2011 when he posted a .740 OPS and cut down on his strikeouts, we still dropped him down to #24 in the system. That was partly due to the system being deeper and also due to the fact it looked like his upside was a fourth outfielder.

He became that fourth outfielder in 2012, especially after the trade the Marlins. Hernandez spent most of the season in the Majors, hitting .192/.267/.301 in 70 games. Those obviously aren’t great numbers, but none of them reflect the fact he was an above average defender and speed was part of his game.

Going into 2013, he was still just 25 and he had big league experience, so you probably wouldn’t have guessed that he hasn’t made it back to the show yet. By the end of last year, he was playing in the Mexican League and it looked like his big league dreams could be done. The Pirates were able to sign him this off-season as a minor league free agent and they gave him an invite to Spring Training.

Cut to mid-May and it looks like Hernandez could be positioning himself for another opportunity in the Majors and possibly in Pittsburgh. Through 36 games, he is hitting .283/.370/.433 and he has a 17:26 BB/SO ratio in 120 at-bats. Those BB/SO numbers are better than average for his career. Hernandez is also 7-for-8 in stolen bases and he is as good as ever on defense.

Shortly after he signed with the Pirates, Hernandez did an interview for a newspaper in his home country of Venezuela. He said that he was determined to show the Pirates that he deserved another shot at the big leagues. I sort of shrugged it off at the time for three reasons. The depth the Pirates had in the outfield(which still included Travis Snider at the time). The stats he put up last year and the fact he ended up in the Mexican League, where careers go to die.

The last reason just added on to the first two and it was the finger injury he was recovering from in winter ball. He was in the middle of missing five weeks of action at the time he signed. It reminded me that his career sort of got off track last time he missed a lot of time due to a finger injury.

Hernandez returned to winter ball right around Christmas and he immediately began to hit well, including a few key homers during the playoffs in Venezuela. You didn’t hear much about it, but Hernadez had a 1.132 OPS in 15 Spring Training games. He truly does look like a man on a mission, the one from the article that wants to prove that he deserves another chance at the Majors and if he keeps up the hitting, the 27-year-old with Gold Glove abilities in center field will get that shot this year.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 11-10 to the Cubs on Friday afternoon. Gerrit Cole takes the mound today, facing the Cubs in Chicago for the second time this season. In the first back on April 29th, he threw six innings and didn’t allow an earned run. He gave up three hits and a walk, while striking out eight batters. Jon Lester will take the mound for the Cubs.

In the minors, Luis Heredia will make his season debut and his first start for Bradenton. He has been in Extended Spring Training, working on his conditioning and changing his arm slot. We will have live coverage of the game here. Wilfredo Boscan has been scratched from his start and promoted to the Pirates. No replacement has been named yet for today’s start. Austin Coley was moved to tomorrow and Colten Brewer will now start. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (17-19) @ Cubs (20-15) 4:05 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (2.32 ERA, 12:45 BB/SO, 42.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (21-15) vs Norfolk (19-16) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Wilfredo Boscan (2.87 ERA, 11:20 BB/SO, 31.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (22-11) vs Akron (14-21) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (2.91 ERA, 12:20 BB/SO, 34.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (18-17) vs Palm Beach (18-17) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Heredia (NR)

Low-A: West Virginia (19-15) @ Hagerstown (16-18) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (2.25 ERA, 3:33 BB/SO 32.0 IP)


From Friday, Edward Salcedo makes this impressive catch. He had a good game, but he has had a rough season so far this year. Salcedo is hitting .209/.289/.269 in 22 games. He spent last year in AAA for the Braves, where he posted a .651 OPS in 110 games.

Also from Salcedo on Friday, this RBI single.

Recent Transactions

5/16: Luis Heredia added to Bradenton roster. Matt Benedict promoted to Indianapolis.

5/16: Wilfredo Boscan added to 40-man roster and promoted to Majors. Steve Lombardozzi sent to Indianapolis.

5/16: Brandon Cumpton transferred to 60-day disabled list.

5/15: Charlie Leesman placed on Indianapolis disabled list.

5/15: Antonio Bastardo activated from Paternity List. Bobby LaFromboise optioned to Indianapolis.

5/14: Charlie Morton assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

5/14: Pirates sign catcher Paul Brands.

5/13: Hayden Hurst placed on Voluntarily Retired List.

5/12: Indianapolis placed John Holdzkom on disabled list.

5/11: Felipe Gonzalez added to Bradenton roster. Ryan Hafner assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/11: Charlie Leesman added to Indianapolis roster.

5/11: Antonio Bastardo placed on Paternity List. Bobby LaFromboise recalled from Indianapolis.

5/11: Connor Joe added to WV Power roster. Trace Tam Sing transferred to WV Black Bears.

5/10: Pirates acquire Jayson Aquino from Toronto Blue Jays for cash. Aquino assigned to Bradenton.

5/9: Pirates released Justin Howard.

5/8: Charlie Morton assigned to Altoona on rehab.

5/8: Nick Kingham placed on disabled list. Adam Miller added to Indianapolis roster.

5/7: Clayton Richard assigned to Bradenton. Felipe Gonzalez assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/7: Colten Brewer added to WV Power roster. Eric Dorsch assigned to WV Black Bears

5/7: Jeff Inman added to Altoona roster. Tyler Sample sent to WV Black Bears.

5/6: Andrew Lambo placed on 15-day disabled list. Steve Lombardozzi selected from Indianapolis.

5/6: Adam Frazier activated from Altoona disabled list. Andy Vasquez assigned to Indianapolis.

5/6: Brad Lincoln added to Indianapolis roster. Charlie Leesman assigned to WV Black Bears.

5/5: Josh Wall added to Indianapolis. Brad Lincoln assigned to WV Black Bears.

5/4: Barrett Barnes assigned to Bradenton. Junior Sosa assigned to Extended Spring Training.


This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two teammates born on the same day. Mitch Webster was an outfielder for the 1991 Pirates and his teammate that year was pitcher Bob Patterson. Both players were born on May 16,1959. Webster played just one season for the Pirates, while Patterson played six years in Pittsburgh, including all three playoff seasons from 1990 until 1992.

Other players born on this date include two very good pitchers from the 1980’s. Rick Reuschel and Rick Rhoden both celebrate their birthday today. Rhoden played eight seasons in Pittsburgh and had a very small part during the 1979 World Series winning season. He went 79-73, 3.51 in 213 starts and two relief appearances during his time in Pittsburgh. Known as a very good hitting pitcher, he batted .251 for the Pirates and was occasionally used as a pinch-hitter.

Reuschel played three years for the Pirates and had a great season in 1985, despite the Pirates losing 104 games that year. He finished the year with a 14-8 record, thanks in part to a 2.27 ERA in 194 innings. Reuschel won 214 games over his 19 seasons in the Majors, while Rhoden had 151 victories.

  • I’d bet Hernandez one again is the best OF defender in the system.

    I recall watching Hernandez and McCutchen converge on a ball hit to the notch. With his back to the infield, Hernandez caught the ball basket-style after it traveled over his shoulder. He was a blue streak on his way to the ball. And he made the catch look routine.

    I recall thinking: Cutch could get to the ball, but he might not catch it.

    Some players are fast, quick, have great hands, etc. Then there are players who have those skills but who complement them with baseball sense. Hernandez seems to be one of those players.

    • John Dreker
      May 16, 2015 5:52 pm

      I would agree that he is the best defender in the entire Pirates’ organization. He was a highlight reel on defense in winter ball. I posted a couple here, but saw a few more

  • Lee, is always thinking ahead. I was thinking something similar but forgot about Decker. After so many years, its great to be in a position where we have three or more players waiting in AAA with experience if we have an injury or two in the outfield. So who do you think will be the first call up? Will Gorkys end up in someone else’s outfield? Don’t think most teams want to touch Tabata’s contract.
    Will Gorkeys have to wait until September? Sounds like he deserves an opportunity with someone.

  • I bet Gorkys gets the call over Tabata if we need another OFer? But, will either of those get the call over Decker (if healthy)?