The expectations for Elier Hernandez have been really high since he came to the US as a 17-year-old kid back in 2012. He kind of got written off by people and dealt with a few injuries. This season, as a 23-year-old, he is having a season that is finally matching most of those early expectations. The one exception would be home run power. Hernandez is in the midst of a 15 game hitting streak for the Naturals. Let’s go back and break down his season up to this point.
Hernandez started the season cold. His first 11 games he hit .200 with 15 Ks in 45 ABs. With the 2 walks he took his on base percentage was 23.4%.
From there he had a great 10 game stretch hitting .395 with and OBP of 42.5%. Hernandez only struck out 7 times in 38 ABs while taking only 1 walk. Below is the spray chart from the beginning of the season until April 31. Look at CF.
The third part of his season, which is broken down around games 22 through 31, Hernandez cooled off hitting .184 while getting on base at a 27.3% clip. He did take some walks in this set of games making it on base for free 3 times. There were also 11 Ks in 38 ABs.
Hernandez heated back up at this point hitting .306 in his next 36 ABs. His OBP was 33.3% but he only took 1 walk compared to 9 Ks here. Below is his spray chart from May 1 to the current date. Compare CF to the spray chart above.
This is when Hernandez started his current 15 game hitting streak. During this streak Hernandez has hit .469 in 64 at bats. He has 14 runs scored, 5 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs, and 14 RBI in this streak. Hernandez has walked twice and struck out 7 times. His OBP is 48.5% with an OPS of 1.157. This has been a great stretch for Hernandez. This is the spray chart and heat map from MLBFarm.com of Hernandez’s hitting streak. As you can tell, he has used the middle and opposite side of the field for most of his hits.
Hernandez has been somewhat of a streaky hitter this year as the data broken down into smaller segments suggests. If you take a look at his splits against RHPs and LHPs, you will see that although he continues to hit against RHPs, he hits for power against LHPs. This is very common among RHHs. Against RHPs Hernandez is hitting .312 with an OBP of 34.7%. His OPS is .761 and he is striking out at a rate of 20.2%. His walk rate against RHPs is just under 3%. Against LHPs, Hernandez is hitting .345 with an OBP of 38.3%. His OPS is .911. He has a K rate of 23% and a walk rate of around 6.5%. So Hernandez hits better against LHPs, hits for more power against LHPs, strikes out more against LHPs, and walks more against LHPs. Against RHPs, Hernandez has better contact but hits for a lower average and less power. His drop off isn’t enough to say he is only a platoon guy. This is good for his hope to be an everyday outfielder. If he continues to hit like this, he will definitely become an everyday guy and not just a 4th OF.
Another interesting stat I was able to pull from Baseball Reference was his splits against younger and older hitters. Against younger hitters who might not be as crafty, Hernandez is hitting .380 with a 42.6% OBP. His OPS is 1.026. He has only struck out 13 times (24.5%) and walked 3 times (5.25%). Against older pitchers, who have been around a little longer and have a few more tricks up their sleeves, Hernandez hits .072 points lower at .302. His on base is much lower as well at 33.5% and the OPS is .730. Hernandez has struck out 35 times (20.8%) against older pitchers and he has 6 BBs (3.5%). Against team’s top 20 prospects since 2013, Hernandez has a .283 average with a strikeout rate of 20.1% and a walk rate of 2.1%.
As you can see, Hernandez strikes out much more than he walks. This lowers his OBP. If Hernandez could raise his contact rate from 77.4% to say 82% for the rest of the year, I imagine his average and OBP would increase as well. It’s not a big increase, about .020 on the batting average. It’s only about 8 more at bats with the ball in play at approximately 32% hits. But now, instead of hitting .320 you are hitting .340. That’s a fairly large difference over the course of a career. Elier Hernandez seems like he has finally matured as a hitter and is coming into his own. The only thing left is to raise that slugging percentage and hit for more power.