Well it just seems like a perfect time to bring back the first ever series I did for Royals Farm Report last year! One of my favorite things about following Royals minor league baseball is trying to find the under-the-radar prospects in the organization that don’t get enough attention, but have the potential to explode. Last year the series covered:
This year, I expanded the list to six. There has been so much fun talent in the Kansas City Royals minor leagues that it only seemed fitting to add one more. Here is who I’ve covered so:
- Maikel Garcia – SS
Boy, where do we start with this guy? Kale Emshoff looked like he was ready to win the High-A June Player of the Month, but then Diego Hernandez made his way to the scene and was like “hold up just one second”. There’s speed. There is some gap power. There is a hit tool that keeps on improving. Hernandez seems to just do a little bit of it all. The 21-year-old recently cracked the MLB Pipeline Kansas City Royals top thirty prospects as well. The plus-plus speed is definitely his calling card. He utilizes it both on the base paths and in the outfield. He is just fun to watch stretch doubles into triples. His ground ball percentage (56.4%) is a tad high, but he is able to use his speed to offset that.
Hernandez has developed a bit more hard contact due to shortening up his swing. Just watching video of him he seems quick to the ball and can generate some decent gap pop. He is only 6’0 and 150lbs, so he will need to gain more strength in his wiry frame if he truly wants to maximize his power. The good news is Hernandez keeps his swing and miss at a minimum and sports a solid 20.6% strikeout rate. You’d like to see his walk rate jump up a bit more, but gets on base enough to be a threat. According to fangraphs stats, in a minimum of 100 plate appearances, Hernandes ranks 7th in batting average, 8th in hits, 14th in doubles, 3rd in triples, 3rd Spd, 15th in OBP, 16th in OPS, and 12th in wRC+.
Defensively, Hernandez has plus sprint speed and gets to the ball quickly. He can definitely hold his own in centerfield and has a plus arm that will gun runners down on the base paths. He’s got seven outfield assists already on the year. The athleticism is off the charts. What will make or break Hernandez is how much he keeps improving on his hit tool and gaining strength to really utilize more of his power. There is still room for improvement in various areas for Hernandez, but if you’re the Kansas City Royals player development team, you have to like what you have seen so far. For a team that is struggling to find a future centerfielder in the organization, I am sure they are hoping the hit tool improves enough that Hernandez can become a top of the lineup threat rather than a platoon/defensive replacement. Either way, at Hernandez’s young age, there is still plenty of time for him to burst through his ceiling!