The Detroit Tigers signed Venezuelan-born Gorkys Hernandez as an amateur free agent in 2005 with the hope that he would eventually take over in right field for his fellow countryman and Venezuelan baseball hero, Magglio Ordonez.
And he appeared to be well on his way. In his first full season in the Tigers’ farm system with Class “A” West Michigan, he hit .293 with 4 HR, 50 RBI, and 25 doubles. In addition to his offensive skills, his speed on the base paths and range in the outfield helped spur on the Whitecaps to win the 2007 Midwest League Championship. He also enjoyed making an appearance in the Midwest League All Star Game and played on the World Team in the All-Star Futures Game in San Francisco that summer.
However, the thought of Hernandez taking over for Ordonez was snuffed out when he was packaged with pitcher Jair Jurrjens to the Atlanta Braves for shortstop Edgar Renteria (no doubt Detroit would like to have that trade back…) in the fall of 2007.
Hernandez hit for a lower average in his second full season in the minors for Advanced “A” Myrtle Beach (down to .264 from .293), but did have 42 RBI, 23 doubles, and an almost-identical OBP to his first season (up .348 from .344).
Gorkys clipped along at a decent pace in the Minors, eventually being moved to the Pittsburgh system in the trade that sent Nate McLouth to the Braves. His batting averaged hovered around the .280 mark, however, a disturbing trend creeped into Gorkys’ game as his Minor League career wore on—strikeouts—and lots of them.
In fact, in 2009, when he split time between Atlanta and Pittsburgh’s Double “A” squads, he racked up 130 K’s, and in 2010 and 2011, struck out more than 90 times in each season.
Another downside is that Hernandez is also known for being a bit of a hot head.
While being shuffled around through three Major League organizations took a little luster off of Hernandez’s star-prospect stature, his name will be dropped again with prominence if he can keep his head in the game and continue to work hard.
His hustle in the outfield, his ability to steal bases, and the occasional pop in his bat finally warranted a call up to the big leagues, where he’s appeared in six games for the Pirates, appearing in six games thus far, but only having seven official chances at the plate.
Shortly after the call up, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle acknowledged that Mr. Hernandez may only be receiving a “cup of coffee” in the bigs for now, but if Gorkys can cut down on the strikeouts, he’ll stick around Pittsburgh and continue to find his way into the lineup.
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