Earlier this decade, OF Jeremy Hermida was pegged for stardom. But following yesterday’s trade to the Boston Red Sox for LHP’s Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez, Hermida may well have completed his descent from franchise building block to bench warmer.
Florida snagged the lefty hitter with the 11th overall selection in the 2002 amateur draft. Despite his youth, Hermida possessed exceptional polish for a high school bat. The Georgia prep product’s 2002 and 2003 seasons in the minors were modestly productive, as he displayed superb strike-zone control but little extra-base pop.
Hermida began to tap into his power in 2004, batting .297/.377/.441 in the pitcher-friendly High-A Florida State League. But it was his thunderous 2005 campaign that made him perhaps the most coveted position prospect in the minors. As a 21 year-old in the AA Southern League, Hermida hammered pitchers for a .293/.457/.518 triple slash. He drew a walk in a jaw-dropping 21.9% of his PA, while popping 18 homers and posting a .225 ISO.
Getting his first extended look in the majors in 2006, Hermida didn’t hit the ground running. Limited by a hip flexor injury, he compiled a modest .310 wOBA in 348 PA. Hermida rarely found the gaps or lifted one over the fence (.117 ISO), but his trademark plate discipline was present. He walked 9.7% of the time, offering at just 19% of pitches tossed outside the strike zone (25% MLB avg).
Hermida appeared to arrive in 2007. In 484 PA for the Fish, he raked to the tune of a .372 wOBA. Hermida’s BABIP was very high at .356, but he walked 9.9% of the time, with a 22.2 O-Swing%. And, he made major strides in the power department. Hermida slugged 18 round-trippers, with a .205 ISO.
Considering Hermida’s age and minor league track record, he appeared poised to bust out in 2008. Instead, Hermida’s once-pristine plate approach eroded.
Jeremy chased nearly 28% of pitches thrown out of the zone. Compounding matters, he took a cut at fewer pitches within the strike zone (59.6%, compared to about 64% the previous two seasons; the MLB avg is 65-66%). Swinging at more pitches in the dirt and taking more offerings over the plate-that’s not exactly what one would have expected from a guy who resembled a Brian Giles clone as a prospect. Hermida’s wOBA dipped to .321.
In 2009, Hermida did a better job of working the count. His O-Swing% fell back down to 23.9%, though his Z-Swing% remained low at 61.7%. The 25 year-old’s walk rate climbed to 11.5%. Hermida experienced a power outage, however:
Hermida’s ISO, by year
Since that high-water mark in 2007, Hermida’s ISO has plummeted: .157 in ’08, and a .133 figure in ’09. His HR/FB rate was 15.7% in 2007, 13% in 2008 and just 10.1% in 2009.
Hermida’s performance against left-handed pitching has taken a turn for the worse over the past few seasons:
Hermida’s wOBA vs. LHP, by year
Baseball-Reference keeps a stat called sOPS+, which compares a player’s performance in a given split to the league average. 100 is average, above 100 is above-average for batters, and below 100 is below-average for hitters. Here are Hermida’s sOPS+ figures vs. LHP since 2007:
I would caution against reading too much into platoon splits, as how a batter performs overall is more informative than just how he does against LHP or RHP.
Hermida’s BABIP against lefties was .359 in ’07, .293 in ’08 and just .233 in ’09. That sort of thing can happen when your sample size is about 120 PA per year. There’s not much to suggest that Hermida is good against lefties, but he probably won’t continue to look like Tony Pena Jr. against southpaws, either.
26 in January, Hermida has reached a career crossroads. Boston snagged the arbitration-eligible outfielder on the cheap, hoping that there’s still some vestige of that top prospect left.
From a fantasy standpoint, the swap does damage to whatever value Hermida had. It’s doubtful that he was draft-worthy in most leagues to begin with. But the Red Sox certainly do not figure to enter the 2010 season guaranteeing ample PA to a guy who has been just a smidge above replacement-level the past two seasons.