You know it’s Spring Training when you see a name like Gorkys Hernandez on the lineup card. That was the case on the San Francisco Giants’ Cactus League opener against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Hernandez started in center field and hit ninth and went 1-for-2 in the game with a bloop single.
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But who exactly is he?
Gorkys Gustavo Hernandez is originally from Guiria, Venezuela and was born on Sept. 7, 1987, according to the Giants spring training media guide. He is 6 feet 1 inches tall, bats and throws right, and weighs 190 pounds. He currently lives in Araure, Venezuela.
While Hernandez is a long-shot to make the Opening Day roster, he is making a strong case. So far this spring, he is hitting .345 (10-for-29) with a .441 on-base percentage and a .924 OPS.
Hernandez made his big-league debut in July 2012 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, getting the call up from the Indianapolis Indians (AAA). He was later traded to the Miami Marlins at the deadline that year.
In 70 total games that year, he hit just .192 (30-for-156), with a .267 on-base percentage and a .301 slugging percentage.
After a brief stint in the Kansas City Royals’ system, Hernandez returned to the Pirates for a cup of coffee in 2015 and went 0-for-5.
But this offseason, the Giants signed him to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.
Before that, teams had high hopes for Gorkys.
The Detroit Tigers signed Hernandez as a non-drafted free agent on April 30, 2005. That year, he played in the Dominican Summer League, where he led the team in runs scored and ranked third in the league in hits and total bases.
In 2006, Hernandez moved up to the Gulf Coast League Tigers (Rookie) where he thrived. He hit .327, with a .356 on-base percentage and 27 stolen bases.
He was named GCL Postseason All-Star that year.
Hernandez’s success continued in 2007. He was promoted to West Michigan (A) and was named the Midwest League Most Valuable Player, leading the circuit in stolen bases.
On Oct. 29, 2007, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves with Jair Jurrjens for Edgar shortstop Renteria, who would become the Giants’ 2010 World Series MVP.
That year, he played in the MLB Futures Game at AT&T Park.
Now, Hernandez hopes to return to San Francisco.
Although Hernandez has minimal major league experience, 78 games and 178 at-bats, some players start to figure things out later in their career. At 28, his speed and defensive abilities are highly sought after by big league clubs.
“Hernandez is putting pressure on San Francisco Giants ‘ management to consider him for the club’s fifth and final outfielder spot,” CBSSports.com wrote. “If he were to make the 25-man roster, he wouldn’t start and would likely be used primarily as a pinch-runner. But given the injury history of the Giants’ starting centerfielder options (Denard Span and Angel Pagan), it wouldn’t be inconceivable to see Hernandez have some deep league value at some point this season.”
Gregor Blanco is a fine fourth outfielder, but on a team with health questions throughout the outfield, you can never be too sure about depth.
If he is sent to Sacramento to start the season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was called up at some point in the upcoming year. His skill level and consistency this spring have given the Giants yet another piece for Bochy to use either early or late in the year.
But if his bat ends up tapering off, as the old saying goes–speed never slumps.