It took longer than some expected, but outfielder Elier Hernandez is finally set to make his Double-A debut tonight for NW Arkansas.
After earning a July 2015 promotion to High-A Wilmington from Low-A Lexington (where he hit .290), it had pretty much been a struggle for Hernandez offensively. He hit .232 with just 12 RBIs in 50 games with the Blue Rocks in 2015, but just .226 with 34 RBIs in 124 games in 2016.
Things did not start out well for Hernandez in starting his third season in Wilmington, as he had just two hits in his first 26 at-bats in 2017. But then things started to click. Starting April 17th, he had just three hitless games (one came in a pinch-hit appearance).
Hernandez is currently 17 for his last 46 (.370) with ten RBIs and has an eight-game hitting streak. This stretch is the best I have seen him play. In seven May games, he is hitting .441. Overall, Hernandez hit .306 in 30 games with the Blue Rocks. He hit seven doubles, three triples, and four home runs. Hernandez scored 15 runs and drove in 27.
After managing Hernandez for the last two seasons, what did it mean to Blue Rocks manager Jamie Quirk to tell Hernandez he was moving on up?
“It was exciting because he’s come a long way (Quirk punctuated the long). We know that he struggled last year. He struggled at the beginning of the season this year. He got off to a poor start. I know he was thinking like ‘here we go again’, but he kept working and he finally got rewarded. Hitting him third in the lineup was a big responsibility for him and he handled it and he just kept going. You pull for guys like that because of where he’s come from. It was just a matter of him getting the confidence going. He’s so big and strong. He’s built like (LA Dodgers outfielder) Yasiel Puig and guys like that. Who knows where he can go now that he really knows. I think he’ll play even better in Double-A because he knows he belongs and he’ll do a good job.”
Hernandez is starting in right field and batting fifth for the Naturals tonight against Tulsa (the game has just begun).