2009 Breakout Candidate: Franklin Hernandez

The Oakland A's had a number of impressive offensive performances from members of their Arizona Rookie League squad in 2008. One of the most impressive offensive players was first baseman Franklin Hernandez, who led the team with a .316 average. The 21-year-old Dominican native has had a gradual rise through the A's system, but he looks ready to take his game to the next level.

Vital Statistics
Name: Franklin Hernandez
DOB: 04/19/87
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 170
B/T: R/R

Hernandez was signed by the A's as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in December 2003. A native of San Jose de Los Llanos in the Dominican, Hernandez was 16 when he signed with the A's. The right-handed hitter and thrower spent three-plus seasons playing with the A's Dominican Summer League team before finally getting a chance to play in the US in 2007.

In his first season in the DSL, Hernandez hit only .194 with a .224 SLG in 48 games. He improved on those numbers slightly in 2005 when he hit .205 with a .358 SLG and five homers in 61 games. In 2006, Hernandez showed more improvement, batting .270 with a .349 OBP and a .375 SLG in 45 games. That 2006 performance earned Hernandez a ticket to the US in 2007. After a five-game stint in the DSL, Hernandez was promoted to the A's Arizona Rookie League team, where he hit .222 with a homer and a 612 OPS in 21 games in his US debut season.

The 2008 campaign would be an entirely different story for Hernandez, however. He was one of the top hitters in the AZL, batting .316, which was good for 11th best in the league. His 862 OPS was ninth best in the league. In 225 at-bats, Hernandez hit a league-leading 17 doubles, as well as five triples and four homers. He also drove-in 36 runs, the second-best total on the A's AZL squad.

Hernandez's improvements continued during the off-season, as he performed well at both the A's US and Dominican Instructional League camps. The 6'3'' Hernandez is just starting to grow into his frame and he should be able to continue to add power as he matures. Although Hernandez has seen some time in the outfield and at shortstop earlier in his career, A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman believes that Hernandez's future is at first base.

"Franklin Hernandez started to show signs of power in Instructional League 2008 in the US and in the DR Instructional League. He now is a gap to gap guy and can hit to opposite field with good approach," Lieppman said.

"He is very strong and should end up being able to stay at first base as a power type player."

Hernandez will turn 22 during the first month of the 2009 season. He will enter minor league spring training with a chance to compete for a spot on the Low-A Kane County Cougars' roster, but he might end-up playing with short-season Vancouver, as the A's will look to place him on a roster where he can get regular at-bats. Given that the A's have not produced a lot of power prospects over the past five years, Hernandez will be a player to watch in 2009 and beyond.

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