Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Franklin Hernandez

Franklin Hernandez put himself on the prospect map in 2008 when he had a breakthrough campaign with the Oakland A's Rookie League team in Arizona. In 55 games, Hernandez hit .316 with an 862 OPS. He followed that strong campaign with an impressive showing during the A's fall Instructional League season. David Malamut caught-up with Hernandez, who is playing with Kane County this season, for a Q&A.

Franklin Hernandez opened some eyes last season when he led the A's Rookie League team with a .316 average and an 862 OPS in 55 games. The first baseman ranked first in the Arizona Rookie League in hits (71), extra-base hits (26) and doubles (17). Hernandez was named to the league's post-season All-Star team.

In 2009, Hernandez jumped from short-season Arizona to a full-season affiliate for the first time since he was signed by the A's out of the Dominican Republic in 2003. The 22-year-old has had a rougher go of it in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League with the Kane County Cougars this season. In 96 games, he is batting only .217 with six homers and 44 RBIs. He has also had to deal with a position change from first base to the outfield. Hernandez has especially struggled at the plate since the All-Star break, batting only .178. His best months came in April (.284 BA) and May (.263 BA and an 810 OPS).

David Malamut spoke with Hernandez through translator and Cougars' pitching coach Jimmy Escalante about Hernandez's adjustments to playing in the United States and in the Midwest and more…

A special thank you to Jimmy Escalante for translating for me – David Malamut

David Malamut: How do you feel?

Franklin Hernandez: I feel good. Physically I feel fine. I have worked hard to keep my body going throughout the long season.

DM: Growing up in the Dominican, what was you first experience with baseball?

FH: When I was seven years old. I don't really remember [exactly], just remember seeing a lot of balls thrown around and a lot of big leaguers playing.

DM: What did you learn from that?

FH: I basically learned everything from playing in the streets, and getting my information that way, but once I signed I got a little more [information].

DM: How were you discovered and signed by the A's?

FH: I was with a club team playing in the Dominican and a scout saw me play there and asked me if he could talk to my family.

DM: Playing for the A's in the Dominican, what was that like and what did you learn?

FH: My first experience in baseball with the A's was very delightful. I was playing professional and I got to put on a uniform. It was a tough season because I tried 100% every day, and I learned the mechanics of the swing and how to adjust, because in the streets you just go out there and just play ball. There is no need to learn the game, out there.

DM: How difficult was the 2007 season for you, playing in the Dominican then coming to Arizona in the middle of the season?

FH: It was a pretty tough transition because when you are in the Dominican guys are not very selective over there. I came over here and the pitchers are a lot better and you have to learn your selectivity of what you are going to swing at and what you are not. You have to have a zone, and be a little more adept of the pitchers here.

DM: How much more comfortable were you last year in Arizona compared to the previous season?

FH: The first year was difficult because you have to learn everything, but the second year I was more comfortable just knowing the ropes a little more and knowing what's expected of you. Also, I recognized some of the pitchers I faced the year before.

DM: How difficult was it to learn first base and then go to the outfield again this year?

FH: It's been a tough transition because I was already comfortable being at first and feeling like that was where I was going to be at, but they needed me out in the outfield so I am going to make my adjustments and play out there, and try as hard as I can every day to get better.

DM: What was the start of the year like for you in the Midwest?

FH: First of all, it was tough just because of the weather coming here, and we [players from the Dominican] just are not used to it. As the weather warms, so did my ability to play and start making some plays and adjustments.

DM: Who has helped you get where you are in your career?

FH: It feels like a combination from all of the hitting coaches and me taking a little bit from everyone. They have stayed with me every day and none of them have turned their backs on me, if anything they continue to work with me.

DM: Not hitting a homerun until May this year, what was going through your mind?

FH: I don't necessarily feel like I am a power hitter. My strength is there but I have more of a line-drive swing right now.

DM: You started off the season well then went into a little slump, what adjustments did you make?

FH: In my opinion, there is no such thing as a slump. I just wasn't seeing the ball as good, and I am starting to see the ball a lot better now.

DM: Top 5 artists in your iPod?

FH: Mostly a combination of hip-hop, merengue and Latin rap.

DM: What would you be doing if you were not playing baseball?

FH: I would be in college studying to be an industrial engineer.

DM: What kind of training do you do in the off-season?

FH: I don't really change anything. I just try to keep everything going. In the Dominican, it's hot weather year-round so we can do whatever we want year-round [baseball activities-wise].

DM: What do you do for fun in the off-season?

FH: I hang out with my friends and family, listen to music and have some bbq's.

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