As the San Francisco Giants clamp down and zone in on their potential 2016 postseason berth, Gorkys Hernandez has seen some important playing time and is making the most of it.
Hernandez, who’s played 25 games with the Giants so far, is seeing the most MLB action of his career since 2012 when he played in 70 games between his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins.
So, for Hernandez, he very well could be playing for his MLB career. At 29, he’s barely on the right side of 30, but he may be in a perfect position with the Giants.
Heading into the off-season, the Giants will have two important names on their free agency list: Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco. Both are outfielders and both are in their 30’s, Pagan is 35 and Blanco will turn 33 in December.
Hernandez has gotten some recent starts over Denard Span due to being a right-handed hitter, but with Hunter Pence and Span set to be fixtures in San Francisco’s outfield for the near future, that still leaves a starting outfield job to be won and even a fourth or fifth outfield spot.
Hernandez has made his presence felt with the Giants and has batted .280/.321/.500 with the club since receiving his call-up in August.
After going just 3 for 16 in eight games in August, Hernandez sat for three games to start September. But, since then Hernandez has gotten somewhat consistent playing time and has made the most of it, going 11 for 34 in 18 appearances in September.
Hernandez has also shown he can perform in the outfield as well with his 1.000 fielding percentage, compared to Pagan’s .975 or Blanco’s .991, according to Baseball Reference. Another telltale sign of Hernandez’ fielding is his range factor per nine innings (RF/9). While Blanco has a 1.88 with the Giants this year and Pagan has a 1.95, Hernandez is the only one out of the three above the 2.00 average with a RF/9 of 2.22, according to BBR.
Of course, the stat may be somewhat skewed due to Hernandez sometimes only playing a few innings rather than a game’s entirety. Nonetheless it’s a prime example of his talent.
With the Giants’ AAA Sacramento River Cats, Hernandez flourished in the lead off role while batting .302/.382/.421 in 116 games. Hernandez had two hitting streaks of eight and also had a season-high streak of 10 over the course of the season as he proved he could consistently produce if given the playing time.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Giants decide to do with Hernandez. He’s clearly a cheaper option than Pagan, who’s making over $11 million this season and Blanco who’s making just under $4 million, according to Spotrac.
Hernandez doesn’t have much power to offer the Giants, as he’s only hit eight homers in 116 minor league games this season and just five in his 103-game MLB career, but what he does have to offer may be exactly what the Giants need heading into the offseason. A solid lead-off man and a strong outfield, especially center field, presence.
Just how important Hernandez is to the club — and how he’s perceived — could be evident if the Giants make it to the postseason and are forced to decide what outfielders they want to roll with.