Mike started his collegiate career Daytona Beach Community College, where he helped lead them to a conference championship in 2003; on the back of a .316 average and 54 RBI in just 45 games. After a successful freshman campaign, Hernandez moved on to Connors State College, prior to transferring to Oklahoma State for the 2005 season. Prior to joining the Cowboys, Mike posted a .307 average and six doubles in 24 games for the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League.
Once at OSU, Mike jumped right into the mix and was a fixture in the middle of their lineup throughout the spring of 2005. The season ended with Mike logging a .299/.356/.539 line, boosted by six home runs and 31 RBI in 44 Division I games.
Mike has been drafted three times, but somehow managed not to take the MLB draft as his route to the professional ranks. Initially, he was drafted out of Xaverian High School in New York, in the 27th round in 2002 by the Kansas City Royals. After his first junior college season, he was again drafted by the Royals (20th round) as a DFE candidate. After turning that down, the Dodgers snagged him as a DFE choice in 2004 in the 45th round. In the end, the Tigers signed Hernandez out of an open tryout in Florida prior to the 2006 season.
After spending some time in extended spring training, Mike burst on the scene with the West Michigan Whitecaps, posting an amazing .417/.462/.583 line through his first nine games. He was solid throughout the remainder of the season, earning MiLB.com Player of the Week honors on two occasions. The highlight of the season was easily the two occasions where Mike hit for the cycle, a Midwest League first for a single season. At season's end, Michael was ranked 9th in the league in slugging (.461).
If there is one thing that could turn Mike from an average prospect to a serious one, it's his bat. He puts together top quality at-bats time, after time; making pitchers work for their outs against him. Mike was praised by one Florida State League manager as an advanced hitter with the ability to hit to all fields at any time in the game. He can take a pitch in any location, of any variety, and drive it to all parts of the park. Mike has extremely quick hands and strong wrists that allow him to snap the bat through the zone, smoking line drives everywhere. His swing doesn't lend well to emergent home run power, but he should hit for plenty of average, and tons of doubles.
Mike is a streaky offensive player, who is capable of carrying a team for extended stretches. When he is hot, the streakiness isn't such a bad thing, but when he goes cold, he's ice cold. Hernandez will need to gain some additional consistency to truly become a legitimate outfield prospect.
For all Mike's prowess at the plate, he's got to make some strides defensively. He's improved some as a pro, but he still needs to work on his routes and reactions to balls off the bat. While his strong, accurate arm may be best suited for right, his range and instincts may keep him in left field long term. In his brief pro career, Mike has demonstrated some versatility, manning first base and both outfield corners. His baseball IQ lends to his versatility, and should allow him to continue developing in the field.
You will rarely see Mike working as a vocal leader on the field, but he will lead by example through his effort and refusal to lose. Mike's makeup is his one truly plus attribute. He is a confident player, with a burning desire to succeed in baseball; and that lends well to his demeanor on the field.
Overall, Mike currently projects as an offensively minded fourth outfielder, but with improved defensive skills and increased consistency, he could become a much more formidable outfield prospect.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A+
Mike has had conditioning issues in the past, but since turning pro, he's been in tremendous physical shape and with his desire to be a Major League player, it looks like things should continue along that line.
Mike was assigned to Lakeland of the Florida State League to start the 2007 season, where he's off to an electric start. He's likely to get a full season of work in High-A, before moving on to the upper levels of the minor leagues in 2008. With plenty of protection in the L-Tigers lineup, he should continue to post good numbers.
Erie SeaWolves Manager Matt Walbeck – who coached Hernandez at West Michigan in 2006 – summed it up best, stating "He was born to hit." Players with big sticks will continually get chances to prove themselves, and Mike is taking every advantage of his early chances.
Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.