SEATTLE -- Yonny Hernandez hasn’t struck out since getting called up on Thursday. In four games, the infielder has zero strikeouts to two walks and three hits to begin his big league career.
And while that’s a small sample, it’s truly exemplary of the type of hitter that Hernandez is, no matter what level of baseball he’s playing.
This year at Triple-A Round Rock, Hernandez slashed .250/.424/.323 with more walks (51) than strikeouts (44). In fact, only twice throughout his Minor League career has he totaled more strikeouts than walks in a season -- his rookie ball year in 2015 and again in '18 when he made the jump to Double-A.
“He obviously has a really good idea of the strike zone,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “It doesn't matter the type of pitcher, the elite qualities of pitchers that he's facing, he has really good strike-zone awareness. He doesn't try to do too much. I think he knows the kind of player he is, and he doesn't over swing. I think he's always done that, and he values that.
“When he gets two strikes, he sticks with the game plan and the approach he's always had. And that's staying in the strike zone and spoiling a lot of pitches if they happen to throw tough pitches down and away or up. He's able to spoil pitches and actually get wood on the ball, which a lot of guys have a hard time trying to do.”
Hernandez said he’s always had a good understanding of the strike zone growing up. He’s just been able to refine that though his time with the Rangers organization.
With the vast amounts of data and analytics available, he’s worked on his approach in the cage by learning to pick up on the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand.
Woodward said he thinks Hernandez has always understood the type of player he was supposed to be. He’s not going up to the plate trying to hit 40 homers. He’s a pure bat-to-ball type of hitter and he makes that work for him and his game.
“Guys know their role,” Woodward said. “He knows his game is to get on base and win first base. He knows he can do that by outgrinding pitchers. He knows that most pitchers can't throw three strikes in a row. They're going to try, but they can't. A lot of good hitters do that. They just spoil pitches, spoil pitches, and then they're on first base. He knows the value of that to the team. He'd rather be on first base then hit a weak ground ball to second.”
And while he’s been in the big leagues for less than two weeks, he understands the progression and adjustments he’ll have the make going forward.
“[Going against] everybody in the big leagues is really tough,” Hernandez said through an interpreter. “I’m always trying to work hard and try to do things consistently so that I can become better at this level.”
Possible COVID outbreak at Double-A Frisco
A Rangers Minor League organization is dealing with a possible COVID-19 outbreak, the team announced.
On Saturday, Major League Baseball and Double-A Frisco announced a positive COVID-19 test on the RoughRiders. After additional testing and contact tracing, Frisco played with a limited roster for Saturday and Sunday’s games against the Amarillo Sod Poodles.
The RoughRiders headed off for a six-game road trip to Northwest Arkansas on Tuesday, only to discover an additional positive test. As a result, Tuesday night’s game was postponed to allow for additional testing of the Rangers’ organization.
On Wednesday, the Rangers added six Frisco players to the injured list: right-handers Blake Bass, Hever Bueno and Stephen Villines; left-hander Sal Mendez; outfielder J.P. Martinez; and catcher Melvin Novoa.
Top prospect Josh Jung did not travel with the RoughRiders to Arkansas, though the third baseman was not placed on the injured list. He will continue to undergo testing and contact-tracing protocols in Texas.
Players who were placed on the injured list may include positive COVID tests or close contacts, but the Rangers do not differentiate between the two when making these types of moves.
The RoughRiders and the Naturals played Wednesday’s game as scheduled.
“Tuesday’s game between the RoughRiders and Northwest Arkansas Naturals in Springdale, Arkansas has been postponed under an abundance of caution to allow for continued testing and contact tracing,” the organization said in a statement. “The Rangers and RoughRiders have been in consultation with Major League Baseball throughout this process to insure that the health and safety of the players and staff are the primary consideration. Scheduling updates will be provided as they are available. As additional testing is taking place, the Rangers will have no further comment at this time.”
According to the Dallas Morning News, Frisco has reached or exceeded the 85 percent threshold for players, coaches and staff.