Darell Hernaiz Savors New Opportunity With Athletics
Change is something Darell Hernaiz has had to get used to in the past year.
The 21-year-old shortstop played at three levels of the Orioles’ system last season, reaching Double-A in late August. But the biggest change in routine for Hernaiz occurred in late January, when Baltimore traded him to the Athletics for big league lefthander Cole Irvin and minor league righthander Kyle Virbitsky.
“When I first got traded, I was shocked because we were a couple weeks from spring training,” Hernaiz said.
“After It happened, I was very grateful for everything the Orioles did for me, but I was very honored that the A’s gave up two players for me, one being a big leaguer.”
Hernaiz is excited for the new opportunity, and the A’s are excited about his potential. Oakland pro scout Steve Springer recommended Hernaiz after seeing him showcase bat-to-ball skill and “do nothing but square balls up” in a five-game look last season.
“He hit the fastball in, and he hit offspeed away,” Springer said. "I like young hitters who can hit the breaking ball.
“It was kind of like the trifecta of scouting when I saw him: He was doing it. He did it. And I saw it. Very rarely does that happen.”
Springer’s background is in the mental side of hitting, and he liked what he saw from Hernaiz in terms of his approach, his ability to hit quality pitchers and his body language when things didn't go his way.
“He believes he can hit,” Springer said.
A 2019 fifth-round pick out an El Paso high school, Hernaiz hit .273/.341/.438 last season with 12 home runs and 32 stolen bases in 105 games. The shortstop saw significant time at second and third base.
Springer assessed Hernaiz as a future above-average defensive infielder with an average arm that had room to improve.
“I put a lot of work into my arm and having a routine with it,” Hernaiz said of his offseason work.
“I mainly focused on my body and eating habits,” he said, “for what could be the longest season I’ve experienced yet. I’ve put on 15-20 pounds of muscle, while still maintaining my speed.”
Now with the rebuilding A’s, Hernaiz has a much clearer runway to the big leagues. The next step in his progression toward Oakland is Double-A Midland this season.