Strength Gains Boost Royals' Diego Hernandez
No Royals minor leaguer jumped higher up the organization's depth chart in the last year than 22-year-old outfielder Diego Hernandez.
The native of the Dominican Republic was rewarded with a 40-man roster spot at the Nov.15 roster deadline.
Hernandez hit .284/.347/.407 and swiped 40 bases in 115 games in a season split between High-A Quad Cities and Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Previously profiling best as a top-of-the-order gap hitter, Hernandez's power emerged in 2022. His nine home runs more than quadrupled his previous career total.
A plus defender with plus speed, Hernandez is a near lock to stay in center field. His speed and defense alone would have made him a candidate to be taken by another organization in the Rule 5 draft.
Hernandez stands out just as much for his makeup, work ethic and willingness to make adjustments.
“Seeing how open he is (to making adjustments) and the work ethic he puts in, it’s incredible,” Royals assistant farm directo Malcolm Culver said. “He strives to be the best . . . that’s how he goes about his business.”
The lefthanded-hitting Hernandez has added 40 pounds to his slender frame since signing in 2017, though observers point out that he needs to keep getting stronger to successfully handle major league pitchers.
“I have a routine built for myself this offseason in the weight room,” Hernandez said through interpreter Culver. “I’m working out and getting stronger.”
The extra work he’s putting in has been noticed by the Royals' coaching staff.
“This is a guy who's really taking it to another level in terms of his commitment to getting himself in the best possible position to impact our major league team,” Royals hitting coordinator Drew Saylor said.
“Just being able to take little parts of everything from them,” Hernandez said, “and trying to make myself better.”
— The Royals added four total players to their 40-man roster on Nov. 15. In addition to Diego Hernandez, Kansas City added righthander Alec Marsh and second baseman Samad Taylor, the latter acquired from Toronto in a deadline deal.
The Royals also re-added Freddy Fermin after the 27-year-old catcher spent time with the big league club last summer as a substitute player needed when two catchers on the 26-man active squad were ineligible to travel to Toronto due to Canadian government vaccination requirements.
Taylor suits the Royals' mold of a plus runner who plays with energy and can move around to different positions. He was voted the best baserunner and fastest baserunner by managers in the Triple-A International League in 2022. He finished his season as part of the Royals' contingent in the Arizona Fall League.