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Gorkys Hernández: A tale of two halves

After an incredible start to the season, Gorkys Hernández fell off a cliff.

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Stat Line

.234/.285/.391 451 PA, 15 HR, 40 RBI

Gorkys Hernández’s final line doesn’t look much different from last year’s. His wRC+ rose from 76 to 83, and his wOBA only went to .292 from .288. The jump in home runs is obvious. Going from 0 to 15 is remarkable on its own, but in terms of overall production, he was more or less the same hitter.

That doesn’t tell the whole story though. Hernández pulled the reverse Kole Calhoun by having an incredible first half and an abysmal second.

Before the All-Star break, Hernández hit .277/.324/.454 for a 111 wRC+. He hit 11 home runs by mid-July, and he drew comparisons to Andres Torres. A recurring theme from 2017 was how no one gave a surprise performance, but here was Gorkys Hernández, looking like he was going to crack 25 dingers.

But like the Giants, Hernández fell apart following the All-Star break as he hit .162/.220/.286 down the stretch. That’s just a 38 wRC+. His season essentially looked like this:

Started out just fine and oh no what happened?

Somewhere along the way, Gorkys stopped Gorking the ball. Hernández isn’t much of a line drive hitter, but he nearly stopped hitting line drives all together. Per Fangraphs, his line drive rate fell to 10 percent in the second-half. That’s the second lowest second half line drive rate of all hitters with at least 100 plate appearances.

Though his hard-hit rate fell remained the same, his soft contact rate rose.

Even if his offense fell off, he remained a competent defender. Statcast had him at 3 OOA and he accumulated 5 DRS in left field. He may not be Steven Duggar, but he’s no Denard Span or Angel Pagan.

Which makes it such a shame Hernández couldn’t keep things going. If Hernández could even be a league average hitter, he could make a case to be the starting left fielder in 2019. He almost led the team in home runs, don’t you know?

Role on the 2018 Team

Hernández was supposed to be a fourth or fifth outfielder, but Austin Jackson fell into an open manhole and Gorkys became the starting center fielder. When Hernández fell into an open manhole, Steven Duggar became the everyday center fielder. When Duggar tore his labrum, Hernández became the starting center fielder again.

Role on the 2019 Team

With Duggar ready to take over the role of everyday center fielder, Hernández could still be a serviceable fourth or fifth outfielder. However, Hernández is entering his first year of arbitration come 2019, so he won’t be as cheap. MLB Trade Rumors estimates he’ll earn $1.6 million next year which isn’t a whole lot, but it’s also three times as much as Chris Shaw and Austin Slater will individually earn for roughly the same value. He’ll also be 31, so there isn’t much of a reason to think his performance will improve. As much as the Giants loves their 31-year-old center fielders, they could decide that Shaw and Slater are ready to slide into the fourth and fifth outfield slots.

Assuming the Giants pick up two corner outfielders, Hernández will have to fight for a roster spot in 2019. His trade value is low to non-existent. It’s hard to think of a team that’s clamoring for a replacement-level outfielder. Sadly, Hernández could be a non-tender candidate as the Giants head in a new direction. (The new direction is the old direction but younger.) Hernández is precisely the kind of player that a new general manager would view as expendable because he/she/they wouldn’t have the emotional attachment to pay him arbitration money to eat a 40-man roster spot.

Final Grade: B+

Hitting 15 more dingers should have been enough to give him an A on the season, but he just looked so very, very lost for the last few months of the season. If he had just hit like Gorkys Hernández in August and September, we’d be Gorking out right now. As is, he gets a B+ for being roughly the same hitter on the season but with more dingers.