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In the spring of 2006, Theo Epstein traded Bronson Arroyo to the Cincinnati Reds for aggressive, raw, outfielder in Wily Mo Peña. With Trot Nixon entering the last year of his contract, Peña looked like the heir-apparent in right field. This did not turn out to be the case; Wily Mo was a flop offensively and defensively. Unlike Peña, Hermida stands a chance be the biggest steal since Heathcliff Slocumb was peddled for Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe, if he can prove that 2007 was not a fluke.
Jeremy Ryan Hermida was drafted 11th overall by the Florida Marlins in 2002 ahead of Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels, and Matt Cain. The Red Sox, of course, drafted Jon Lester in the second round that year. Curtis Granderson, now with the Yankees, was taken at pick 80 in the third round. Hermida was taken ahead of young Reds slugger Joey Votto and Braves catcher Brian McCann. The Marlins current ace, Josh Johnson, who was just signed to a four-year $39 million dollar contract this winter, was not selected until the fourth round.
Baseball America’s prospect rankings, which were done after the trade of Hanley Ramirez from the Red Sox to the Marlins, listed Jeremy Hermida as the Marlins top prospect heading in to the 2006 season. Being a high draft pick is no guarantee for success, but Hermida was not just a top pick and a highly ranked prospect, he was a also a force to be reckoned with in the minors with a career .284/.398/.436/.834 line in 410 minor league games.
During his time with the Marlins, Hermida put up a .265/.344/.424/.769 line over four seasons and a 23-game “cup of coffee” in 2005. So far, Hermida has not lived up to the hype while Granderson has become an established player, but there is still time.
Hermida has hit 57 career home runs with his high of 18 in 2007 and 17 more in 2008. He has stuck out more than twice as much as he has walked in his major league career.
Though he has yet to show as much power as new teammate Adrian Beltre, they have had similar careers with Beltre owning a .270/.325/.453/.779 line. Compared to new center fielder Mike Cameron, who has compiled a .250/.340/.448/,788 line, Hermida also fairs well. However, as a corner outfielder without the kind of defense Cameron and Beltre provide, Hermida will likely struggle to find his way into the Boston lineup barring injuries.
In his career year of 2007, Hermida had a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .356. BABIP is a statistic that measures “the percentage of plate appearances ending with a batted ball in play (excluding home runs), for which the batter is credited with a hit.” This lets us take a look at how much of a hitter’s success in a given year was due to luck.
For Hermida, his career BABIP is .322, well below his 2007 mark. For an idea on how much this one season meant to his career BABIP, Hermida put up BABIPs of .310, .311, and .311 in 2006, 2008 and 2009 respectively. Unfortunately, these statistics make 2007 seem like the fluke and not the breakout season it was hoped to be.
A left-handed hitter, Hermida owns a career OPS nearly 100 points lower against southpaws than righties; .697 vs. 792. With J.D. Drew typically sitting against lefties, this is unfortunate for Hermida’s attempts to increase his playing time.
In more hopeful news, Hermida has performed much better out of Florida. While the power surge away from Miami has had little effect on his doubles (43 home, 46 away) it has translated into more home runs (23 home, 34 away). In just 24 additional at bats on the road, Hermida collected 11 home runs.
With David Ortiz and Mike Lowell both expected to leave via free agency and J.D. Drew entering the penultimate year of his contract, there may yet be an important role for Hermida to play in Boston, if he can claim it. He will have to fend off the advances of prospects like Josh Reddick, Ryan Kalish and Ryan Westmoreland, but Hermida could slide into left or right field or even DH if he can repeat the success he had in 2007.
In 2009 he posted the highest walk rate of his career, taking the pass in 11.4% of his plate appearances, while striking out in 23.5% of the time, a career low. For the price of Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez, Hermida is at worst a competent bat who can play both corner outfield positions. With Hermida having just turned 26 in January, that’s a risk worth taking.