Yadiel Hernández told reporters early this past September, after he went 2 for 4 with an opposite field double and home run in a loss to Atlanta, that his opposite field power is something that’s come naturally to him since he started playing baseball.
“It basically has to do with the other sport I played,” Hernández explained, without offering any details as to what sport that was, “but ever since I picked up a bat and played baseball for some reason, I’ve been able to hit with power the opposite way.”
“He gets himself in position to hit every pitch, and stays behind the ball really well,” skipper Davey Martinez said. “And that’s really what he does well. He doesn’t try to do too much.
“He tries to drive the ball in the middle of the field, but he gets himself ready early, and like I said, he’s had some really good at bats for us all year.
“Drove some big runs in for us all year, and he’s just a good hitter.
“He’s hit in the minor leagues, throughout his career, and he knows how to put the ball in play.”
In his second season in the majors, after he debuted as a 32-year-old in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, Hernández put up a .273/.329/.413 line with eight doubles, nine home runs, 22 walks, and 59 Ks in 112 games and 289 plate appearances, with a .261/.320/.370 line against right-handed pitchers and a .300/.349/.513 line against lefties on the season.
“To be honest, I’ve never had an issue against left-handers,” Hernández said when asked to explain his success against southpaws, as a left-handed swinger.
“I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I stay back well and wait for the pitch to get real deep into me. I see it very well from both sides, so I really can’t tell you the exact reason why, but I just have always done well against left-handers.”
In the previous 20 games before that night, Hernández was struggling at the plate, hitting just .226 with two doubles, three homers, four walks, and 15 Ks in 66 PAs in that stretch.
Going into the game, his manager talked about what he wanted the veteran to work on at the plate as he tried to get back on track.
“I just want to see him get back — I’ve talked a lot with him the last few days about getting on top of the baseball again,” Martinez explained.
“I thought every now and then he gets underneath the ball. You saw he hit a line drive off the fence the other day, to left-center field, that’s who he is, and he hit another ball to right field, lined out to right field. He just needs to stay on top of the ball, get ready early, when he does that, he’s a good hitter.”
Hernández came off the bench and started sparingly over the first few months of the 2021 campaign, but given an opportunity to play regularly following the club’s reboot and their sell-off at the trade deadline, he started to swing it again.
In a month-plus following the July 30th deadline, Hernández put up a .299/.361/.517 line in 27 games and 97 PAs.
“For a short period of time, he’s got seven home runs, drove in some runs for us, but he hits the ball hard and he has good at bats, but he’s done well,” Martinez said in early September.
“The other thing I told you is that he’s got continue to get better out in the outfield.
“Yesterday he made an unbelievable play in left-center field at the end of the game,” the manager noted, “... and he’s working on it. So I’m proud of the way he’s going about his business and the way he’s going about trying to help us win.”
Hernández needing to focus on his defense is something his manager stressed throughout the 2021 season, and he said he saw improvement from the outfielder.
“He’s definitely — like I said, he’s definitely improving, and he’s working hard at it, and that’s something that we pushed him on all year long — from Spring Training on — is to become a better outfielder and he’s done a lot better.”
Hernández told reporters that night in Atlanta that he wanted to continue to show what he could do in the final weeks of the regular season.
“I have my goals set to finish strong, and hopefully open some eyes and make sure that they know what I can do for next season.”
His manager was asked what he thought the outfielder, who turned 34 in October, should be focused on this winter as he prepares for the 2022 season.
“You know what, I think this guy has potential,” Martinez said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with the DH, no DH in our league, but I think he has potential to either play DH or play left field for us coming up next year and give us good at bats, especially against right-handed pitching.
“As you know, he plays against right and left and he has good at bats [against both], but if he can continue to do what he’s doing, he could help us win some games here in the future.”