SAN FRANCISCO - For much of the first half in 2017, Gorkys Hernandez was a candidate to get designated for assignment.
For much of the first half in 2018, Gorkys Hernandez was a candidate to make the All-Star team.
Those are extremes, a bit, but Hernandez was outstanding before the break this past season, and overall he was one of the Giants' best sluggers. His season took a turn, though, leading to more questions about his place on the roster. First, a look at the highlights …
What Went Right: This might be the craziest stat in all of baseball this year: Hernandez hit zero homers in 2017 and had 15 a year later, including 11 in the first half. According to Elias, he became the first player in 33 years to have 15 or more homers after posting a goose egg in 300-plus plate appearances a year before. Weirdly, Hernandez had seven homers against the Rockies alone. He entered this season with a total of five career homers.
There are some numbers that show this wasn't a total fluke. His hard-hit rate was up 13 percent from 2017, when he played through a hamate injury. His launch angle was up three degrees and his exit velocity was increased by 2.5 mph. He was hitting the ball harder and higher, and it resulted in a chase for the team home run lead.
Advanced fielding metrics have never loved Hernandez, but he was at two Defensive Runs Saved overall and five DRS in left field. The eye test certainly says he's a plus out there, and when the Giants had Steven Duggar in center and Hernandez in left, they covered gaps better than they have in years.
Oh, also, he might have the best "that wasn't a strike" reactions on the team.
What Went Wrong: It got lost a bit because the whole team was bad in the second half, particularly in September, but Hernandez's numbers went in the tank after the break. He had a .162/.220/.286 slash line in the second half, with his OPS dropping more than 250 points from that breakthrough first half. After homering 11 times before the break, he hit four in the second half, with just 10 extra-base hits.
Overall, the numbers basically ended up where they were in 2017, despite an increase of 15 homers. His OBP finished at .285 and his OPS was up just 24 points from his zero-homer campaign. His OPS+ of 85 put him well below a league-average standard for hitters.
Contract Status: Hernandez made $561,000 in 2018 but is arbitration-eligible for the first time. MLB Trade Rumors projects that he'll make $1.6 million.
The Future: On another roster, you would look at that increase in salary and the dip in numbers in the second half and make a decision to non-tender the player. But the Giants really do need Hernandez. Duggar is coming off surgery, Mac Williamson had his season ended by an injury, and Austin Slater has elbow concerns. There's nothing coming through the minor league pipeline. At the very least, Hernandez is a solid fourth outfielder for this roster, and he might get a lot of starts if the Giants don't add significant outfield help this winter. Perhaps they can agree on a one-year deal at a slightly lower price, reflecting those second-half issues. Either way, the Giants will likely bring Hernandez back and hope that the pre-break version returns.