The Rangers are set to select the contract of outfielder Elier Hernandez from Triple-A Round Rock, as first reported by Hector Gomez of Z101 Sports (Twitter link). The 27-year-old will be making his Major League debut when he gets into a game for the first time.
Signed by the Royals for a $3.05MM bonus back in 2011, a then-16-year-old Hernandez was considered at the time to be one of the top prospects on that summer’s international class of amateur free agents — if not the top prospect. At the time of his signing, that $3.05MM bonus was the largest any team had ever given to an international amateur outfielder, but through parts of eight seasons in the Kansas City organization, Hernandez never developed as hoped.
Baseball America ranked Hernandez among the Royals’ top 30 prospects each season from 2012-18, topping out at No. 11 in 2014. It took Hernandez seven years to reach the Triple-A level, and the offensive numbers he posted along the way were generally below average. He continued to struggle with the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate in Omaha through the 2019 season, posting a combined OPS south of .700 in 152 games there over the course of two campaigns.
Hernandez, now in his second season with the Rangers organization, looks to finally be tapping into that dormant potential. Though his 2021 numbers between Double-A and Triple-A were a continuation of his pedestrian production in the Royals’ system, he’s broken out with a .295/.364/.546 slash through 234 plate appearances with Round Rock in 2022. He’s connected on 11 homers and doubles alike, adding in four triples, nine stolen bases (in 11 tries) and some of the best walk and strikeout rates of his career (8.7% and 19.5%, respectively).
As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News points out, the Rangers are set to face multiple left-handed starters in this weekend’s series against the Mariners, so Hernandez will give them a right-handed stick to play matchups. Texas already has an open spot on the 40-man roster after moving Mitch Garver to the 60-day injured list earlier in the week, and it seems Hernandez will be the yet-unannounced corresponding move accompanying that shift. As such, they’ll only need to make a corresponding 26-man roster move to accommodate Hernandez’s ascent to the Majors.
That said, Grant adds that righty reliever Jonathan Hernandez, who’s been out all season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, is expected to be activated at some point this weekend, so the Rangers will likely need to make an additional 40-man transaction in the coming days.