Few, if any, experts expected the meteoric rise through the prospect rankings that Pittsburgh Pirates outfield prospect Jack Herman has seen being drafted. The Pirates selected Herman in the 30th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft with the 894th overall selection out of Eastern High School in New Jersey.
Herman’s draft stock had dipped a bit because of time missed in his junior year due to a dislocated shoulder. However, after posting an insane .556 batting average and 1.683 OPS in his senior year, he caught the attention of some major league teams. However, a commitment to the University of Maryland had most teams convinced he would decide to attend college to improve his draft stock.
Undeterred, the Pirates decided to take a shot on Herman in the 30th round and the outfielder signed for $50,000. After forgoing his collegiate career at Maryland in favor of signing with the Pirates, the club would assign him to the Gulf Coast League.
Despite being almost two years younger then the average player in the GCL, Herman would impress in his inaugural season in professional baseball hitting .340 with two home runs, two stolen bases, 22 runs batted in and 28 runs scored in 169 plate appearances. With his solid performance, Herman would be named as a GCL All-Star.
During his 37 game stint in the GCL, Herman exhibited an excellent batting eye and plate discipline which were the primary reasons for his nearly identical strikeout and walk rates. In the GCL he walked 23 times and struck out 24 times.
After proving himself in the GCL, Herman was promoted to Low-A Greensboro, He would have 265 at-bats with a .257 batting average, 34 runs batted in, 47 runs scored, 13 home runs, and six stolen bases in 265 at-bats.
Herman’s strikeout rates would increase to 29.3% and walk rate would drop to 9.3% with the Grasshoppers, but the rest of his peripherals would remain solid, even though at 19-years old, he was over two and a half years younger than the average age of players in Low-A.
His high strikeout numbers and lower walk totals could be attributed to him being a bit impatient at the plate and his attempts to pull the ball a lot more than the previous season. Herman split time between nearly equally between both left field and right field with Greensboro.
On a scale of 20 to 80 with 50 being average, Herman’s hit tool rates as a 50, his power grades at 60, his speed rating is 50, his fielding rating is 50, and his arm is rated as 60. He grades out at average in everything except for his power and arm strength.
Herman has an absolute cannon for an arm, which bodes well for his future as a corner outfielder. His throws have been clocked at over 95 miles per hour on a routine basis and he is a threat to gun down base runners who attempt to take extra bases on him.
If having a gun for an arm wasn’t enticing enough, Herman’s best asset is his bat speed. He currently has one of the fastest bat speeds in all of the minor leagues. This plays well in regards to his power, as he has a career 22.7% line-drive rate and a 33% fly-ball rate, which will likely translate into big power numbers given his extremely high exit velocity on batted balls.
Herman already possesses an excellent launch angle and barrels the ball extremely well. Coupled with his excellent batting eye, if he can add mass and strength to his lean 6’0” and 190-pound frame as he matures, his power numbers could see a massive spike.
In addition to having excellent power potential, Herman has shown the ability to hit the ball to all fields with great effectiveness and has hit both right-handed and left-handed pitching with almost equal success. If he continues both of these trends, it will make it extremely difficult for opponents to employ a defensive shift against him.
At just 20-years old this season, it is expected that Herman will begin the year in Greensboro again because of his young age versus the competition. However, if he continues his success from the past two seasons, it is likely he sees a quick promotion to Bradenton, regardless of his young age.
With highly-rated outfield prospects Travis Swaggerty (7th overall), Cal Mitchell (13th overall) and Lolo Sanchez (16th overall) all scheduled to start the season at Bradenton, Herman who is the 18th rated Pirates prospect is likely to start at Greensboro until one of the other prospects receives a promotion to Altoona.
Currently, Herman projects as a corner outfielder when he reaches the major leagues. His current estimated arrival date in MLB is 2023. However, given how quickly his stock has rocketed since being drafted in the 30th round just two years ago, he may arrive quicker than expected.
It will be interesting to see if Herman can continue his success again this season and if he can improve upon his strikeout rate and power numbers. Regardless, he has certainly opened the eyes of many experts and serves as a great feel-good story for Pirates fans to monitor.