This is a guy that seems to have a knack for good first impressions. August 31 of 2005, Jeremy Hermida got his first chance to come to the plate in the Major Leagues, and it was the kind of chance that most minor league callups would have nightmares about.
It was the bottom of the 7th inning and the Marlins were down 10-0 in a game they desperately wanted to win, sitting 3 games behind in the NL East and facing the Cardinals, who were leading the NL Central. There were three men on base and no outs (due to a single, a walk and an error)- two of them, Mike Lowell and Alex Gonzalez should seem pretty familiar here. A new pitcher came in to face the rookie Hermida, pinch hitting for the pitcher position in his first major league at bat, and after seeing two strikes, he swung at the third and deposited it safely out of the park. His first career at bat and first career grand slam. Now the Marlins still went on to lose that game 10-5, but what a first impression for a highly touted young prospect to make.
Now his introduction to the Red Sox was almost nothing compared to that.
In his first appearance for the Red Sox, Hermida, once again pinch hitting (this time for the ejected Ortiz), once again succeeded, singling in his only appearance in the game. It wasn't until his second game, facing the talented Zack Greinke, that Hermida managed to excite everyone. In a billed pitcher's duel, Josh Beckett's Red Sox were trailing the Royals by 1-0 since the first inning. Just as I was beginning to think that with Greinke on the mound, that one run might be enough to put the Royals on top, Hermida stepped to the plate in the fifth inning. Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo rattled off some none-too-reassuring stats- that over the course of last year, Greinke had only given up 11 home runs and had given up a total of 2 runs in the fifth inning. Hermida, with a effortless swing, took a pitch from Greinke and sent it deep, over the right field wall to tie the game. Immediately after, Captain Tek once again took him deep to almost the same spot, and the Sox went on to win the game.
When Hermida first came to the Sox, a lot of people (myself included) were wondering what purpose he was going to serve here. It didn't seem like he was a viable replacement for Bay and, once Cameron came in, it didn't seem like he, as an everyday player, would even see enough time on the field to be worth his arbitration salary. Now here we are, 12 days after opening day, and it looks like we'll be seeing a lot of Jeremy this year. It was always speculated that he would give Tito the flexibility to give plenty of off-days to our older outfielders- Cameron and Drew, but nobody had counted on having all three starting ourfielders hurt this early, with two of them missing games from their injuries.
So what's he going to be worth? Hermida, the 11th pick of the draft in 2002 (and apparently, the Brewers almost chose him over Prince Fielder), was supposed to be a monstrous players. Scouts loved his swing and his patience at the plate. After his first full year as a Marlin, it looked like he might be positioned to break out and become the superstar that some people thought he could. After 2007, however, his whole profile changed. He struggled in 2008, walking less and striking out more, while seeing his power decrease.
So what happened? First of all, in 2007, he was probably very lucky. His BABIP was higher than expected (though in the years after, it fell to lower than expected). His Infield Flyball % was a tiny 1.7%, which rose the next year to 12.2%. In 2008, he clearly got frustrated, swinging at more balls out of the zone (but less in the zone!), and striking out astronomically more. In 2009, his batting profile returned more to his 2007 self, but his stats didn't really follow.
So it's possible that he was just very lucky in 2007 and will never return to that form. Still, for a prospect as promising as him, it seems unlikely that he has reached his ceiling. There is decent hope that a change of scenery (and as a lefty who can hit to all fields with decent power, Fenway is a good place for him to be) and a new coaching staff, they'll be able to recapture the magic that scouts saw in him as a kid and that the Marlins saw in him in 2007.
We certainly can't say at this point whether he'll live up to the potential it is thought he can have. It looks, however, like between an outfield that will need a good amount of rest and a huge question mark in the DH position, Hermida is going to get plenty of at bats this year and plenty of chances to prove what he can be. So far however, with an OPS of .980 18 PAs into the year, his start is looking good. Personally, I'll be rooting for him the whole time.