Rookie Outfielder Smackdown: Jeremy Hermida vs. Nick Markakis
Per reader request, a Prospect Smackdown for Jeremy Hermida and Nick Markakis, rookie outfielders.
BACKGROUND and INTANGIBLES
Hermida: Jeremy Hermida was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the first round of the 2002 draft, out of high school in Marietta, Georgia. Considered possibly the best pure hitter available from the high school ranks in that draft class, he had a scholarship to Clemson, but the Fish put enough bucks on the table to convince him to sign. Hermida struggled in rookie ball, but turned things around with an 80-walk, 28-steal campaign in the Sally League in '03. He started to develop power in 2004, then dominated the Double-A level in '05 at age 21, earning a late-season trial with Florida. He is off to a bit of a slow start in the majors this year, hampered the last few days by a strained hip flexor, but he has maintained command of the strike zone and remains one of the most promising rookies in the game.
Markakis: Nick Markakis was drafted in the first round in 2003, out of Young Harris Junior College in Georgia. He was named Junior College Player of the Year in both '02 and '03 by Baseball America, and was well-known to scouts. Many clubs preferred him as a pitcher, but the Orioles liked his offensive potential and converted him to full-time outfield work. He showed speed and good plate discipline from the outset, and has gradually added power to his repertoire. He hit .339 in 33 games after being promoted to Double-A last summer, then unexpectedly earned his way onto the major league roster with a fine spring training this year. He played for the Greek Olympic Team in 2004, giving him experience on a large stage.
Advantage: Both Hermida and Markakis had high profiles as amateurs, Hermida being better known as a high schooler but Markakis being well-regarded as a premium talent by those who follow junior college baseball. Both players have fine work ethics, and are liked by coaches and managers. Both have played well in high-pressure situations. This looks pretty even to me.
PHYSICALITY and TOOLS
Hermida: Hermida is a left-handed hitter, and a right-handed thrower. He stands 6-4, 200 pounds. His tools are average or better in all categories. His speed is slightly above average, but he has good instincts and showed a knack for stealing bases in the minor leagues. His arm is average but reasonably accurate. Hermida's defense can be a tad erratic; he doesn't always read balls well, but he has improved in that regard as he has gained experience. Some scouts have questioned his concentration on defense, but others say this problem is overblown. Originally rather thin and lanky, Hermida has gotten stronger physically with maturity. His best attribute is plate discipline: his command of the zone is excellent. At times, he is simply content to hit for contact, but he can drive the ball when he tries. He has some vulnerability to inside pitches, but hits the ball very well middle-in or outside. He reads breaking balls and changeups well and does not strike out excessively.
Markakis: Markakis is a left-handed hitter and thrower. He stands 6-1, 175 pounds, being smaller than Hermida but just a strong physically. He has an excellent arm, and slightly above average speed. His defensive instincts are strong. Early in his career, Markakis was a line drive spray hitter who, paradoxically, tried too hard to hit for power and short-circuited his home run production. He is more relaxed now, pulling the ball more often but not trying to do so deliberately, going with the pitch more effectively, if that makes any sense. It's sort of a Zen thing I suppose. . .by not trying so hard to hit for power, it comes more naturally. His plate discipline is excellent, and he has no strong weaknesses, doing a better job against inside pitches the last year or so.
Advantage: Markakis has a better arm and is likely a better defender. Both have decent speed, good instincts, and can steal bases. Hermida has more pure natural power but Markakis is no slouch. Both control the strike zone very well, and both have a knack for making contact. It's very close. Does Markakis' better glove override Hermida's better pure power, or vice versa? Markakis is probably a slightly better athlete overall.
PERFORMANCE and SKILLS
Hermida: Hermida has improved as he has moved up the ladder, showing a good walk rate, improving power production, and doing well against older competition. He is jumping to the majors this spring with one season of Double-A and a month of major league competition to his credit. His BB/K/AB ratio in Double-A last season was superb at 111/89/386, and he posted a 1.017 OPS. He has a fine combination of baseball skills and instincts to go with his tools.
Markakis: Markakis has improved as he has moved up the ladder, showing a good walk rate, and improving power production. The Orioles were somewhat conservative with him last year and he got just a month of Double-A action, but it is impossible to fault his performance. His BB/K/AB ratio was very good last year, though not quite as impressive as Hermida's. Overall, he has a fine combination of baseball skills and instincts to go with his tools.
Advantage: Hermida has a slight edge I believe, since he played last year in Double-A and the majors, while Markakis was in A-ball most of the season, meaning that Hermida was proven at a higher level of competition.
Hermida: Hermida was born in January of 1984. Projecting his minor league record and MLES along a normal growth curve, he should be a .270-.300 hitter at the major league level with a high on-base percentage. The main question is home run power. Will he be a 15-20 homer guy or a 25+ candidate? Comparable players generated by PECOTA and my own research are very diverse, including names like Rusty Staub, John Callison, Rick Monday, Richie Hebner, Bobby Murcer, and Brady Anderson.
Markakis: Markakis was born in November of 1983. Projecting his record along a normal growth curve, he also looks like a .270-.300 hitter at the major league level, with a high on-base percentage. Again, the question is power development. Since he has just a tiny record in Double-A, finding comparables is problematic. PECOTA brings up guys like Ryan Langerhans and Laynce Nix. . .but PECOTA also mentions Carl Yastrzemski, Carlos Beltran, and Milton Bradley. The Staub/Callison/Monday/Murcer/Anderson/ types also make some sense when projecting what Markakis might turn into.
Advantage: Hermida has the advantage of being slightly younger by two months, although that doesn't make a real difference really. The big difference is that Hermida is proven at a higher level, making it easier to project what kind of player he can become. Hermida has the advantage here, though this is more situational than inherent.
Hermida gets a lot more press, but as you can see, Markakis is very similar. They are essentially even in background and intangibles. Markakis is perhaps a touch ahead on overall tools, but Hermida has slight advantages in performance and projection since he is a hair younger and has played at a higher level (entering 2006).