A young KC Royals outfield prospect is definitely worth protecting.
If you’ve never heard of Diego Hernandez, just search MLB Pipeline’s list of Top 30 Kansas City prospects. You’ll find him at No. 20, and there are good reasons he ranks in the upper two-third of the rankings.
He can hit. Since signing as an international free agent in 2017, Hernandez has never posted a full season average below .263, and hit .278 in Rookie ball in 2019 and .284 in 115 games across High-A (.279) and Double-A (.298) this past season. His career average is .279.
He can draw walks—he had a 10.32 BB% at Low-A Columbia in 2021 and owns an acceptable 8.11 career rate.
He flies, as his four-season total of 88 steals, including 40 in 2022 and 35 in 2021, prove.
His nine homers in 2022, seven more than he’d hit in his three previous seasons, suggest he has at least a bit of raw power.
And he’s played all three outfield positions decently, making only nine errors in 471 chances.
Hernandez is, in short, the speedy, good hitting kind of outfielder the Royals traditionally crave. He hasn’t played above Double-A, but he’s certainly an outfielder worth developing and not losing to another club in the Rule 5 Draft.