The average Pittsburgh Pirates' fan probably pays attention to the player(s) picked in the first round of the MLB June Amateur Draft. A more ambitious fan might hang around until the end of the first day, which only takes them through the second round. Super fans and prospect junkies sometimes hang around for the second day of the Draft. The only people paying attention during the third and final day of the Draft are usually the ones that are getting paid to do so by the publications, teams and/or radio/podcast networks they work for. In 2018 you were one of the few people still following along to hear Jack Herman’s name come off the board with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 30th round pick, the 894th player overall.
The 18 year old, 6’0’’ 190 pound outfielder, from Eastern High School in New Jersey was eager to start his professional career in baseball, so it didn’t take much for the Pirates ($50,000) to sway this young man from heading to Maryland University.
They sent him to the play for the GCL Pirates (Pittsburgh’s Rookie Level Affiliate) in the Gulf Coast League in the summer of 2018, with no real expectations other than seeing what they had and allowing Herman to get his feet wet. No one, other than maybe Herman himself, could have predicted what happened next. In 37 games and 169 plate appearances in the GCL Herman slashed .340/.435/.489, with 2 HRs and an almost identical walk/strike out ratio (1.04K/BB). He was a much more polished hitter than anyone could have anticipated. For his determination and hard work, Herman earned a spot on the Baseball America Top 20 Prospect List and was named to the GCL All-Star Team.
Prior to the 2019 season he was asked by the Pirates to participate in extended spring training before being sent to play for the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Pittsburgh’s Low A Affiliate) of the South Atlantic League at only 19 years of age, approximately 2. 5 years younger than the average player at that level. During his year with the Grasshoppers, Herman did struggle at times. His 29.3% strike out rate left a lot to be desire. However, he made up for this almost all other areas of his game. He posted a .804 OPS, a 134 wRC+ and an .208 ISO to go along with 13 HRs. He split his time in the field almost right down the middle between LF and RF committing only 4 errors the entire year, while completing 130 putouts and being a part of 11 outfield assists 612 innings. His strong arm and speed plays well in each of these positions and would look for him to stay in the corners for the foreseeable future.
Due to his somewhat unexpected debut in the GCL and solid performance for the Grasshoppers with past season, Jack Herman now finds himself inside the Pittsburgh Pirates MLB Pipeline Top 30 Prospects; landing at #29. This is a pretty huge leap in less than 2 calendar years and two professional seasons, one of which was only 37 games of rookie ball, for a 30th round draft pick.
With all of this being true, I am still going to temper my expectations for this upcoming season, but not because of any concerns I have with Herman himself. To me a lot of his progression within the Pirates will be determined by the talent that he has in the levels in front of him. Last year’s Bradenton Marauders’ (Pittsburgh’s High A Affiliate) outfield consisted of Pirates’ #4 prospect Travis Swaggerty, #5 prospect Cal Mitchell and #15 prospect Lolo Sanchez. It is likely that one, if not two, of these players will be promoted to the Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh’s AA Affiliate) to begin the season, so there is a possibility that Herman could find himself in the OF in Bradenton to start the year. However, it is also possible due to him just turning 20 years old at the end of September that he finds himself back in Greensboro with the expectation of him working his way up to Bradenton by the end of the season. Either way, I still envision myself looking into the outfield on a muggy afternoon/evening in early August in Florida to see Jack Herman patrolling either RF or LF for the Marauders during my family’s yearly summer trip to Florida.
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