Cover photo courtesy of courierpostonline.com
Who the F*** is Jack Herman?! The Pirates 30th round 2018 draft pick doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar. Even most writers i’ve talked to don’t seem to know much about him. But the more I look into this kid, the more convinced I become he will be a household name by the end of the year!
The New Jersey native slashed 340/435/489 in the pitcher friendly GCL as an 18 year old rookie (1.8 years below average GCL age), ranking 2nd in OBP, 3rd in average and 5th in OPS ahead of names like Ronny Mauricio, Luis Garcia, Jordan Groshans and Freudis Nova!
When you see a 30th rounder produce these kind of numbers, it’s easy to write it off as luck, so I took a dive into the background and peripherals on Herman. It’s safe to say I’m buying him everywhere at his current price! The kid is legit and has a pedigree of a much higher draft pick!
Let’s start with the peripheral stats. An elite 23BB/24K (13.6%bb, 14.2%K rates) show that Herman has a good eye at the plate and makes good contact. This is a great indicator that he will handle jumps well and not be streaky. Herman’s batted ball profile is even more encouraging than his K/BB rates! Herman sprays the ball to all fields
In today’s game, being shift-proof like this is hugely important. There’s a reason they talked about banning the shift and its rare to use all fields this well at this age. In addition to the all fields approach, Herman managed to hit for an almost ideal profile to combine power and high average. With an exceptional line drive rate for his level (23.2%) and still managing a solid 33% flyball rate to allow for power. This batted ball profile, combined with seeing how few infield batted balls he had from his chart, tell me Herman is hitting the ball hard with a profile that would indicate high average and using all fields. He also managed an 832 OPS vs Righties and a 1.194 OPS vs lefties. HS draftees tend to struggle vs lefties since they haven’t seen good left-handed pitchers yet for the most part. Herman already hits both well and shouldn’t have platoon risk. The 340 average is legitimate! In fact, it looks as though he may have been unlucky with his 5.4% HR/FB rate and some of those doubles and triples (9 2B, 3 3B in just 141 AB) should turn into home runs. Especially with his bat speed!
Which brings me to the measurables. Herman stands 6-0 190 with very broad shoulders and room to grow. Just 18, he could pack on 15-20 pounds of good muscle still. A star pitcher in HS, Herman has a very strong arm from the outfield, consistently throwing in the 90-95 MPH range! From a speed standpoint, Herman flashed exceptional straight-line speed! His 6.56 60 yard dash was in the 99th percentile for his class and good for a 60 on the Fangraphs scale and his quickness has been shown to be above average.
But where Herman really shines is bat speed! Coming into his draft year Herman already had some of the best Max Barrell speed and Impact momentum (measuring essentially potential for high exit velo) in the class. But the Pirates made a mechanical change to his swing that brought his Max Acceleration (how fast you reach top barrel speed) to a whole nother level! Herman now flashes some of the best bat speed in the entire minors and would rival guys like Bobby Witt Jr and past guys like Nolan Gorman, Xavier Edwards, Groshans, Lavigne, etc. He ranks only behind Jarred Kelenic from the class in bat speed metrics. This means he will hit for high exit velo via his Max Barrell speed and Impact Momentum, but also can reach those speeds quick enough to catch up to high end Velocity and quality offspeed pitches! Here are his bat speed charts (Measured in G’s via Diamond Kinetics) from July 22 to end of the year. You can easily see the trend.
Here’s a video of Herman hitting in February of 2018, well before the draft or his bat speed spike, but he’s already hitting the ball hard (102.5 top exit velo as an HS kid with a wooden bat). I love this kid’s swing! Herman BP Session.
Note how he keeps his weight on his back foot and drives through it, keep his head back and stable, short stride and swing and creates natural lift.
In addition to the eye test, measurables test and peripheral stats all checking out, Herman has much more pedigree than you’d expect for a 30th round pick. He had a perfect storm happen to fly under the radar. Herman put himself on the map as a star Freshman and sophomore year, including setting school records for hits and home runs as a sophomore. He was also selected as state player of the year his sophomore year by multiple outlets.
But for a cold weather state kid from New Jersey, your junior year is when you get scouted by pro scouts and when you get selected to big showcases. Herman missed most of that year with a Partially dislocated left shoulder and wasn’t 100% when he came back, struggling. Already committed to Maryland, he wasn’t scouted by college teams. His name dropped off boards, he fell off of being invited to big events and scouts got a look at an injured, struggling player.
However, his Senior year (fully healthy) Herman absolutely mashed! Showcasing his speed, an all fields approach rocket arm and a refined swing. He batted 556 with an unreal 1.683 ops with 19 XBH in less than 100 AB. Pitchers didn’t want any part of him, as he was thrown an estimated 20 fastballs all year. The kid was crushing offspeed stuff. Hitters didn’t want a piece either as he had a 0.76 ERA as the team closer, en route to a state championship. Herman again was selected as the New Jersey player of the year by local papers (although Nick Decker was the Gatorade Player of the year) and he had risen to 70th overall in the class and #2 in New Jersey on Perfect Game’s list. Had he stayed healthy his JR year he would have likely been a top 2 rounds pick, but teams just didn’t have the tape on him and didn’t think they could sign him late.
Here’s what Herman’s HS coach, Rob Christ, had to say about him “He has all the abilities,” Christ said. “He’s a true five-tool player, the first I’ve ever coached in 21 years. When you talk about comparisons, it’s not fair to Jack, but he’s got the same makeup and motor and build as Mike Trout. … I think the Pirates are going to be very fortunate to have him. I think given his humility, equanimity, given his work ethic and skill set, he’s got a bright future.” If that’s not high praise coming from a New Jersey coach, I don’t know what is.
To recap, Jack Herman slashed 340/435/489 in a pitcher-friendly league in which he was well below the average age. Hits to all fields, hits for high line drive rates, crushes both lefties and righties at an advanced level, got unlucky with his power numbers and should grow into more, has plus speed, a cannon arm, didn’t commit a single error, has high end pedigree, has some of the best bat speed in the minors with a simple and pretty swing and is comped to Mike Trout by his HS Coach who watched Trout play in HS. Oh yeah and he’s essentially free if you play in fantasy leagues with prospects.
Some people are starting to take notice though. Baseball America listed Herman in their top 20 prospects in the GCL as well as their 10 Late Round Sleepers To Watch For In 2019 so he might not be a secret too much longer. But for now, he’s a secret stud worth knowing about.