Hernandez hits stride with Stone Crabs

Rays No. 7 prospect homers, ties season high with four RBIs

Ronaldo Hernandez has lifted his average 63 points since the start of May with a .327 average. (Gordon Donovan/MiLB.com)

By Michael Avallone / MiLB.com | May 21, 2019 12:16 AM

A good player only can be held down for so long. Eventually the production catches up to the talent, as was the case for Ronaldo Hernandez.

Tampa Bay's No. 7 prospect homered and tied a season high with four RBIs as Class A Advanced Charlotte rolled to a 15-3 win over Jupiter on Monday night at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Hernandez added a single for his sixth multi-hit effort in his last 10 games, bringing his average up 71 points to .259.

Jim Haley slugged a pair of homers and drove in four runs for the Stone Crabs, giving him four roundtrippers and 11 RBIs in his last four games.

Gameday box score

Hernandez, whose eight-game hitting streak ended Saturday, lined out in his first at-bat before plating Charlotte's second run of the game with a sacrifice fly in the third inning. He popped out in the fifth, but got back into the hit column with a single to center field in the next frame, although he was thrown out trying to take second by second-ranked Marlins prospect Victor Victor Mesa. Hernandez's three-run homer to left -- his third of the season and second in five games -- capped the Stone Crabs' eight-run seventh. The 21-year-old struck out in his final at-bat, but his manager likes what he's seen.

"For me, one of the things tying into his success is his catching," Charlotte skipper Jeff Smith said. "He's really put together some great games behind the plate and the offense has come along with it. He's swinging at pitches in the zone, driving them and making sure not miss the pitches he can hit."

MLB.com's No. 89 overall prospect previously plated four runs against Fort Myers on April 20. He set a career high with five RBIs last June 1 with Class A Bowling Green. The Colombia-born backstop began his trek up the prospect lists in the Midwest League. After a strong domestic debut with Rookie Advanced Princeton in 2017, Hernandez batted .284/.339/.494 with 21 homers, 79 RBIs and 42 extra-base hits in 109 games last year with the Hot Rods. He was named both a Midseason and Postseason All-Star and took home the circuit's Player of the Month Award in June after hitting .366/.398/.829 with 10 long balls and 25 RBIs in 22 games.

His adjustment to the Florida State League did not go as smoothly. Although he hit .196 in April, this month Hernandez has compiled a slash line of .327/.315/.481 in 12 games.

"He's starting to get into that rhythm, and I think anybody needs that to succeed," Smith explained. "It's a very tough league, especially on hitters. It can take guys three or four weeks to adjust down here before hitting their stride. More than anything, it's about the quality of his at-bats and improving every night over simple numbers."

2019 MiLB include

Rays No. 6 prospect Vidal Brujan went 2-for-3 with a triple and his league-leading 18th stolen base before he was removed from the game as a precaution after being hit by the ball while sliding into third base. Tampa Bay's 19th-ranked prospect Taylor Walls was 3-for-5 with a walk, two runs and an RBI. Haley's multi-homer game marked the first of his career and the four RBIs equaled his career high, most recently accomplished last Friday against Clearwater.

"I can't say enough good things about Jim," Smith explained. "He comes to play each day and plays all over the field. It's a phrase used a lot, but he's a gamer. The big thing with Jim is his ability to grind out at-bats. A lot of his home runs have come later in counts, which means he's battling and finding that pitch to drive. It can be a contagious thing for other players and a great momentum builder for our hitters who are following his lead." 

Joe Ryan (1-1) was the beneficiary of Charlotte's 16-hit attack. The right-hander scattered three runs -- two earned -- on six hits over five innings in his first start for the Stone Crabs. He struck out eight and did not walk a batter. Alex Valverde recorded his first save after allowing three hits and a walk with three punchouts in four scoreless frames.

Miami's 20th-ranked prospect James Nelson had an RBI double and a single for Jupiter.

Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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