San Bernardino, California —— The pinned message at the top of Michael Hermosillo’s Twitter account, dated March 2 of this year, tells a story. “847th overall pick,” Hermosillo wrote in the tweet, with a picture of himself in a Los Angeles Angels uniform. “Motivated.”
Maybe that’s the most obvious angle to take on Hermosillo, a high school football star-turned-28th round draft pick of the Angels in 2013 who somewhat unexpectedly picked baseball over football. But now, two months removed from that tweet and the off-season motivation it carried, maybe it’s no longer true.
Hermosillo was relatively unknown in prospect circles a year ago today, thanks to his low-round draft selection and a few middling years in the low minors that left him with valuable experience transitioning to baseball full time, but little to show for it in end-of-year stats and accolades. But after just 77 games last summer—split nearly evenly between Low-A Burlington and High-A Inland Empire—the Ottawa, Illinois product stormed into the Angels’ list of top prospects thanks to a .317/.402/.467/.869 slash line with 15 doubles, five triples, six home runs, and 34 walks in 287 at-bats.
Now, Michael Hermosillo is high profile, fielding many more media requests pre-game and getting the attention of big leaguers in spring training. But the more things change, the more they stay the same.
“I just take it as a new year, honestly,” Hermosillo told Baseball Census before a recent Inland Empire 66ers game in San Bernardino. “From the start this year, I’ve told myself that I want to have as many quality at-bats as I can. When you do get caught up in what you did last year, or the year before, whether it’s good or bad, it just messes with your mind. You get caught up in doing what people suddenly expect you to do, and you get lost.”
If Hermosillo is taking 2017 as a new year, not much is different, though. Days after our conversation in San Bernardino, the outfielder was promoted to Double-A Mobile—a new challenge in a new league for the Los Angeles Angels’ new breakout star. That pinned tweet pointing out his low draft slot becomes a little more motivating every day. Or… maybe it’s positive vibes only for Michael Hermosillo in 2017.
“Once you start focusing on people who have been talking down about you, it messes with you more,” Hermosillo said about whether he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder. “I focus on the people who have been in my corner, the people that have been working with me since the time I was seven or eight who have always known what I can do. I’ve really tried to focus on that, and really tried to focus on how, from the start, this has been a process, and it was never going to be something that happened overnight.”
Hermosillo did acknowledge that there’s another component to the motivating factor of being a 28th round pick, though.
“I think the best way to do that, maybe, is in the weight room, or during your work in the offseason,” the outfielder conceded. “But on the field, I think you can only focus on the positive, and think of the people who believe in you — your family, your friends, your coaches, people like that. If you focus on the positive side, you might get positive results on the field. If you start focusing on the bad side, or the negative things people are saying about you, you’re just going to be in your own head.”
Hermosillo is a sharp kid—captivating, engaging, with a million dollar smile and a smooth way about being interviewed. He’s also always had options in his life, starting with his stellar prep career in Illinois as a football player. He was all set to carry the ball every Saturday afternoon for some lucky Big Ten school for four years, and maybe play a little baseball on the side, until an injury in his senior year of high school altered those plans.
Quickly, he started looking more towards the diamond than the gridiron.
Maybe it makes sense, then, that his breakout finally showed up in his fourth year of pro ball: Michael Hermosillo was finally getting the sustained at-bats he’d never had in his amateur career. Hermosillo, then, is the end result of the same path we traveled earlier this spring with Ventura College outfielder Elijah Alexander, a two-sport star who will soon be put to a decision about whether to focus on baseball or football. Hermosillo not only appears to have made the right choice, he’s finally coming through the development track the Angels were always hoping they’d see.
“I’m not thinking about football, I’m not going to seven-on-seven drills in the summer, and I can finally concentrate on baseball,” Hermosillo said, before looking back on that same path Alexander—and so many amateur athletes—are taking. “To hear that’s his situation, man, that’s tough. You’re always going 50-50, and you can never concentrate 100% on football or 100% on baseball. And yet you’re competing with guys who are only concentrating on one sport.”
A transition to baseball means a transition to failure, of course. Great football teams expect perfect seasons; great baseball teams will win 60% of their games. So it goes on the individual level, too, with even the best ballplayers going through multiple sustained slumps in any given season. It’s not exactly the same mental life as being the star running back.
“Being a running back, it’s kind of hard to have a bad day,” Hermosillo said, laughing. “If you get 20, 25 carries, you’re bound to probably break one of them. In baseball you might get four or five at-bats against some very good pitchers. Not every day is going to be good, and there might be a stretch where things are going badly. And at first, it was like, OK, I have to work on everything. But in the last year I’ve been able to get a lot more comfortable in my swing knowing what I can and can’t do, and what I need to work on.”
You get the feeling that, in some sense, the sky is the limit for Michael Hermosillo. If he’s done this well this quickly in baseball, what’ll come when he gets another few years of the game under his belt? His athleticism will play without question—but so too will his innate understanding that baseball requires a far different skill set than what you see on a football field.
“A lot of football guys take to baseball, and for a while, they can go out there and use their athletic ability, but baseball is a mental game,” the prospect offered. “You can be the fastest guy and not be able to steal, and you can be the strongest guy and not be able to hit. I have a lot of speed and I haven’t really been able to show it. I think that’s going to be a big focus for me this year, trying to be better on the bases.”
True to form, Hermosillo is already 7-for-9 swiping bags this summer (he was just 10-for-20 in stolen bases last year and 24-for-40 the year before). He’s carving out a résumé difficult to ignore up in Anaheim, and in another year or two he may find himself there impacting the big league club. But knowing now that his future is laid out at his feet, did he make the right decision? What if Michael Hermosillo decided to play on Saturdays in the fall in Big Ten country?
“I definitely miss football,” Hermosillo said, cracking a smile. “I miss the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the getting ready on Friday nights with the guys. That was always fun. In football you always get those pre-game butterflies with the crowd going wild, and I miss that. But I wouldn’t call it a regret. I love the decision I made, and I love the people I’ve met here and the teammates I’ve been able to play with here.”
No drama, no regrets, no looking back—and no longer a breakout star, having now fully arrived in the Los Angeles Angels’ system ready for another year moving higher in the organization.
Yeah, it’s positive vibes only for Michael Hermosillo, all right.
To read our scouting report on Los Angeles Angels outfielder Michael Hermosillo that was also just published today, please click here.
To visit Michael Hermosillo’s player page, please click here.
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