Michael Hermosillo will get that momentary itch again at times on a weekend in the fall when a football game comes across a television screen. After all, the Los Angeles Angels prospect signed to play college football at Illinois before deciding to try his hand in the professional baseball ranks.
Hermosillo now finds himself tapping on the door to the major leagues five years after the Angels drafted him in the 28th round out of high school and he decided to bet on his own upside in a sport he’d put “on the back burner.” The 23-year-old outfielder begins this season with the Salt Lake Bees, who open their season against Albuquerque at 6:35 p.m. Thursday at Smith’s Ballpark.
“Baseball was always kind of the first love,” said Hermosillo, a former all-state running back in Illinois who rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior in high school. “I grew up in Arizona, and I played baseball all the time. Baseball has always kind of been in the family with my dad, my cousins, etc. Then once I moved to Illinois, because baseball isn’t really an option year-round, I started to focus on football.”
Rated the 10th-best prospect in the Angels’ farm system by Baseball America, Hermosillo’s tapping at the door to the big leagues could progress to full-fledged pounding or outright bursting through by the end of this summer. It’s not just him. He’s one of eight players 25 or younger on the Bees’ opening-day roster released earlier this week.
“He’s very athletic, kind of a highlight-reel type player,” Bees seventh-year manager Keith Johnson said about Hermosillo. “It’s like finally we’ve got a guy who has come up through our system as opposed to a sixth-year free agent or someone that we picked up off waivers.
“There’s still a little bit of a development aspect to go there, but I’ll tell you what — he’s opened some eyes. He’s done some really good things defensively. He’s still working his way offensively. We’re looking for him to take that last step, just to show consistency at this level just so that way he can kick that door down, if he gets the opportunity, and get up there and hopefully stay.”
Hermosillo often didn’t play more than 30 baseball games in a season as a high school player because of his focus on football. When he made the decision to sign with the Angels, he counted on the increased repetitions, training, focus and coaching to aid in his transition from all-around athlete and part-time baseball player to a full-time polished baseball player.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Hermosillo started last season at High-A and finished the year having jumped to Double-A (77 games) and Triple-A (30 games). He batted .287 with 12 extra-base hits (five home runs), 16 RBIs, nine stolen bases, a .341 on-base percentage and a .487 slugging percentage in 30 games with the Bees last season.
After barely getting his feet wet in professional baseball in 2013 after being drafted, Hermosillo needed the better part of the next two seasons to acclimate to playing every day. He played in Rookie ball in Orem in 2014, but his batting averaged dropped each month. He received a promotion to Low-A the next season, but his production again trailed off as the season went along until he got demoted back to Orem.
Things began to fall into place for him in 2016, and he enjoyed the best season of his career. He carried that over into 2017.
“There’s definitely a lot of mechanical stuff that went along with [getting used to playing more games] this past five years,” Hermosillo said. “I added a leg kick. I’ve gotten just my rhythm and my patterns and my sequences right with my swing and things like that. That obviously was a huge factor, too, and I think that also took a big change in that 2016 year.”
Hermosillo has reached the point now where he’s able to make the day-to-day tweaks and adjustments instead of wholesale changes. He’s aiming to show consistency this season and demonstrate the ability to be “that player” who plays a significant part in the team’s success offensively and defensively, earns a reputation for playing hard every day, proves himself reliable in clutch situations and grows into a leadership role.
The Bees outfield includes four other players who all have played in the majors: Jabari Blash, Rymer Liriano, Ben Revere and Eric Young Jr. Hermosillo said over the past two years he’s leaned on those guys, particularly Young, with questions about handling things on and off the field.
Hermosillo admits he can’t help thinking about a day when he puts on an Angels uniform and takes the outfield alongside two-time American League MVP Mike Trout in a lineup that includes likely future Hall of Fame slugger Albert Pujols. However, he tries to not to let it alter his daily focus on giving his best effort for the Bees.
“I mean, it’s definitely there, you know what I mean?” Hermosillo said. “You know you’re so close. The motivation is there every day just to get there. It’s definitely a dream of mine to get there, but the thing I can control is play as best as I can here. If I play what I’m capable of here, hopefully at some point this year that’ll be the case.”
2018 SALT LAKE BEES <br>Home opener • 6:35 p.m. Thursday <br>Last season’s record • 72-70 <br>Field staff • Keith Johnson, manager; Erik Bennett, pitching coach; Donnie Ecker, hitting coach; Ray Olmedo, defensive coach <br>PITCHING <br>Starters • Jaime Barria, RHP; Nick Troeano, RHP; John Lamb, LHP; Osmer Morales, RHP <br>Bullpen • Miguel Almonte, RHP; Vicente Campos, RHP; Ralston Cash, RHP; Taylor Cole, RHP; Ian Krol, LHP; Adam Hofacket, RHP; Eduardo Paredes, RHP; Felix Pena, RHP; Troy Scribner, RHP <br>POSITION PLAYERS <br>Catchers • Jose Briceno, Juan Graterol <br>Infield • Chris Carter, Joe Fernandez, David Fletcher, Sherman Johnson, Ryan Schimpf <br>Outfield • Jabari Blash, Michael Hermosillo, Rymer Liriano, Ben Revere, Eric Young Jr. <br>Top prospects (ranked by Baseball America) • Jaime Barria, RHP (ranked No. 7 in Angels system); Michael Hermosillo, OF (No. 10); David Fletcher, 2B/SS (No. 27) <br>Local ties • Relief pitcher Taylor Cole played for BYU in 2011. He made his major-league debut with the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 9, 2017. He signed with the Angels as a minor-league free agent this offseason. <br>Back again • Outfielder Eric Young Jr. played 83 games for the Bees last season while also spending 47 games in the majors. … Pitcher Troy Scribner started 19 games for the Bees last season and won 11 games on his way to being named a midseason all-star. He also made 10 appearances (four starts) for the Angels and posted a 2-1 record. <br>Powered up • First baseman Chris Carter played in 62 games with the New York Yankees last season. He hit 41 home runs and drove in 94 runs in the majors for the Milwaukee Brewers two years ago. He hit 24 homers or more in the majors each season from 2013 through 2016.