Welcome to Pirates Flashback, a weekly look back at some of the best players of the worst teams in Pirates’ history.
Today’s player is Chad Hermansen, who played for the Pirates from 1999-2002.
BEFORE THE BUCS
Hermansen was drafted out of Green Valley High School by the Pirates with the 10th pick in the 1995 draft. He quickly rose through the Pirates’ farm system, reaching AA in 1997 and AAA in 1998. Despite being younger than just about everyone at his level, he hit at least 20 home runs every year of his development besides the abbreviated 1995 campaign.
He made his major league debut September 7th, 1999: three days before his 21st birthday.
TIME WITH THE PIRATES
Hermansen never got a full season with the Pirates, bouncing between the majors and AAA Nashville throughout his career. An injury bug certainly didn’t help, either. He had 200 plate appearances only once, and he made just 458 plate appearances in his four year Pirates career. He hit .199 with 12 home runs in that stretch.
His problem was he could not hit a major league breaking ball. It also probably didn’t help that Lloyd McClendon batted him leadoff most of the time rather than hiding him later in the lineup. He was given a ton of high leverage plate appearances but was not allowed to learn through failure. That’s a bad way to grow a ball player.
Hermansen was named the Pirates’ Minor League Player of the Year in 1999: the same year he debuted. He clubbed 32 home runs in AAA that year. He also hit his first big league jack on September 26th of that year.
One of the more infamous Pirates trades of the 2000s involved Hermansen. On July 31st, 2002, he was traded to Chicago for veteran center fielder Darren Lewis. Lewis was against the trade, deciding to retire rather than come to Pittsburgh.
Two weeks later the Pirates received a package of minor leaguers to complete a new trade. In addition to Hermansen, the Pirates sent over Aron Weston for Ricardo Palma, Tim Lavery and cash. None of the three minor leaguers ever reached the majors.
Hermansen was traded to the Dodgers in December of 2002. He spent most of the season in the minors, but he played 11 games with the big club. He appeared in four games with the Blue Jays in 2004. From there, Hermansen bounced around with other AAA teams, independent ball and the Mexican league over the next four years, but he never played another major league game after April 17th, 2004. He was only 26.
Today, Hermansen is working as a scout for the Los Angeles Angels.
DID HE DESERVE BETTER?
Hermansen didn’t have a chance. It’s hard to hit major league pitching. It becomes impossible when you’re in your early 20s and spend a lot of time on the bench or driving from Pittsburgh to Nashville. Would things have been different if he was given a full season as a starter, no matter what? Maybe. If he really was a potential outfielder for the future, the Pirates sure didn’t treat him like one.
Hermansen is a cautionary tale on why high school players should still consider college- even if they are drafted early- and why rushing top prospects is a terrible idea. He had very obvious power that just never played at the major league level. The front office and farm system need to take the blame for that.
If he played today, he probably would go to a place like Korea or Japan to continue his career. He was just 26 after his last major league game, so he was hardly washed up. Perhaps he could have been like Eric Thames and fixed his offspeed problems by being forced to face it every day. We’ll never know.