Kansas City Royals outfield prospect Diego Hernandez plays for the Quad Cities River Bandits, the club's High-A affiliate. Photo credit: Quad Cities River Bandits

Just over a month ago, Kansas City Royals outfield prospect Diego Hernandez was a relative unknown and was off to a slow start in his first season at the High-A level.

Fast forward to mid-June and Hernandez might be the hottest hitter in all of Minor League Baseball.

Hernandez, a 21-year-old left-handed hitter, began the season in a 1-for-15 slump for the Quad Cities River Bandits, and he finished April with a .222/.290/.333 slash line. His struggles at the plate stretched into the second month of the season, and after Quad Cities' May 8 loss to Cedar Rapids, Hernandez was hitting .220/.281/.317. Then something clicked for the Dominican-born outfielder.

Hernandez drew a walk in his next game, beginning a 22-game on-base streak that is still ongoing. During the stretch, he's slashing an incredible .388/.464/.588 with five doubles, three triples, two homers and 10 RBIs, along with 10 walks and 15 strikeouts.

The 2017 international free agent signee has gotten hotter as the on-base streak has progressed. He's reached base multiple times in 10 straight games and is in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak. During that hitting streak, the beginning of which coincided with the calendar turning to June, Hernandez is batting .472/.525/.806. Even after his cold start, his torrid stretch has vaulted him to second place among qualifying Midwest League hitters in batting average (.305), 10th in on-base percentage (.376), 16th in slugging (.455) and 14th in OPS (.831).

While Hernandez has never finished a season with a batting average lower than .263, hitting wasn't necessarily viewed as his specialty coming into this year — he was more highly regarded for his plus defense in center field and speed on the bases. He's continued to showcase those skills in 2022, with just two errors and five assists over 41 games in center and 19 stolen bases in 22 attempts — good for fourth in the Midwest League. It remains to be seen whether he's experiencing a legitimate offensive breakthrough or just an incredibly lucky stretch, but if the 6-foot, 150-pound Hernandez continues to make strides at the plate, he's certainly young and projectable enough that he could begin to skyrocket up the prospect rankings.


Omaha Storm Chasers (Triple-A): Utility player Nate Eaton has been very efficient at the plate since being promoted to Triple-A late last month. In 15 games with Omaha, Eaton has 13 hits, and eight of them (two doubles, two triples and four homers) have gone for extra bases. One of those home runs was a walk-off blast that lifted Omaha to a 2-1 victory over Indianapolis on May 31. That all adds up to a .596 slugging percentage for the 25-year-old, which ranks second only to Vinnie Pasquantino's .631 clip among Omaha hitters.

Eaton, who's ranked 30th among Royals prospects by MLB Pipeline, has a .266/.326/.453 slash line in 52 games between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Omaha this season and has seen action at shortstop, third base and all three outfield positions. With an impressive mix of versatility, power and speed (15 stolen bases in 17 attempts this season), he could be an intriguing major league bench option at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Double-A): Catcher Logan Porter, who originally joined the Royals organization as an undrafted free agent out of Dixie State University, continues to defy the odds and has been stellar in his first season at the Double-A level (aside from a one-game cameo in 2018).

Porter, who will turn 27 next month, has a .338/.466/.554 slash line with seven doubles, seven homers and 22 RBIs in 161 plate appearances this season. He's showcased a patient eye and has 29 walks, good for second among Northwest Arkansas hitters, compared with 37 strikeouts. Porter has been especially good in June and is hitting .435/.552/.913 in seven games this month.

Porter's offensive performance this season is nothing too out of the ordinary — he had an OPS above .800 in each of his first three professional seasons — but as he continues to move up the minor league ladder and experience success, it appears more likely that he might be a legitimate talent and not just a player who is putting up fluky stat lines against younger, more inexperienced pitchers. The Royals signified that they're intrigued by the 6-foot, 200-pound backstop when they invited him to major league spring training earlier this year.

Kansas City may have the deepest collection of catching depth in baseball, so Porter doesn't necessarily have a clear path to the majors — after all, even as he's dominated the Double-A level this season, he's had to split playing time with 40-man roster member Sebastian Rivero. However, as they've recently shown by giving natural catcher MJ Melendez reps in right field, the Royals are willing to be creative in order to get the best bats in the lineup. Porter already has some built-in versatility, having played 77 pro games at first base, and if he continues to hit at such a torrid pace, perhaps the Royals will try him at a different position in an effort to give him a greater opportunity for advancement.

Columbia Fireflies (Low-A): It hasn't been an easy year for the Fireflies, who have a Carolina League-worst 16-41 record and a -163 run differential. Outfielder River Town, a 15th-round pick out of Dallas Baptist in last year's draft, has been Columbia's one constant at the plate and is the only hitter on the roster with an OPS above .700. Town, a 22-year-old left-handed hitter, has been solid in all offensive facets, hitting .242/.351/.473 with 13 doubles, two triples, seven homers, 21 RBIs and seven steals in eight opportunities. He's off to a hot start in June and has a .308/.386/.590 slash line in 10 games this month.

Town has some work ahead of him in the outfield, where he has made eight errors in 43 games spread across all three positions, but he's been intriguing enough at the plate and on the bases that he has a chance to move up to Quad Cities at some point this season.