Alex Hermeling – A New Vulture?

Has another vulture emerged?  It is not the same way Phil Regan used to do it, but in the Rancho Cucumonga Quakes first 8 games, Alex Hermeling has a 3-0 record with all three wins coming in relief.  A lot of attention has been directed to Mitchell White and Walker Buehler, and deservedly so.  But on April 7, it was Alex Hermeling that pitched the final three innings in the RC no-hitter with Mitch White.  On April 10, it was Alex Hermeling who came in to relieve Walker Buehler after his 3 outstanding innings. And on April 13, it was Alex Hermeling that came in to relieve Caleb Ferguson and get the win.  In his three games, Hermeling has 8 IP, 0 runs, 5 hits, 0 walks, and 5 Ks.  He has been outstanding.

But who is Alex Hermeling?  After his senior year in high school in 2011, Hermeling was drafted in the 43rd round by the Dodgers.  He chose not to sign with the Dodgers but instead signed to pitch for Louisiana-Monroe.  It was his only scholarship offer, but more importantly to Alex was that Louisiana-Monroe had a very good aviation program.  Hermeling had a pilot’s license, and quickly acquired the nickname Maverick, even though there is no resemblance to Tom Cruise. His favorite movie is Top Gun and his walk-out music in college was Danger Zone.

After his freshman season, Hermeling needed TJ surgery and sat out the entire 2013 season.  He returned to pitch his academic junior and senior seasons, but was not drafted either year. In his final season at Louisiana-Monroe, he finished with a 4.14 ERA in 14 starts. He allowed 86 hits, walked 35 batters and hit 12 in 87 innings. But Alex was not ready to quit the game he loved, and with one year of eligibility remaining signed with Ohio State.

To get ready for his one year with Ohio State, Hermeling decided to pitch for the Battle Creek Bombers, a Northwoods League team in a summer College league (a step down from the prestigious Cape Cod summer league).  The Bombers had a pitching coach, Matt Read, who liked Hermeling a lot and thought that he could pitch professionally.  Read tweaked Hermeling’s mechanics by suggesting he adjust the location of his hands to improve his command.  In nine appearances in the Northwoods League— eight starts — he had an ERA of 1.17 in 53 2/3 innings, striking out 52 and allowing 33 hits and 12 walks. He pitched in the Northwoods League All-Star Game that year.  The more he pitched, the more consistent he got.  Suddenly he caught the attention of the professional scouts.  The Dodgers remembered him from 2011, made him an offer, and on July 17, 2015 Hermeling signed as an undrafted free agent with the LA Dodgers.  Hermeling spent the remainder of the 2015 season on the 60 Day DL.

On April 3, 2016, Hermeling was assigned to Great Lakes.  While his stats were not overwhelming… 2-4, 3.83 ERA, 54 IP, 47 H, 22 BB, 58K, and 1 HR allowed…on August 5, he earned a promotion to Rancho where he finished the 2016 season.  In 2017, Alex is beginning in the same league but with far better results.  With the value of relief pitching increasing, Alex is undoubtedly on Gabe Kapler’s radar.

So back to his pilot days at Louisiana Monroe.  There was a pretty cool story he relayed.  “I was a weekend pitcher, so I didn’t have to travel to the midweek games,” Hermeling said. “I was throwing with another weekend pitcher when the team left for a game. We started talking about going to the game, and he said he would have liked to have gone.  “So I said ‘let’s go.’ He couldn’t figure out how. But the school had planes for their program, and one was available. So we flew about 100 miles to the game at Northwestern State. We circled the stadium. Our teammates were warming up. We called them and told them we’d be there. They all stopped warming up and started waving to us.

“It was pretty cool.”

If baseball does not work out and his vulture days end, Hermeling should have a career as a commercial airline pilot, like his uncle who flew for United before retiring at the mandatory age.



OKC BOX – Won 8-4; 4th consecutive win.  Julio Urias went 4.2 IP with 4 hits, 2 BB’s, 4 K’s and 1 ER.  Verdugo had a 3 hit day and is now batting .394 and 1.065 OPS.  Bellinger and Segedin each with two hits.  Bellinger is now batting .391 with a 1.093 OPS.  Segedin’s BA is now north of .300 Calhoun is still struggling.

TULSA BOX  – Won 6-3.  Colt Hynes pitched 3.1 innings to pick up the win, 2 H, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 earned run.  Yaisel Sierra pitched a perfect 9th for his 1st save.  Edwin Rios had a 3 hit day including 2 doubles and is now batting .361.  Paul Hoenecke had a two hit day, and Farmer continued his strong start with another hit, and is batting .360.

RC BOX – Won 5-3  The highlight was Walker Buehler and 3 IP, no runs, 1 hit, no walks, and 8 strikeouts.  Buehler and White should be in Tulsa by June.  Spitzbarth had another quality inning in relief and picked up the win. Wes Helsabeck pitched 2 innings, allowing 1 H, 0 R, no BB, and 6 K.  That was a 20 K performance for four RC pitchers. Drew Jackson, Yusniel Diaz, and Luke Raley led the offense with 2 hits each.  After starting 1 for 15, Diaz is now 9 for his last 16 and is now batting .353

GL BOX – Won 7-1.  A. J. Alexy started and went 2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, and 5 K.  William Soto, Lenix Osuna, and Jose Santos followed in relief with a combined 6.1 IP, 0 R, 6 H, 3 BB, 6K.  Brendon Davis and Mitchell Hansen each had three hits and were supported by 2 hits apiece by Zach McKinstry and Carlos Rincon including each with a HR (1st and 5th respectively).  Davis is now batting .444, Rincon .367, and McKinstry .333

Including the major league team, Jackie Robinson Day was perfect for the Dodgers and their four affiliates.

Happy Easter

Posted by Always Compete

This article has 30 Comments

  1. Great story, AC. We could use a Vulture or two.

    Walker Buehler gave up back-to-back singles to start the game and then after a line out, Buehler struck out the next eight batters in a row.

    Buehler has hit 99 MPH in each of his outings this year.

  2. Great post AC, your minor league reporting is really good! Something special is going on at the lower levels especially at RC and OKC. Tulsa may get some reinforcements by promotions soon. The rotation at OKC is impressive. There are set up and closer candidates everywhere. Some of the bats are turning heads and knocking louder on the door.

    Who gets sent down to open a spot for Hill? Well it could be Forsythe who had a tight hammy after 3 hits yesterday, horrible timing as he was just heating up. The most expendable would be Thompson or SVS: batting .000 and .143 respectively. Ryu is pitching no worse than Maeda so far and Wood was impressive getting the win yesterday. Roberts said it may be a bench player not a pitcher.

    Love the win on Sat and a theme that will be repeated emerged: starter is shaky but bullpen locks down and the team scraps back to pull out a hard fought win in junkyard dog fashion.

    Kike is starting to grow on me, his versatility has been on display and he plays hard all the time. His take one for the team attitude quote from yesterday was spot on taking a throw off his back to scamper home from 3rd for the go ahead run. His play for a great catch to save a tying run from scoring with 2 outs in the 8th while avoiding a collision with Puig was huge.

    Puig with another huge game had a perfect night at the plate and he leads the team in OPS and is tied for RBI’s with Seager. Turner leads the team in hitting and the league in doubles. Top 3 hitters in OPS are Puig, Turner and Seager and they are also top 3 in BA. Toles is hitting .267 but is OPSing .879. Barnes is batting .214 but OPSing .884. AGOn is at .237 and .645; Joc at .241 and .722; Grandal .226 and .785.

  3. Hernandez is playing as if his spot on the 25 is in jeopardy. So far so great. Catching that popup in short right was doable because he didn’t flinch with Puig bearing in on him. His heart had to be pounding.
    I like Hernandez’ play in LF and he looked good at 2B. I would like to keep him out of CF and the same goes for Thompson who should have been kept in OK for 30 games. Maybe FAZ and Roberts are taking a better look at Thompson and Hernandez and one of them is benefiting from that look.
    Toles has looked pretty good of late. He has a funny weakness. He chases balls low and in that if he didn’t swing at, would be able to work the count. That is also the pitch he hits for home runs. What’s a pitcher going to do?

    1. Bum

      It is much easier to work a count, when someone is hitting in the back of the line up, like in the sixth, seventh, and eight positions.

      Puig has shown how a hitter can use the eighth position, to get a lot of walks, and raise there OBA.

      And the one thing a starting pitcher, doesn’t want to do, is to put the lead off hitter on base, with the meat of the line up, coming up next.

      I have actually seen Toles grow, with each at bat he has had, since the begining of the season.

      He isn’t as experienced as the rest of the Dodger line up, because remember, he started in A ball last year, and this is really only, his first year.

      Joc has got better, with his experience, and has learned to be more patient, when he is up there, but that has been Joc’s strategy, since AAA, to off set, his strike outs.

      And Joc has made the pitchers he faces, work a lot harder this year, then even last year, because of an another year, of experience.

      Toles is actually having longer at bats, and taking more pitches, then he did, at the begining of the season.

      And he didn’t let Greinke get him down, when Greinke schooled him, in his first two at bats, against Greinke.

      And sometimes, it is better to hit one of the first three pitches, if they are good, instead of taking more pitches, and getting in two strike situations, that usually favor the pitcher.

      I thought most lefties, love to hit a low ball, much like Toles does.

  4. Across the 5 teams in the organization yesterday, JR Day, the pitchers recorded 57 K’s and only 9 BB’s. This is a K/BB ratio of 6.33/1 and any analytic geek would admit that this is outstanding. Kudos to the pitchers, the coaches, the scouts and FAZ for such a strong emphasis on throwing strikes, missing bats, pitcher development with control and mechanics focus, and talent acquisition via draft, trade free agency, and waiver wire with an eye on those capable of fitting the model.

    1. Throwing strikes is something that is strongly taught from instructional league up. Work on pitch selection, command, and location, but throw strikes.
      I acknowledge that the pen has been a huge bright spot for the Dodgers, but the OKC bullpen is also pitching quite well. I was intrigued yesterday looking at the OKC relievers. The current pen is comprised of Adam Liberatore, Steve Geltz, Brandon Morrow, Joe Gunkel, Patrick Schuster, Layne Somsen, Jacob Rhame, and Madison Younginer. Combined, these pitchers have 32 IP, 9 R, 26 H, 5 BB, and 35 K. That is a 7:1 K/BB ratio and a WHIP less than one…from an 8 man staff. The bullpen staff also has a 2.5 ERA. The runs and hits were inflated yesterday after Joe Gunkel’s 3.0 IP (3 R, 5 H, 0 BB, 3 K). Even as unflattering as Gunkel’s performance was yesterday, he still did not issue a walk. All of the above has been accomplished without Josh Fields having yet to appear. I do not know if this is confirmation that the Starting Pitching may be over-valued by, but it is verification that relievers are going to be emphasized.

  5. Another Regan-type pitcher would, indeed, be welcomed. He was a huge asset for the Dodgers back when. Thanks for the write-up.

  6. Wouldn’t it be better for the Dodgers, to get these pitchers up to the major league team, as soon as they can, especially since they have had TJ surgerys, in there past?

  7. I wouldn’t say Calhoun is struggling; he’s at .265. Not great, but definitely not ‘struggling’
    It’s too bad Edwin Rios isn’t supposed to be a good defender, because he sure can hit! Likely a great trade candidate to an AL team to DH
    Is Alex Verdugo considered a good CF? As good as Joc? He may be the one to replace Joc. I’m still not in love with Joc’s weird swings, and Verdugo supposedly has that amazing swing.

        1. Good. He needs more reps in the minors. He appears to be lost at the plate (and in the field).

    1. In my mind, struggling and playing poorly and/or over-matched are not the same. On its surface, batting .265 is not struggling. However, if you consider that on 4/11 Willie was batting .412, and has since gone 2-17 in his last four games, and after striking out only once in his first 8 games, he has K’d 3 times in his last 8 AB, he seems to be struggling right now. All players go through this kind of a stretch. It is how you come out of it that will distinguish from the others. Calhoun is a free swinger that makes contact. In 36 PA, Calhoun has 2BB and 4K. What may be of some concern is that Calhoun has 0 HR, and 3 RBI. Not that productive for a middle of the order type slugger.
      Rios is not a good defender, but he is getting every opportunity to find a position. In his 9 appearances this year, he has 3 games at 1B, 5 at 3B, and only 1 at DH. That is good to see that he is not being utilized strictly as a DH.
      Like Joc, Alex Verdugo is an outstanding athlete who can play CF. I have seen several OKC games this year, and Verdugo has been very good in CF, making a couple of spectacular running catches. But his defensive strength is his arm. He has a cannon, and that will probably put him in right field.

      1. Ahh, then yes, I can see how Calhoun has been struggling lately!
        As far as Verdugo, if he has a great arm, that’s just a plus in CF. But more importantly, if he can go get em like Joc does, he’s the real deal. His bat will be much more complete than Joc’s.

  8. Thompson was the right call to be sent down, he is 0 for 18 on the season at 2 levels and needs some regular playing time. SVS gets a little longer to start hitting and can play 1B for AGON against tough lefties and day games after night games. Ryu deserves a start at home and time to stretch out and build up strength, maybe his fastball speed ticks up a bit. When Gutierrez is healthy and Urias is ready some more decisions need to be made. In the background are some guys producing at high levels at OKC. Morrow is another guy who may carve out a spot but I remember Tolleson being in a similar situation a couple years ago and the Dodgers DFA’d him and he went to Texas and pitched well. These are still good problems to have and there could be a quantity for quality trade but too early to tell yet as players might be injured as the season goes on and the depth tapped into a bit. This could be a monster trade deadline situation this year and Anthopoulos has a history with Toronto of doing big deals.


    1. Toles LF
    2. Seager SS
    3. Turner 3B
    4. Gonzalez 1B
    5. Grandal C
    6. Pederson CF
    7. Puig RF
    8. Utley 2B
    9. Hill P

  10. By way of example: Alex Verdugo would have never caught that ball!

    But he might have thrown him out at 3B!

  11. So, Hill goes back on the DL and guess who takes his place in the rotation?

    I say Stripling for one start and then Urias. Fields will be re-called tomorrow.

  12. I agree with Nomar and J-Hair, maybe they should send Hill to the minors for a couple of rehab starts to make sure he’s ok. Otherwise, the uncertainty whenever it flairs up totally taxes the bullpen for that day, and possibly a few games after that. FAZ and Roberts are probably not having a lot of sleep tonight. Got some tough calls to make.

  13. No Urias per DR per after game talk with reporters… I agree, with both Stripling & Wood available…

    1. Gutted for Hill – looks like some of you guys were right.

      Must be very depressing to be on the DL with no more than a blister.

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