30 Questions: Will Jeremy Hermida ever live up to his prospect hype?

Thirty teams, 30 burning fantasy questions. Throughout the preseason, we put one of these questions to an ESPN.com analyst for an in-depth look at the most interesting, perplexing or dumbfounding fantasy facet of each major league team.

Will Jeremy Hermida ever live up to his prospect hype?

Three notable hitters from the Atlanta high school scene emerged as top picks in the 2002 draft: Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann and Jeremy Hermida. While Francoeur and especially McCann have had their moments as fantasy stars, Hermida is still waiting for his shot as a major factor in the fantasy world.

That Hermida has still not truly broken out is intriguing, given that he was selected ahead of both Francoeur and McCann in that draft. Plus, Hermida's numbers and approach at the plate in the minors suggested he could do big things in the majors. He's not there yet, and now there's a question if he'll ever get there.

A hip injury slowed him down during his rookie season in 2006, but Hermida showed signs of being that breakout guy the next year by hitting .296 with 18 homers and a .501 slugging percentage in 429 at-bats. While he did strike out 105 times in that span, he also drew 47 walks, not bad, although it wasn't the 111 walks to 89 strikeouts he accumulated in his big 2005 season in the minors. Still, there was a lot to like from that season, and given his age, there looked to be plenty of room for growth.

Instead, Hermida's stats in 2008 slipped despite more playing time. He had one fewer homer and two fewer RBIs despite getting 73 more at-bats. Plus, he dropped a whopping 47 points in batting average. Meanwhile, he gained just one walk but 33 more strikeouts from season to season. His BB/K ratio keeps dropping in every season in the league, down to 0.35 this past year -- not a good sign for a guy who was in the 0.6-0.7 range in the minors.

Despite some questions about his plate discipline, it is still worth keeping an eye on him because there was a reason why he was such a highly touted guy not too long ago. Much like Francoeur, many people hope Hermida's disappointing 2008 campaign was an aberration and not a sign of things to come. However, unlike Francoeur, Hermida doesn't have that one huge campaign on his résumé that showed what he could do.

And those lingering questions about his true potential could go a long way in determining Hermida's future with the Marlins. Hermida is moving to left field this season after Josh Willingham was traded to the Nationals during the offseason, and he's struggled a bit with his defense in the other side of the outfield. However, Hermida was being shopped himself this winter, and with arbitration looming and a handful of outfield prospects waiting in the pipeline, it wouldn't be a surprise if he leaves Florida sooner rather than later.

Interestingly, a move away from Dolphin Stadium could help Hermida in a big way. In 2008, he hit just .204 with four homers in 231 at-bats at home, compared to .288 with 13 homers on the road. For his career, he's a .284 hitter on the road and .248 at home. Leaving such a pitcher-friendly park could play in Hermida's favor.

Meanwhile, Hermida is helping himself early in spring training with a .737 slugging percentage (through games of March 10), three homers (if you include the one he hit against the Dominican Republic's WBC team), plus he's drawing more walks than strikeouts. Those signs are providing at least a glimmer of hope that he can return to his 2007 levels and beyond. Remember that he's just 25, so there's still a fair amount of upside. It's just that the sky probably isn't the limit anymore for Hermida's potential.

ESPN's projections have Hermida slipping from his 2008 numbers, hitting just 15 homers although slightly improving his average to the .259 range. Even if you believe this past season's stats were an anomaly, the most optimistic projections seem to have Hermida hitting in the low 20s in homers with an average in the .270 range. Those numbers aren't bad, but not necessarily great for an outfielder.

Until Hermida can improve his plate discipline and show he can hit even a lick at home (like he did during his injury-plagued 2006 rookie campaign), it's best to keep your expectations relatively low for him. He's in the 300s in ESPN.com's rankings and he's only owned in 5 percent of leagues, so right now, he's primarily an NL-only option or a very late selection in mixed leagues. He's a calculated gamble in the right situation, but consider anything really big you get from him as a bonus.

James Quintong is an editor for ESPN.com Fantasy.