Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez, starting right fielder
By Pat Pender
The Blue Jays have a lot of questions and roster spots to figure out for next season. Teoscar Hernandez may be one of the answers they’re looking for.
Teoscar Hernandez has 162 plate appearances in the majors. Marco Estrada has 161 plate appearances as a hitter. We have as much information about Hernandez hitting at the major league level as we do Estrada. Estrada is not a good hitter. Nor will he ever be because that’s not his job. This we know.
But for Hernandez, we don’t know yet. 162 plate appearances is simply much too small a sample size to derive any conclusions. So what exactly can be expected from Teoscar Hernandez?
His numbers at AAA show a good hitter. At Fresno this year before travelling north, he slashed a tasty .279/.369/.485, good for a .371 wOBA. His numbers at Buffalo weren’t nearly as impressive, as his .222/.294/.505 slash line was relatively disappointing. The switch from the notoriously hitter friendly PCL to the International League could help explain the drop in performance. Still, even at Buffalo he carried a .349 wOBA, which is still above average. For some context, Jose Bautista has a .299 wOBA this year. It’s been a long season.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about Teoscar Hernandez has been his plate discipline. His 11.2% walk rate this year is particularly encouraging as well as his 20.7% strikeout rate. Those are both strong marks, and hints that the 24 year old is ready to hit against major league pitching.
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What else we know about the man is that he’s got some power. Not big boy Giancarlo power, and he doesn’t have Eric Thames’ showcase biceps. But his .206 ISO this year is very respectable, a mark which places him among players such as Matt Carpenter and Andrew McCutchen. That’s incredibly exciting. And it’s not because I’m thinking about Eric Thames’ muscles now. I can already hear Pat Tabler calling him big and strong as he walks up to the plate.
Teoscar Hernandez isn’t without his warts, though. As recently as 2015 he had an absolutely miserable season. However, it’s encouraging that throughout the many stops in his minor league career, 2015 was his only below average season. So it could be seen as more a blip than the norm. Baseball America discussed this, citing lost confidence as the main culprit that year.
A look at his batted ball profile so far in his career is that of a familiar one. Thus far, he’s been a very happy pull hitter with the vast majority of his line drives and dingers going to the left side. Again, we need to see more of him to know what he’s going to look like. But a right-handed batter with pull tendencies and power at the Rogers Centre? We’ve seen that work before.
In their scouting report, Baseball America listed Hernandez as having the potential to hit 15-20 home runs. That certainly seems plausible given his numbers the last two years. Maybe if we’re irresponsible enough, we can go ahead and bump that up to 20-25. Yeah, that’s a sexier number. Then again, maybe it’s not so crazy to dream on that power in a season where home runs are literally at record heights.
So we’ve established that if we play Teoscar Hernandez next year, he’s going to hit 25 homeruns. Easy. Just kidding. But the important thing to note here remains the same: Teoscar Hernandez has lots of potential. That in itself is exciting to have, especially after considering what we traded for him.
So Teoscar Hernandez appears to have the ability to be an above major league hitter with power. What about the rest of him?
Rest assured, he is no Kendrys Morales. He’s no Mark Trumbo either. Let’s all take a second to remember how truly awful Mark Trumbo is at defense and laugh at him at Baltimore’s expense.
On the contrary, all reports are positive on Teoscar Hernandez’s glove. Baseball America lists him as having a plus arm, with his speed and range playing very well in center field. He’s not going to be our center fielder. But if he’s an above average defender in center, one can only assume he’s that much better in left or right. Likewise, Baseball Prospectus praises his arm and his glove, citing good instincts and that he takes very solid routes.
If you can’t get excited about the bat or frankly don’t believe in the numbers, that’s fine. After reading the glowing reviews on his defense, it seems like it could be possible for Hernandez to not hit and still be valuable, albeit as a fourth outfielder. But that .371 wOBA? That just happened. Now paging all available Canadians to jump aboard the Teoscar hype train. But wait, there’s more!
Both Baseball American and Baseball Prospectus have Teoscar Hernandez as a plus runner. Perusing his minor league numbers confirms this, as he has double digit steals in nearly every stop he’s been at. His success rate leaves something to be desired, but the last two years in the minors he’s gone 50 for 73. The Blue Jays desperately need some speed and this man has some of it. Maybe Tim Leiper could help him improve those rates.
So essentially, what we have here is this: A 24 year old, hungry for the big leagues. Hungry in general, because he is a professional athlete. He’s a right-handed hitter with pull power, with potential to hit 20+ home runs. His plate discipline numbers are equally impressive, as he has a double digit walk rate and an average-y strikeout rate this year. He has a plus arm, has plus speed, and plays an above average center field that should theoretically magnify in right or left. That profile reminds me of a certain right fielder we used to have. Yes. Teoscar Hernandez is Jose Bautista.
Okay, not really, but my god there’s an awful lot to like here. Add in the fact that he’s going to be making the minimum salary and he sounds like as good as anyone to give the LF or RF job to next year.
I’m not saying he should automatically, right now have the job for next year. But If I was Ross Atkins or John Gibbons, this is the man I’d be keeping a close eye on all next spring. With Jose Bautista seemingly unlikely to return next year, there’s a spot for him.
Of course, there’s the possibility that he can’t hit major league pitching. Maybe it’s a disaster. Let’s not get crazy here, even though we’re all aboard the hype train now and there’s no getting off. If he falters or is unready, we cannot rely too heavily on what is still a big unknown. That’s how you end up with Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins playing full time after the entire roster all breaks their legs.
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I’m not sure if Teoscar Hernandez will be on the Blue Jays 25 man roster come April. But from what his numbers and the scouting reports say, he’s absolutely somebody worth watching.