Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez the new Carrera, only better
The Blue Jays have needed Ezequiel Carrera more than planned over the last three years. In his absence, that playing time will likely fall to Teoscar Hernandez in the event of an injury to a starter.
While it’s easy for some Blue Jays fans to say “good riddance” to players like Ryan Goins, Darwin Barney, and most recently Ezequiel Carrera, there’s no denying that the Jays have needed them in recent years. Goins played in 143 games in 2017, Barney saw action in 129, and Carrera appeared in 131 games. That wasn’t the plan, but the Blue Jays faced an awful lot of injuries last season.
In Carrera’s case in particular, he’s never been slated as a starter for the Blue Jays, and yet he’s played in an awful lot of games over the last three years. He played in 91 games in his first year in Toronto in 2015, followed by 101 in 2016 and his career high last year of 131.
For all his shortcomings, he did play a role that was needed in Toronto as an outfielder who could theoretically cover all three defensive positions, and provide a little bit of speed and hitting ability off the bench. It was his defensive miscues that were his biggest undoing, as he arguably could have been a starter even if he played average defence in left field. However, last season he rated at -1.8 for dWAR, after posting 0.3 and -1.4 marks in the previous two seasons.
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There’s no need to beat a dead horse when it comes to Carrera, but looking at the number of games he appeared in got me thinking about the 2018 version of the Blue Jays. Hopefully they’ll enjoy much better health from this year’s group, but they’ve already got Steve Pearce on the sidelines dealing with calf tightness and expected to miss Opening, and Randal Grichuk dealt with a sprained wrist earlier in camp as well. There’s also the fact that Curtis Granderson is now 37 years old, and Kevin Pillar‘s tendency to crash into walls at full speed.
All of that adds up to a need for outfield depth, and fortunately for John Gibbons and company, the depth is greatly improved this year. I’ve written about it here recently as well, as the Blue Jays are much improved around the diamond in the depth department, and especially so in the outfield. In addition to the four expected to play the majority of games for the big league club this year, there are talented youngsters like Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey, and even Dwight Smith who will be waiting for an opportunity.
For Hernandez in particular, he’ll be waiting for an injury to open up an opportunity, and that may have already happened with Pearce’s calf soreness. If the veteran can’t go to start the season, it’s expected that Hernandez will start the campaign with the big league club. He proved that he’s ready for that opportunity in September, but given the Blue Jays’ desire to pursue a playoff spot this year, it was easier to take a chance on an inexpensive veteran like Granderson than hope Hernandez was completely developed.
All that said, depth is important over the course of 162 games, and as we’ve watched with Carrera over the last three years, there’s a good chance the Blue Jays will need the extra help. Hernandez is a great candidate because of his ability to play all three outfield positions as well, and he should be an upgrade over what Carrera brought to the table with the glove.
And when that opportunity comes for him (he’ll likely see limited at bats filling in for Pearce), he’ll have the chance to show that he deserved the spot at the start of the year as well, and that the Blue Jays won’t need to shop for outfield help next winter in the same way.
He may have some polishing to do before he’s truly ready to play at the highest level, but his speed, defence, and power potential could be a big spark for the lineup if and when he’s needed. Considering Ezequiel Carrera averaged 111 games played over the last three years, there’s a good chance he’ll be needed at some point.