Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez will get his shot sooner than later
Despite a solid spring performance and looking more than ready, Teoscar Hernandez may not break camp with the team, but he’ll get his shot sooner than later.
The Blue Jays are in a bit of a transitional year in 2018, and as a result the front office made some decisions to reflect that philosophy. They believe this team can be contenders this year (as do I), so they decided to keep their star players like Josh Donaldson, and to add to their veteran roster rather than subtract and rebuild.
As a result, there are a few players in the minor league system that will be left on the outside looking in, when it could have been different with a philosophy shift for the organization. Perhaps the poster child for such a scenario would be Teoscar Hernandez, who may very well start his season in Buffalo in Triple A, despite looking more than ready for a big league job.
This spring he has slashed .333/.365/.646 in 48 at bats, adding four home runs and 13 RBI to his totals. This after his September audition when he hit .261/.305/.602 with eight home runs and 20 RBI in 88 at bats for the Blue Jays at the highest level. He’s still striking out a lot, but the speedy outfielder has little left to prove to justify a shot in the big leagues.
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However, the cards are stacked against him in the outfield picture with the presence of Kevin Pillar as the incumbent in centre field, Randal Grichuk slated to start in right, and a platoon of Curtis Granderson and Steve Pearce in left field. Both Pearce and Grichuk have battled injuries this spring, but they both look to be healthy enough to start the season, likely pushing Hernandez back down to Buffalo.
There’s an argument to be made for keeping him around even if everyone is healthy, but for a player that needs to work on striking out a little less to maximize his value, playing once every few days is a less than ideal scenario. In Buffalo he’ll at least receive regular playing time, something the Blue Jays can’t promise right now.
That said, the time is coming for Hernandez, and I believe that’ll be the case whether the Blue Jays suffer injuries in the outfield picture or not. He’s capable of playing all three defensive positions, so his performance will add pressure to each of the starters to varying degrees. Both Pearce and Granderson are on deals that expire after this year, so there doesn’t have to be loyalty from the club to push them from a full time job if they aren’t performing, and Hernandez deserves their spot.
The same could happen to Kevin Pillar, who will also have the steps of Anthony Alford to deal with as he tries to secure his position in the organization for the long term. We’re all aware of his past defensive heroics, but if he continues to struggle at the plate, and his defensive metrics suffer any further (they say he took a step back last year), then the kids become that much more appealing. Combine that with the fact that Pillar is no longer a pre-arbitration eligible player and is starting to get more expensive, and he’ll have to perform to keep his job regardless of how beloved he is in Toronto.
For awhile it looked like Hernandez might break camp with the Jays because of injuries to others, but looks like that may not be the case after all. That said, it’s just a matter of time for the 25 year old, and you’d better believe he’ll be ready for his number is called. It’s coming sooner than later.