Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez’s remarkable rise

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Teoscar Hernandez
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Teoscar Hernandez /

Since arriving with the Blue Jays in mid-April, Teoscar Hernandez, with his refined plate approach, has proven he is major league player, and possibly a very good one at that.

When the Blue Jays acquired Teoscar Hernandez at last year’s trade deadline his production was difficult to project. His success at the minor league level came late, only really breaking through in 2016 and 2017 when he posted a combined .839 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A.

His brief record of success, along with little major league experience (100 at-bats for the Houston Astros), was just enough evidence for the front office to make a trade. They saw a versatile player that could contribute at the major league level immediately. In Arden Zwelling’s article wrapping up the 2017 trade deadline, Ross Atkins commented on the Hernandez acquisition:

"He runs well, throws well, gets on base, has some power, can play all three outfield positions. It’s extremely difficult to acquire talent that you can say all of those things about that you will have five-plus years of control of and can potentially be someone that you can count on year in and year out."

Atkins’ insights make more sense every passing day. Hernandez is playing great, slashing .316/.391/.701 with seven walks on the season. His acquisition and call-up to the majors is no surprise because the front office has shown a willingness to place value on unproven players with good hitting profiles. The trades for Aledmys Diaz and Randal Grichuk, for example.

Still, it is shocking how well Hernandez has performed. He has steadily improved ever since he became a Blue Jay. First, he changed his batting stance, opening it up, allowing his hips to stay neutral. His second adjustment was to reign in his free-swinging nature, and be patient with his at-bats. This year, he’s done just that, whittling down his strikeout rate from 38% last year to just 23% now.

More from Toronto Blue Jays News

When he is making contact, the ball is being crushed. When Hernandez swings at a ball in the strike zone, he is making contact 79% of the time, up from 73.9% last year, and a resounding 50% of his balls in play are classified as hard contact. That’s the sixth best percentage in the entire league, although his sample size is smaller than the players above him.

That Hernandez is taking more walks, striking out less, and hitting the ball for contact is no small thing, particularly now in the majors where the pitchers are more deadly and the game is faster. These changes for Hernandez, like anyone, would take some time to develop, but his adjustment period has been pleasantly fast. 

Next: Blue Jays: Gibby, we have a problem

The pressure is now on the front office to keep him around. John Gibbons has done his part, rewarding Hernandez’s success by penciling him into the lineup every day. It will be interesting to monitor the ebbs and flows of Hernandez’s season, to see what changes stick, and what weaknesses, if any, start to emerge.