While being demoted doesn’t mean the end of the road for Teoscar Hernandez, unfortunately he missed a big opportunity to establish himself as a part of the rebuild in Toronto.
Despite the fact that the Blue Jays are in need of productive outfielders, their patience has understandably run out with Teoscar Hernandez, at least for the time being.
The 26-year-old was demoted to Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday with the club electing to promote Richard Urena in his place. More than anything, this was about giving Hernandez a breather from his struggles at the big league level and hopefully helping him find the confidence that has made him an offensive threat in the past.
So far this season he’s slashed just .189/.262/.299 with three home runs and 15 RBI in 127 at-bats. While his troublesome defence has improved from a year ago, unfortunately he’s now struggling to make contact at the plate, let alone provide a threat in the lineup. His last start resulted in a four-strikeout game, and the Blue Jays had to face the reality that it’s just not working at the moment.
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That doesn’t mean that Hernandez’s big league career is over, or that his future in Toronto is done either, but it will complicate things going forward. Right now this is a club that’s in search of productive outfielders, and outside of Randal Grichuk (who hasn’t been as good as I hoped he’d be either), there hasn’t been a whole lot to brag about. Socrates Brito was DFA’d and was performing even worse, and Billy McKinney may have found a similar fate by now if not for the struggles of his fellow outfielders. That said, there’s only so long the Blue Jays will go on like this.
According to Arash Madani of Sportsnet, Charlie Montoyo was already talking about having Brandon Drury play in the outfield more going forward, and he’s not the only infielder getting reps in a less familiar position. Both Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Cavan Biggio have been doing the same on occasion in Buffalo, and it’s likely that both could see time in the big leagues at some point, and likely in the outfield.
There’s also a good chance that Ross Atkins and the rest of the front office have their eyes peeled for upgrades in the outfield, both for the immediate, and long term future. The minor league system is well stocked with infielders, but the same can’t be said about the outfield. With that in mind, don’t be surprised if that’s one of the asks if and when they shop veterans like Freddy Galvis, Justin Smoak, and more on the trade market this summer. Depending on how far along a player like that could be in their development (they got McKinney back in the J.A. Happ deal last year, for example), that could move Hernandez down another rung on the depth chart.
It sounds silly to be concerned about that depth chart when the performance has been so disappointing, pretty much all around, but the Jays are clearly looking for solutions to the problem and it won’t remain that way forever. Whether it’s taking a chance on someone like Brito and it working out a lot better, or one or more of Jonathan Davis, Gurriel Jr., Drury, or Biggio sticking in the lineup, they’ve shown that they’re not afraid to give a player an extended look, and someone is going to run with the opportunity eventually.
For Hernandez, he’ll have to start by focusing on getting his confidence back in Triple-A, and that’s probably not going to happen overnight. When he’s right then he’ll prove to be too much for minor league pitchers and the proof will be pretty obvious. However, right now it looks like he’ll need some time to sort things out, and more importantly, to prove that he’s more like the hitter we’ve seen before the 2019 season began.
In the meantime, the Blue Jays have no choice to move on, and hopefully for Hernandez’s sake, that doesn’t mean he missed a big opportunity for the long-term future.