Blue Jays: Can Teoscar Hernandez start on a contending team?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 15: Teoscar Hernandez #37 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates scoring against the Kansas City Royals in the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium on August 15, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 15: Teoscar Hernandez #37 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates scoring against the Kansas City Royals in the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium on August 15, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images) /
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2019 has been Teoscar Hernandez’s second full season with the Blue Jays and as the organization continues to piece together a winning lineup around Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, it might soon be time to decide whether Hernandez could contribute to said lineup.

Over the past two years, Teoscar Hernandez has appeared in 241 games with Toronto and that sample size should be large enough to allow the numbers to tell the story. Yes, he’s still only 23 years old but the strikeout rates and the inability to get on-base are causes for concern.

Since the beginning of 2018 Hernandez leads the league (minimum 900 plate appearances) with a strikeout percentage of 31.5 and his career slash line of .234/.301/.469 hasn’t really trended upwards at any point.

While it’s true strikeouts continue to rise and are no longer as condemned as they once were, it typically helps if you provide enough offence to make up for it or do so elsewhere in your game.

He will break his career-high of 22 home runs this year and likely finish just above 25 with a “juiced baseball” which might mean it will be difficult for Hernandez to surpass that and hit 30 sometime during his career.

Since 2016, Jackie Bradley Jr. of the 2018 Red Sox and Joc Pederson of the 2017 Dodgers are the only two outfielders with a batting average in the “lower” 200’s to start roughly 100 games on a team that made it to the World Series.

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Despite batting .234 with an on-base percentage of .314 in 2018, Bradley was able to secure the Gold Glove in centre field, steal 17 bases and finish the season with an fWAR of 2.8. Not to mention having Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts as the other two outfield bats, as well as J.D. Martinez in the outfield/DH role, helped.

Joc Pederson batted .212 in 2017 but his on-base percentage of .331 was seven points above the league average that year and also had Yasiel Puig and Chris Taylor in the outfield who had stellar seasons, combining for an fWAR of 7.7.

These two examples are used to show that with a few adjustments to improve an area of his game, whether it be plate discipline, running the bases or defence, Hernandez could hold down a spot in the outfield on a World Series contending team under the right circumstances.

Of course, the Blue Jays would need to acquire two corner outfielders to provide the bulk of the production coming from those positions which could be difficult. It seems the club may still be focused on using assets or free-agency to acquire big-league ready pitching and drafting an outfielder early in the draft still may not see the prospect in the majors during the team’s “window.”

Hernandez is still young and it’s difficult to say a team couldn’t win a championship with him as their starting centre fielder but it would likely take an impressive supporting cast in the outfield to make it work.

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The Blue Jays are giving him a chance at the position for the time being which is the correct decision, but if the numbers don’t improve in 2020 when will the team be ready to move on?

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