Toronto Blue Jays 2019 Report Card: Teoscar Hernandez

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 28: Teoscar Hernandez #37 of the Toronto Blue Jays rounds third base as he hits a solo home run during first inning of their MLB game against the Tampa Bay Rays Rogers Centre on September 28, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 28: Teoscar Hernandez #37 of the Toronto Blue Jays rounds third base as he hits a solo home run during first inning of their MLB game against the Tampa Bay Rays Rogers Centre on September 28, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Blue Jays gave Teoscar Hernandez an opportunity in 2019 to display his baseball talents and solidify his place on the roster going forward. His 2019 Report Card will answer whether he capitalized on his chance.

Teoscar Hernandez struggled in the first part of the 2019 season. He was demoted to Buffalo in mid-May and returned in early June to Toronto as a slugging, centre fielder. Yes, that is not a typo: a centre fielder. Let’s see how his season as a whole turned out.

Grading system

I constructed my own grading method. It is a combination of a standard grade system and the 2018 fWAR percentiles for position players; Table 1 shows the grading scheme. The highlights are as follows:

  • The data set of fWARs reflects any position player with a minimum of 100 plate appearances and an fWAR that is not negative
  • An fWAR that is approximately in the top-third will earn a B
  • A grade of C is where roughly the median of the data set
  • I arbitrarily decided that any fWAR that is in the 15th or lower percentile receives an F

The evidence

Table 2 contains some data that is relevant for an assessment of Hernandez’s 2019 season.

Positive performance metrics

  • His Chase% declined from 2018’s 28.2% to 25.4%, which is less than the MLB average of 28.3%
  • An improved BB% from 2018’s 7.8% to 9.2%, which ranks in the 59th percentile
  • Although his Hard Hit% declined from 45.9% to 41.8%, it ranks in the 68th percentile

Negative performance metrics

  • 2019 was disappointing in terms of wRC+ (96), xBA (0.210), and xSLG (0.415)
  • All of these metrics are lower than their respective marks of 2018
  • His K% increased from 31.2% to 33.3%, which ranks in the 5th percentile
  • The BB%-K% ranked in the 8th percentile
  • Defensively, the reality is that his play as a left fielder was better in 2019 than it was in 2018
  • In approximately 50% of the number of innings that he played in left field in 2018, Hernandez’s 2019 DRS was minus 2, which is considerably better than 2018’s minus 11
  • As a centre fielder, his DRS was negative 7 in 2019; he only played 36 innings there in 2018
  • In terms of Outs Above Average, his minus 3 in 2019 was better than his negative 7 of the previous season

That is a long list of negatives. Why even continue to the next section?

Areas for improvement

More from Toronto Blue Jays News

In the movie ’12 Angry Men’, there is a scene when the jurors took the first vote in the Jury Room at the conclusion of the murder trial. Eleven jurors voted guilty; one voted not guilty.

"Juror #8:  I just want to talk.Juror #7:  What’s there to talk about? Eleven of us think he’s guilty. No one had to think about it twice except you."

I’m Juror #8 on the Hernandez Report Card Trial. We need to discuss why things are not quite as bleak as the negative performance metrics would indicate.

The 2019 Hernandez season was delineated by his demotion to and return from Buffalo. Table 3 illustrates how much better he performed after his stint with the Bisons. The highlights are as follows:

  • His wRC+ was 117
  • Although below the MLB average of 0.323, Hernandez’s OBP improved to 0.314
  • He posted an fWAR of 1.3

There are two cautionary notes. First, Hernandez’s K% is even higher than it was before he was sent to Buffalo; his K% was 34.9% after Buffalo and 29.8% before.

Second, FanGraphs incorporates a positional adjustment in its fWAR calculation with respect to defence. There is a 10-run positive swing for a left fielder switching to centre field (based on 162 defensive games). Despite being below-average defensively in centre field, Hernandez’s fWAR received a bit of a boost when he switched positions.

All this to say that Hernandez’s post-Buffalo performance is a positive signal for the future. Accordingly, there are some areas for improvement that are worth considering.

Areas for improvement redux

Swing and miss

Brooks Baseball describes Hernandez as follows:

"Against Fastballs (1,082 seen), he has had a steady approach at the plate (-0.02 c) with a disastrously high likelihood to swing and miss (31% whiff/swing). Against Breaking Pitches (616 seen), he has had an aggressive approach at the plate (-0.14 c) with a high likelihood to swing and miss (40% whiff/swing). Against Off-speed Pitches (184 seen), he has had a steady approach at the plate (-0.30 c) with an above average likelihood to swing and miss (42% whiff/swing)."

Hernandez is slightly better than league average when it comes to Chase%. It would appear that his issues are related to pitch recognition. My only suggestion is to repeat what I wrote when I examined the return of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Hernandez earlier in the season.

"This is speculation but I wonder if the whiff rates for both players is attributable to pitch recognition and/or a poor approach. With respect to the latter point, as Kevin Barker often says, if you have difficulty hitting a certain pitch, then don’t swing at it until there are two strikes."

Defense

I think the Hernandez in centre field experiment has run its course. His DRS and Outs Above Average were both below-average when he played centre field. With respect to left field, his 2019 DRS was better (negative 2 in 346 innings) than his 2018 DRS (minus 11 in 700 innings). Also, Statcast shows that Hernandez is blessed with terrific foot speed (94th percentile) but his outfielder jump is 46th percentile.

My recommendation would be for Hernandez to take his centre field experience and apply it to a corner outfield position. Assuming Gurriel Jr. is a lock to be the 2020 left fielder for the Blue Jays, I propose a position shift with Randal Grichuk.

Overall grade – D+

Hernandez made it to the Major Leagues primarily because of his bat. However, his 2019 wRC+ of 96 is below the MLB average. His defensive metrics are all below-average. Combine that data with his 0.9 fWAR and the grade is a D+.

Next. Blue Jays 2019 Report Card: Lourdes Gurriel Jr.. dark

The last word

The 2019 season for Hernandez can be divided into two parts. The first part was characterized by poor play that led to the demotion to Buffalo. The second segment started when he returned from the Bisons and Hernandez became an important contributor to the offence. Alas, because the assignment was to grade his full season, Hernandez received a D+. No doubt Hernandez, the Blue Jays, and the fans want the post-Buffalo performance to be replicated for the entire 2020 season. We shall see.

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