Which Blue Jays outfield bench player will step up in Hernandez’s absence?
The Toronto Blue Jays announced yesterday that outfielder Teoscar Hernandez will be on the 10-day IL due to an oblique strain he suffered in Thursday’s game against the New York Yankees. With the Jays already down a regular player in Danny Jansen with an oblique strain, this is another blow to the regular lineup that will call on some of the bench players to step up in his absence.
With the expanded rosters for the month of April, the Blue Jays currently feature Zack Collins, Tyler Heineman, Cavan Biggio/Santiago Espinal, Gosuke Katoh, Raimel Tapia, and Bradley Zimmer on the bench. Both Heineman and Katoh are on the active roster to replace both Jansen and Hernandez so once each player returns, they will most likely be optioned back to AAA.
With Hernandez’s bat now out of the lineup and potentially be out for some time depending on the length of injury, somebody on the bench will need to step up and take charge in his absence. This will most likely fall on either Tapia or Zimmer, as both players are outfielders and have experience in the corner outfield positions. The club could also try and put Biggio in right field to keep Espinal on the field as well but I would think the bulk of work will go to the two dedicated bench outfielders on the roster.
Manager Charlie Montoyo has mentioned that he does plan to use both Tapia and Zimmer with Teo out of the lineup, but there could be more at stake later this month.
The early return on Tapia has been less than stellar so far, as the Dominican product currently owns a .143 batting average while going 2 for 14 with zero walks and two strikeouts. Recently acquired from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Randal Grichuk, Tapia’s main advantages in the deal were his lower salary, a left-handed bat, and speed, which he can use both on the base paths and in the outfield.
With Hernandez on the IL and a roster downsize coming soon, which Blue Jays bench outfielder will make their mark in his absence?
While he has featured in roughly half of the Jays’ games this season, Tapia has struggled at the plate and his defence has been average-at-best, as he did miss a ball along the left-field line that many argue is a ball he should have had. While he did pick up one hit last night, Tapia also struck out on some curveballs from reliever Lucas Luetge that had him looking absolutely lost.
Once a former top prospect in the game, Zimmer has struggled in recent years to stay healthy and find a way to keep himself on the active roster with the Cleveland Guardians. He posted solid results as a rookie back in 2017 (.241/.307/.385 slash line with a .692 OPS through 101 games) but only appeared in 162 games since then, compiling 11 home runs, 47 RBI, and a .635 OPS through 455 at-bats.
Zimmer is also a left-handed bat, which provides Montoyo with another option off the bench to take over some reps in Hernandez’s spot. He has only four at-bats this season, taking over two nights ago when Hernandez left the game and getting the start in yesterday’s affair, with no hits and no strikeouts to his line.
If Teoscar Hernandez is out for an extended period of time (current projections appear to be two weeks), one of either Tapia or Zimmer should use this time to prove they can handle themselves at the big league level, considering the roster downsize to 26 players is just two weeks away.
Zimmer does edge out Tapia in terms of games played in right field (54 vs. 38) but it’s not enough to really say that he holds an advantage over his counterpart, especially since both players feature plus speed. The former Guardian is also more of a center fielder compared to Tapia’s natural position in left, so the club could move Springer to right field and have Zimmer take over in center if required while I wouldn’t necessarily consider moving Gurriel Jr. to another outfield position to accompany Tapia.
Neither player has a Minor League option at their disposal, so this could make or break for deciding who stays long-term on the bench once Hernandez is ready to go, especially if the Blue Jays decide to keep running with three catchers once Jansen returns and would rather keep an extra bench infielder over a bench outfielder.
The season is obviously earlier and we can’t really make any assumptions with such a small sample size, but having one of these players figure it out sooner rather than later could go a long way not just for the Blue Jays but for themselves as well.