If the Toronto Blue Jays want to compete in 2018, they’re going to need to be faster on all sides of the ball. Teoscar Hernandez can help with that
The Toronto Blue Jays are slow. There is no way to sugar coat this. According to Baseball Reference, they have put up some terrible numbers in areas that require speed. They rank 14th in the American League in stolen bases with a paltry 52. They have just 5 triples, which is good for dead last in the AL. They’re 14th in total bases. They can’t even use speed to avoid hitting into double plays as they’ve seen 148 of those suckers.
Considering the front office has said on several occasions that they are focused on getting younger and more athletic. It is not a stretch to read that athletic is a synonym for speed. Enter Teoscar Hernandez.
The soon to be 25 yr old provides some sorely missing speed, which has been an understated aspect of his game since his call up in September. In the most recent episode of the Jays From the Couch Radio podcast, we discussed his role on the team and the outlook for next year. But, one of the real highlights of his game has to be using his wheels on both sides of the ball.
Most people may be getting rather excited about what he can do with the bat. And, why not? The guy is slashing .265/.301/.574 with a wRC+ of 123. In just 22 games, he’s been worth 0.4 fWAR while putting up 5 HR, 14 RBI on an ISO of .309. Obviously, the small sample size caveat has to apply in order to temper unnecessary expectations. After all, expecting an ISO that high to be maintained is just silly. I mean, Giancarlo Stanton is putting up a .351 mark, while Aaron Judge has a value of .338. We shouldn’t expect Hernandez to come that close to those marks.
And, there are flaws to his game. He has struck out at a rate of 31.5%, which is on par with previous cringe worthy Justin Smoak seasons. And, his walk rate is Kevin Pillar low. That said, Fangraphs rates his Spd at 3.4 (again, SSS), but it has been around or above 6 in the previous few years in AAA. It is interesting to note that, in his brief major league time in Houston and Toronto, he has collected a total of zero stolen bases. However, he does have seasons of 20+ in the minors.
On the defensive side of things, he hasn’t made an error in any of his 162.1 2017 innings. The advanced metrics aren’t overly kind to him as his UZR/150 in the outfield has been worth just 1.0. The breakdown of positions show that CF and RF have not been so good for Hernandez, but he also hasn’t seen much time there. In LF, where he has spent the most time, he has a UZR/150 of 16.
One of the more simple ways of thinking about Hernandez’ future is to see him as a direct replacement for Jose Bautista in 2018. And, that makes sense. He’ll get a good, long look for that job, at least to start Spring Training. If we were to do that, we should consider the following: Bautista’s 2017 Spd: 3.4, SB: 6, 5 E, -8 DRS, 0.6 UZR/150. Obviously, these are just the numbers from one season, but they are not far off career marks for Bautista. It isn’t unthinkable that Hernandez could outperform these ‘speed related’ numbers.
Of course, Hernandez also brings an element of versatility (another one of Toronto’s front office buzz words). He can play all three outfield positions should the need arise. We should also mention that manager, John Gibbons must believe in Hernandez’ speed element since he has been putting him right at the top of the lineup (despite a relatively low on base percentage). Batting leadoff necessitating a speed guy is a rather simplistic, traditional notion, which Gibby certainly could agree with. This could signal a clue as to how the Blue Jays see Hernandez in the future.
Teoscar Hernandez is not perfect. He still has flaws in his game. As he learns the outfield, the lights, etc at Rogers Centre, he will improve his defense. With some tutelage, he can improve his ability to get on base. With instruction, he can learn to recognize certain big league pitches, etc. But, you can’t teach speed. Hernandez has it. He’s not Usain Bolt, by any means. But, with some playing time, some instruction and the opportunity, he very well could bring just what this club needs.
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