Does Teoscar Hernandez have a bright future with the Blue Jays?

 

Here are some thoughts on what to expect from players on the Blue Jays 40 man roster while we wait for the world to return to normal and baseball to resume.

 

 

 

 

 

Recently, Jays From the Couch’s Shaun Doyle wrote a piece on Teoscar Hernandez. While he made some good points, I have a different view of Hernandez in terms of his future value.

 

The Dominican born outfielder made his MLB debut in 2017 with the Houston Astros before being traded to the Blue Jays for Francisco Liriano. He has spent parts of each of the last three seasons in MLB with mixed results.

 

Hernandez has unfortunately been underwhelming as a defensive outfielder who has seen time at all three outfield positions over the last two seasons. In 2018 he had -14 DRS, in 2019 he had -9 DRS. This in spite of the physical tools he possesses. His sprint speed was measured at the 94th percentile in all of MLB in 2019.

 

Listening to Jays management discuss their plans for 2020, it seems their intention is to continue using Hernandez as an outfielder. But if his defence continues to be sub par, sooner or later they will need to make a decision to help the team. Personally if it were up to me, I might decide to make him their full time DH, even though many teams nowadays prefer to use the DH to rotate giving players a partial day off instead of having a full time DH.

 

His offensive stats, while inconsistent as well, have shown some more promise. In a small sample size in 2017, his OPS was .908. Since then he posted OPS numbers of .771 in 2018 and .778 in 2019.

 

Hernandez’ overall numbers in 2019 are less than stellar with a .230/.306/.472 slash line. Taking a closer look, you can break it down it to two parts.

 

Through May 15, Hernandez’ bat was ice cold. He hit a woeful .189/.262./.299 and earned a demotion to AAA Buffalo to try to get back on track. He was recalled on June 5th, and he looked like a different hitter for the rest of the season.

 

From June 5 through the end of the season, he slashed .248/.325/.548, a .873 OPS. Included in those numbers was a 9.9% walk rate. He was even hotter after the all star break, slashing .259/.346/.593, good for a .939 OPS with the help of a 11.4% walk rate. For me, Hernandez’ very good second half lasted too long to just be a hot streak. I believe he made the necessary adjustments to be a consistent offensive threat in MLB.

 

One unfortunate tendency of his continued in 2019 – his high strikeout rate. Hernandez whiffed 33% of the time, slightly more than his career 31.8% rate. There is no way to sugar cote this part of his game. It isn’t good and I don’t necessarily expect it to improve much. However, if his OPS can be anywhere close to .939, I could live with his strikeouts.

 

Shaun and I recently discussed Hernandez on episode 225 of JFtC podcast. He stated his belief that at age 27, Hernandez has passed his window of opportunity to become a good, everyday MLB player. I disagree and here are my reasons why.

 

You only need to look at the Jays’ recent past to see three prime examples of players whose best offensive seasons began at age 29 and continued in to their 30s. Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson were all late bloomers as major leaguers.

 

Jose Bautista, at age 28 in his first full season with Toronto had an OPS of .757 and OPS + of 99, the best offensive season of his career up until that point. The following season his career took off, with an OPS of .995 and OPS + of 164. In 2011 at age 30 he led all of MLB in slugging (.608), OPS (1.056) and OPS + (182). His six straight all star seasons from 2010-2015 culminated in the second most famous home run in Blue Jays history in the 2015 ALDS.

 

In seven seasons in the majors from age 22-28, Edwin Encarnación managed an OPS over .800 just twice.  Each year from age 29-34, his OPS was .881 or better.

 

Josh Donaldson didn’t even become an everyday MLB player until age 27. From age 29-33 his OPA was only under .900 once, in his injury plagued 2018 season.

 

If the thought is for Hernandez to becone a full time DH, his .939 2019 post all star break OPS compares favourably to Encarnación’s career numbers. He has only surpassed this over a full season once, .941 back in 2012. As one of the faster hitters in baseball, Hernandez can do things that don’t show up in a slash line – steal some bases, go first to third on a ball hit to the outfield.

 

As the Jays continue building a future contending team, Hernandez best way to help might be as the DH.

 

 

 

 

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