Down to a few weeks left, the Toronto Blue Jays have two things to play for in the 2019 season.
The first is to avoid losing 100 games for the first time since 1979.
Second and more importantly, is to evaluate which of the six outfielders on the team are deserving of a roster spot next season.
At 273 games played with the Blue Jays, Teoscar Hernandez is the longest-tenured member of the crowded outfield.
He was acquired via trade from the Houston Astros on July 17, 2017, and would go on to hit eight home runs in 26 September games after being recalled from Triple-A Buffalo that season.
Since then, Hernandez has given the Jays glimpses of a prolific power hitter with debilitating flaws.
Should He Stay?
The best asset Hernandez brings to the table is his plus power. The slugger has reached the 20 home run plateau in each of his first two seasons with the Jays.
With his home run on Wednesday night, Hernandez tied his career-high of 22, in just 113 games, 21 fewer than it took last season.
His isolated power (.ISO) this season is .226. The metric measures the number of extra-base hits per at-bat or more simply, a measure of a batter’s raw power.
At .226, Hernandez ranks just behind Chicago Cubs all-star Anthony Rizzo (.227) and ahead of notable players like Eddie Rosario (.214) and Paul Goldschmidt (.203)
Major League Baseball has shifted to an era where power is everything. The 6,125 home runs hit this season are already an all-time high with nearly two weeks remaining.
Though his approach has flaws, Hernandez’s batting eye has improved each year thanks to a consistent increase in walks.
The rebuilding Jays will explore all outfield options, and a consistent power hitter that can change a game with one swing of the bat will likely be given a longer look.
Should He Go?
Hernandez has two major flaws that have been picked apart since his Blue Jays debut. His plate discipline and his defence.
The table below compares Hernandez to the Major League average and his Toronto teammates.
|Derek Fisher (TOR/HOU)||.192||.294||.384||.292||67.9%||32.2%||12.6%|
|Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||.279||.331||.548||.362||69.6%||24.6%||6.22%|
Among player with at least 400 plate appearances, Hernandez’s 33.3% strikeout percentage is third-worst in the league.
His free-swinging plate approach and lack of contact have left many runs on the table.
This season, the Dominican slugger has a productive out percentage of 11.9 per cent. A productive out is any at-bat where the batter: 1) Hits a sacrifice with a runner on first, 2) Advances any runner with none out, or 3) Drives in a baserunner with two outs in the inning.
At 11.9 per cent, Hernandez ranks 603rd in the league.
Hernandez is also universally panned for his defence. More specifically his inability to take a proper route to fly balls routinely leads to plays like these:
Although his foot speed (92nd percentile) allows him to mask many of his deficiencies, Hernandez has not mastered the outfield position. As a result, the third-year player has a -4.3 defensive runs saved this season, the worst mark of any Blue Jays outfielder.
The verdict is…
Randal Grichuk and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are likely locked into the corner outfield positions for 2020, leaving Hernandez fighting for the centre field spot with Jonathan Davis, Anthony Alford, and Derek Fisher.
Despite his shortcomings, the Blue Jays have liked the progress the 26-year old has made in the outfield.
“We’re confident putting him at all three positions,” Atkins said to the Toronto Star’s Gregor Chisolm. “He looks much more aggressive, much more confident and has made himself a viable centre-field option.”
Although his defensive metrics are poor, Hernandez has made great strides since being moved from left field last season, improving from a horrid -17 defensive runs saved.
In addition to his power potential and defensive progress, Toronto has one year of team control remaining before arbitration, making Hernandez a strong candidate to make the team next season.