September is a strange time to get excited about any player – bloated rosters back-filled with minor league talent, high team expectations for some fans and no team expectations for most fans. But last September there was a definite buzz about Teoscar Hernandez. It’s not often a player comes up and makes a statement the way Hernandez did.
In 26 games Hernandez hit eight home runs with a .602 slugging percentage. Not since Jose Bautista hit ten home runs in 2009 did an unsuspecting player impress as much for Toronto in September.
Hernandez was traded to Toronto along with Nori Aoki in July in exchange for Francisco Liriano. He was the Astros’ seventh highest ranked prospect in 2016 and has improved his power and speed throughout his minor league career. There was no guarantee that he would see time in The Show in 2017 but once he did the home runs just kept coming.
Hernandez, however, to put it mildly, has a giant hole in his swing. He has a very bad tendency to swing and miss and does he ever like to swing – 34% whiff/swing rate for fastballs and a 40% whiff/swing rate against breaking pitches; which is well above league average on both counts. As a result Hernandez walked only six times in 95 plate appearances to go along with 36 strikeouts. His OBP through two seasons in the majors has remained steady at .304 with the Astros and .305 with the Blue Jays.
Against lefthanded pitching he appears to be completely lost. In 2017 he hit .192/.185./.462 and was either swinging for the fences or swinging at thin air. For reference, Bautista could always walk and hit lefties, even in his pre-star years, generally maintaining an OBP about 80 to 100 points above his batting average.
The good news is he hasn’t been in the majors for that long and we’re still looking at a small sample of who he might become. If his approach against lefties doesn’t improve he could thrive in a platoon situation given his OPS against righties last year was 1.014.
The near to medium future of Toronto’s outfield remains in flux, especially with another swing-and-miss guy in Kevin Pillar roaming center field. So, whether or not Hernandez can dramatically improve his plate discipline is going to be the big question moving forward but he has shown the ability to improve in the minors. Toronto certainly could use the help.
Hernandez exceeded his rookie limits in 2017 and isn’t arbitration eligible until 2021. He is under team control until 2024.
2017 Regular Season Grades
Jay Blue: B+
Wesley James: B+
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