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We continue our look at the 2020 Blue Jays by examining a big breakout for the Blue Jays’ sometimes defensively challenged outfielder: Teoscar Hernandez.
Hernandez was originally signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic by the Astros on February 17, 2011 for just $20,000. The Astros didn’t trumpet the signing much but he quickly surpassed some of their more-highly touted prospects in the rankings. He was Baseball America’s #34 prospect for the Astros in 2013 and rocketed up to #16 in 2014 before peaking at #7 in 2017. BA loved his bat speed, athleticism and strength but cautioned that he tended to chase breaking balls and needed to work on pitch recognition.
Hernandez was pushing through the Astros’ system, playing in Class-A Quad Cities in 2013, and Advanced-A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi in 2014 and played the 2015 season in Double-A and played in Double-A and Triple-A in 2016, making his major league debut with the Astros in 2016.
Through his minor league career, he hit a collective .268/.338/.456 with 98 home runs in 722 games but struggled in his first attempts at the major leagues. After a rough 2015 in Double-A, he was left off the 40-man roster but improved in 2016 but he didn’t really get a chance to show what he could do in the major leagues in 2017. At the trade deadline, Hernandez was traded to Toronto as part of the Francisco Liriano deal that also had Nori Aoki coming to Toronto.
After the trade, Teoscar tantalized Blue Jays fans, hitting .261/.305/.602 with eight home runs in 26 games but he fell off in 2018, hitting .239/.302/.468 with 29 double, seven triples and 22 home runs in 134 games in the big leagues. He followed that up with a similar 2019, hitting .230/.306/.472 with 19 doubles, two triples and 26 home runs but continued to struggle with strikeouts, going down on strikes in 33.0% of his plate appearances.
Teoscar played nine games in the spring, hitting .273/.360/.409 before things were shut down and he started 2020 with a bang, hitting four home runs in his first seven games of the season. He kept up a torrid pace in August, hitting .296/.349/.582 for the month, hitting another eight home runs but lost a few games in September due to an oblique injury that cost him about 12 days. In September, he hit .266/.319/.469 with a double and four home runs, tapering off a little bit. He went 1/7 in the two playoff games with Tampa Bay, taking a walk and striking out four times.
Overall, Hernandez had a huge 2020, hitting .289/.340/.579 with 16 home runs in 50 games, easily leading the Blue Jays’ offensive attack. He was worth 1.6 WAR according to FanGraphs (1.5 WAR according to Baseball Reference) and had a stellar 146 wRC+ and OPS+. Additionally, he was able to bring his strikeout rate down a touch to 30.4%.
Teoscar was a StatCast darling, finishing in the 98th percentile in exit velocity (averaging 93.3 mph) while also finishing in the 96th percentile for hard-hit balls, and the 98th percentile for Barrel percentage. StatCast also looked favourable on his sprint speed which was in the 85th percentile. His walk rate, whiff rate and strikeout rate all placed him in the bottom of the league, however, as did his defensive numbers putting him in only the second percentile in outs above average and 33rd percentile in Outfielder Jump rate.
So basically, the StatCast numbers say what we’ve been saying about Teoscar throughout his career. He hits the ball hard, when he hits it, but misses a lot. And he’s got great speed, but is bad at reading balls off the bat.
We’ll have to see if 2021 is going to be another big year for Teoscar, who won his first Silver Slugger award in 2020.
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