At the July trade deadline the Blue Jays unloaded lefty Francisco Liriano in what seemed like a simple late July trade. Liriano meant little to the Blue Jays going forward and the Astros took a gamble that he could be an effective Lefty out of the pen. It was a small gamble that paid little in return with marginal innings of little glamour for the Astros. In return the Blue Jays took on 35 year old Nori Aoki as a favour and the one potential upside player of the deal in 24 year old Teoscar Hernandez. Aoki make a brief stay in Toronto before being DFA and picking up the balance of his season with the Mets. The main chip here was Hernandez who was sent to AAA where he played 26 unspectacular games in Buffalo.
Hernandez was an interesting piece in the deal, he very well fits the desire for more young and athletic players. Once moving to the Blue Jays he found himself as the 5th best prospect in their system and up near the top of their OF depth charts, especially with the injury of Anthony Alford. On the surface this seemed like a steep price for the Astros to pay for such a small return, which could very well be the truth. They moved from a position of strength where Hernandez was unlikely to be a factor in 2017 or 2018. After winning the World Series, I don’t think anyone in Houston is worried about Hernandez, they did okay. However going forward he looks like a potentially interesting fit for the Blue Jays.
As it stands the 2018 Blue Jay’s outfield looks like this: Kevin Pillar in CF, Hernandez in RF and a pile of table scraps in LF. There is a lot of offseason left but right now Hernandez looks to be the best option for RF or even LF depending on the remaining moves. Giving Hernandez a job however might not be such a bad thing. Take what you will of his September but he put slashed .261/.305/..603, 129 OPS+, 8 HR, 6 BB, 36 SO in 26 games and 95 PA.
What stands out is he hit a lot of HR, struck out over 37% of the time and didn’t manage many walks. In reality it was a lot of fun to see him hit so many HR as a 24 year old getting just his second chance at the big leagues trying to impress his new team. In the same way he will need to be more selective going forward to bring down the strike outs. Can he drop the SO% and does he even need to? Taking a look back at his minor league career he has shown higher SO% but even in 2016 he averaged around 16% SO with an 8%+ walk rate across 2 levels. It is safe to say he has shown the ability to have a respectable SO% with marginal but not great walk rates.
The Blue Jays hope to have gotten a steal in this trade, while they wont project him to be an elite OF, it’s not out of the question that he can be a valuable contributor. His value should be spread out across his tools. Take for example in 2016 with the Astros he posted the highest Sprint Speed on the team at 28.6 ft/s which put him top 40 in all of baseball that season. A player with natural speed is highly lacking on the Blue Jays roster and desperately needed and has shown several season of 30+ SB in the minors. Speed can be a major factor on defense and there is not enough data yet at the MLB level to make a proper assessment of his defense. The general belief is that he should be an average defender and his speed should help that, especially if he plays in LF or RF where he would be one of the faster corners in the league.
In regards to his offense, in his limited MLB career he has shown power combined with lackluster average and OBP. His minor league career shows great seasons mixed with not so great seasons and a career line of .269 average with a .339 obp. Those are not huge numbers but his 2016 season could show the upside where he .307 with a .377 obp, how that translates to the MLB level has yet to be told with only limited data. Can he potentially hit close to .260 with 25 HR and 20 SB? Well that might not be out of the question, what is in question is if he can manage a respectable walk rate to keep his OBP up, where as his speed can add additional value.
In my mind with his natural speed, average defense, mid level power, some average upside there is potential for a 3-4 WAR type of player. He very well could be in the 1-2 range but his overall skills could win him out to be an average player. In the end if the Blue Jays have themselves a MLB regular in RF for league minimum that is a nice addition for the back end of season of Liriano. Having good average players cheap is a great way to go.
There is some upside here and while he wont replace Jose Bautista, or at least pre 2017 Bautista there is enough there where its a positive vs last season. I would not rush to count out Hernadez or look at the scraps of a Jay Bruce for the OF. Hernandez has the balance of skills where he wont be spectacular in any one area but he will provide support and value across the board. The Blue Jays have a surplus of slow, one dimensional players, perhaps Hernandez will balance some of that need to be more young and athletic.
Here is a reel of Hernandez hitting 6 HR in 6 games because well that is kinda awesome