With the Blue Jays, who experts suggest have a shot for a wild card spot, having lost the first two games of the season against the Yankees, who many think have a shot at a World Series appearance, many fans are predictably suggesting President/CEO Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins tear everything and begin an immediate rebuild with only 160 games left in the season.
And part of that rebuild, for many fans, appears to be built around OF Teoscar Hernandez, the toolsy Dominican acquired from the Astros last summer.
They point to the 8 Home Runs Hernandez hit after a September call-up last year, as well as a .358/.386/.698 line he posted this spring. Never mind the 36 strikeouts in 94 PAs during that stretch, as part of a 37.5% K rate between the Blue Jays and Astros last year.
Hernandez’ line this year was mostly posted against lower level pitching, when you look at the Quality of Opponents as measured by Baseball Ref:
Hernandez’ 6.6 OppQual puts much of the Pitching he faced between High A and AA. The majority of his ABs did not come against MLB opposition. When we view Spring Training stats of young hitters, it’s wise to keep this qualifying lens in mind. Facing Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka, it’s hard to see Hernandez making a lot of quality contact these past two games.
I readily admit that I haven’t seen a lot of Hernandez. My focus after the trade deadline was Pitcher Thomas Pannone, acquired from Cleveland. Hernandez did not exactly set the International League on fire after joining the Blue Jays, hitting .222/.294/.505 in August for Buffalo before Toronto decided to promote him to see what they had when rosters expanded on September 1st. The tools are no doubt there, but whether or not the pitch recognition skills are there to allow him to make consistent contact don’t appear to be yet.
Don’t get me wrong: I like Hernandez’ toolkit a lot. He uses the whole field, has legit pop, and projects as a plus defensive player. He’s also in danger of becoming a AAAA player – a guy who can hit minor league Pitching, but can’t quite find consistency of at the MLB level. Truth be told, a healthy Anthony Alford had a much better chance of breaking camp with the Jays, but Atkins was already suggesting by mid-March that he neeed a bit more seasoning. And Dalton Pompey fits in there somewhere, but he’s been so injury-prone that it’s tough to figure out just where.
Is it time for Teoscar? Not just yet, and the Blue Jays are unlikely to push the panic button just yet.