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Blue Jays’ outfielder Teoscar Hernández is often overshadowed in the powerhouse line-up that includes Guerrero Jr. and Bichette. But Hernández deserves recognition for his offensive contribution this season, as he is slashing .313/.355/.526 on the year. In the month of August alone, these numbers jump to an incredible .431/.450/.690. What is Hernández doing right?
Starting with his quality of contact, Hernández has always hit the ball extremely well. His has plus average exit velocity, at 92 mph on the year. He also has a 15% barrel rate (top 10% of MLB) and a 48% hard hit rate (12% above average).
His biggest offensive weakness throughout his career is his strikeout rate. It has always been on the higher side, and remains worse than league average this season.
Strikeout Rate (K%)
However, Hernández’s strike zone recognition has improved significantly and his strikeout rate has been steadily declining the last few years. From 2020 to 2021 alone, his strikeout rate improved by 5%.
Coinciding with this improved strike zone recognition is Hernández’s improved contact rate. His contact rate is at a career high this season, 70%. This is important because Hernández uses the whole field and does not just hit for power. He also hits for average, and with his above average sprint speed he is able to capitalize on this additional contact by getting more singles.
There were a number of preseason questions regarding Hernández’s place on the team, especially following the signing of George Springer. But with Springer’s injury, Hernández received more playing time and proved that his 2020 season wasn’t a fluke. He has demonstrated improvement in his weakest areas, and has increased his value to the club.
It is not common anymore for hitters to hit for both average and power, but Hernández checks both boxes. The only thing that appears to be holding him back now is his defense. Hernández has always been a below average defender and remains one this season with -2 outs above average in both right and left field, and a -1 outfield defensive runs saved. Similarly to his offensive ability, Hernández has also shown improvement in his defense. In 2018, his outfield defensive runs saved was significantly worse than this season, at -12.
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I wouldn’t count on Hernández suddenly becoming a good defensive player, but if he can continue working himself closer to an average fielder he has a much better shot at a starting outfield role. Whether the Blue Jays decide to extend him or trade him, Hernández has put himself in a great position this season and has demanded more recognition for his contributions both at the plate and in the field.