In a crowded Blue Jays’ outfield, consisting of veterans and young prospects, Teoscar Hernandez has separated himself from the pack. Hernandez was acquired at last year’s trade deadline from the Houston Astros along with Nori Aoki for pitcher Francisco Liriano. Aoki was the notable name, and it was him, not Hernandez who joined the big league roster. Only a month later, Aoki was designated for assignment, and Hernandez got his opportunity in the big leagues.
However, the same theme occurred at the start of this season when Hernandez did not make the 25-man roster. Curtis Granderson was signed to a one year deal over the winter, and Randal Grichuk was acquired in a trade from the St. Louis Cardinals. Hernandez got his opportunity when Josh Donaldson was placed on the 10-day DL, and he hasn’t looked back.
Hernandez is towards the top of the team leaderboards in every major offensive category, and is the only player to have an OPS above .800. For someone who was crunched off the opening day roster, Hernandez has capitalized on his opportunities, as someone manager John Gibbons can rely on daily. He has played both corner outfield positions, and has stepped up to be one of the most potent threats in the lineup.
With Josh Donaldson in and out of the lineup due to injury, and Justin Smoak not playing at the same level after a career year in 2017, Hernandez has been one of the primary sources of power. Hernandez (11) along with Yangervis Solarte (12) are the only Blue Jays with double digit home runs. Hernandez’s acquisition has been a trend of the Blue Jays finding under the radar guys or players looking to take advantage of the opportunity in Toronto. Solarte, Randal Grichuk, and Aledmys Diaz also came in trades, and were high profile young players earlier in their careers who have stumbled recently on their prior teams.
Hernandez became expendable for the Astros last summer, when Derek Fisher was called up to be the team’s left fielder. Dwight Smith and Dalton Pompey are two young outfielders that have been in the organization for multiple years, and the team thinks highly of, but have been surpassed by Hernandez’s immediate impact to the big league lineup.With an spot in the everyday lineup, @TeoscarH has been a revelation for a transitioning @BlueJays franchise.Click To Tweet
Over the past few years, the Blue Jays have been and are still searching for Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista replacements, who have filled that role for nearly a decade. Not to mention, Encarnacion and Bautista played elsewhere before in Toronto, like Hernandez, and their careers did not take off until they played for the Blue Jays.
Donaldson and Smoak did the job last year, but the Blue Jays should have a more long-term thought process. Donaldson is in the last year of his deal, and it wouldn’t be realistic to count on Smoak, who turns 32 this year, to consistently play at a level that made him an All-Star starter at first base a year ago. Kendrys Morales was brought in to help counter the Encarnacion loss, but he has not been much of a factor in 2018.
With the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees set to run the AL East for the next several years, the Blue Jays will have decisions to make just like the other teams in the division. Their window which included two trips to the ALCS appears to be closed. Fans are now focused on hoping we see top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. this season. They have a head start with a strong farm system in which they have two in the top ten, and three in the top 40, according to MLB Pipeline.
Hernandez has already surpassed the most games he has played in a single season, and the opportunity to play everyday has made him one of the top breakout players in baseball. As the Blue Jays begin to look ahead for the next chapter of their franchise, it’s clear that Teoscar Hernandez is someone that should be a key building block going forward.