The Toronto Blue Jays had a busy Monday at the trade deadline. They made two moves that didn’t bring in elite prospects, but are certainly promising returns.
Earlier today, John Sickels looked at the Joe Smith deal. Thomas Pannone is an exciting pitcher, who even should he wind up a reliever, was a nice get. Samad Taylor should be serviceable, but provide depth at the very least.
Teoscar Hernandez was a great get.
The Astros dealt Hernandez — along with Norichika Aoki — to the Blue Jays for Francisco Liriano. The 33-year-old lefty was struggling mightily this season, seeing an increased walk rate and lowered strikeout rate lead to a frightening 5.88 ERA. The Blue Jays were able to turn that into a top ten prospect.
FUN FACT: Hernandez’s first career big league home run was off of Liriano.
Hernandez signed for $20,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. That’s no typo, especially for someone with Hernandez’s tools. He’s fast, he’s strong, and he’s smart.
But he has some serious swing-and-miss issues.
Hernandez flew up the Astros organizational ladder, adding more power and stolen bases each season. He had a huge 2014 split between the California and Texas Leagues, slashing .292/.362/.535 with 37 doubles, nine triples, 21 home runs and 33 stolen bases in 42 attempts. It was a near perfect season, strike out totals aside.
It was a harbinger of things to come.
He struck out 151 times that 2014 seasons and in 2015, Texas League pitching ate him alive. He hit .219 that season, with an abysmal .275 on base percentage. During that time, the crowded outfield prospects of the Astros system continued to step forward, while new and seemingly better ones were drafted.
There simply wasn’t room for Hernandez in Houston.
He bounced back in 2016 and made his big league debut. Hernandez hit four home runs in his 100 at bat stint, striking out 28 times and walking 11.
Hernandez got off to a slow start in 2017, but continued his resurgence in the Pacific Coast League in the two months before the trade. There is definitely something to be said about a player’s hot streaks coming in both the California League and PCL. That said, he hit .297 over that span, raking eight home runs and 14 doubles, with seven stolen bases. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was under control as well, striking out 41 times and walking 27.
I like this home run swing. It’s smooth and easy, and it shows his natural strength. It doesn’t look like there is much effort behind it, and it sails to deep centerfield.
Here’s a look at his first career MLB home run. There’s a little wiggle in his hands, but not much pre-pitch commotion. He reaches a bit for this one but gets his bat through the zone quickly and unloads.
Nearly everyone you ask about Hernandez’s rebound after that dreadful 2015 attribute it to working hard at patience. He works better two-strike counts now and lays off breaking pitches, less aggressive in waiting for a pitch he can groove. Someone with his natural skill set needs to find that consistency and patience at the plate. If Hernandez has indeed found that, he is back to top prospect levels.
He isn’t an elite prospect of the game by any means, now at the age of 24. But the 6-foot-2, 180 pound right-hander is presumably filled out and hasn’t sacrificed much power or speed along the way.
While he may still spend some time in Triple-A this year, he should have a real shot at the Blue Jays outfield in 2018. His defensive abilities paired with improved strike zone judgement and 20/20 potential, seem to pave his way to a future big-league outfield spot.