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Teoscar Hernandez - Promising or Pretender?

Every new beginning signifies an end elsewhere. This was the case for Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Teoscar Hernandez last season. The hard-hitting righty broke through in more ways than one in his first full year in the big leagues, finishing with a .239/.302/.468 line, and most importantly 22 home runs. The path to the plate wasn’t clear-cut for Hernandez, though. An injury to Blue Jays' third baseman Josh Donaldson opened up a spot on the 25-man roster, but before that, expectations were tepid.

An overcrowded outfield in Houston forced Hernandez out the door last July as he was traded to the Jays in the Francisco Liriano deal, but it wasn’t all bad - he still received a World Series ring from his former club. Hernandez flashed power but also showed holes in his swing that could be cause for alarm.

While Hernandez showed promise last season, is he capable of helping you win in fantasy? Here's a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly side of the 26-year-old.

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The Upside: Power

After a rocky start to his career, by the All-Star break, a silver lining was already present. Hernandez smacked 10 HR in the first half of the season, encouraging signs from a player who was never expected to be a mainstay in Toronto’s lineup.

The small sample size left the paltry percentage of fantasy owners that took a waiver wire gamble on him feeling optimistic. Hey, who can blame them – the stats looked great. By the end of the season, Hernandez’s respectable 91.8 MPH average exit velocity left him sitting 21st among the 332 hitters that qualified, showing that a future power surge could be right around the corner.

Rank Player Exit Velocity (AVG)
1. Aaron Judge 94.7
2. Nelson Cruz 93.9
3. Joey Gallo 93.9
4. Giancarlo Stanton 93.7
5. Robinson Cano 93.1
6. Matt Olson 93.1
7. Matt Chapman 93.0
8. J.D. Martinez 93.0
9. Tommy Pham 92.8
10. Mark Trumbo 92.8
11. Shohei Ohtani 92.6
12. Ryan Zimmerman 92.6
13. Khris Davis 92.5
14. Franmil Reyes 92.3
15. Kendrys Morales 92.3
16. Daniel Palka 92.3
17. Christian Yelich 92.3
18. Mookie Betts 92.3
19. Jackie Bradley Jr 91.9
20. Ryan Braun 91.9
21. Teoscar Hernandez 91.8
22. Chris Iannetta 91.7
23. Jorge Alfaro 91.6
24. Manny Machado 91.6
25. David Peralta 91.5

As you can see, Hernandez is up there with some pretty important company, which adds up considering his hard-hit rate skyrocketed from 28.3% in 2017 to 37.3% last year. Mind you, it's probably worth noting that the Blue Jays as a team ranked 20th in the league in hard-hit rate, making Herandez’s numbers stand out a little more.


The Downside: Strikeouts

Obviously, blistering power means very little when you're failing to put bat to ball. Hernandez's contact rate speaks for itself: 64%, which ranked second-last among qualified hitters ahead of Joey Gallo. But wait, there's more - all of those hacks left Hernandez with a strikeout rate of 31.2%, good for the fourth highest total in the Majors behind Yoan Moncada, Gallo, and Chris Davis.

It goes without saying that the main problem came on fastballs. Hernandez registered just 70 hits and 77 strikeouts against the pitch, while he was almost as poor against breaking balls, swinging and missing at over 20% down and inside.

For the time being, Hernandez is in no danger of losing his job in the field, but a steady stream of crooked strikeout numbers mixed with frustrating contact rates could certainly force him out of regular playing time. A plethora of talent coming up through the minors, including the oft-injured Anthony Alford, could also make 2019 rather interesting.

Producing double-digit numbers in the home run column could be enough to save Hernandez, but unfortunately, the Jays don't need any help in that department after ranking fourth in home runs hit last year. Strikeouts are an area the Blue Jays do need to clean up, though. They ranked ninth in strikeout percentage in 2018, and with a bunch of incoming rookies likely to flood the lineup over the next two seasons, all eyes will be on Hernandez.


The Projection: Watch the Wire

Hernandez was drafted 449th overall among outfielders last season, and after a slight uptick, NFBC currently has his ADP pegged at 287.54, ahead of veteran Adam Jones.

The good news is Hernandez has been honing his skills in the Dominican Winter League this offseason. Judging by reports, he's passing with flying colors. In the 14 games he's played in thus far, Hernandez has struck out just 12 times in 53 at-bats, good for a .267/.358/.422 line.

Hernandez was certainly susceptible to a swing-and-miss (or three) last season. Not to sound like a broken record, but you need to understand strikeouts are part of his game. From a fantasy perspective, keep in mind he had 46 multi-strikeout nights in the 134-games he played in last season. In both standard and OBP leagues, Hernandez is ownable, but he’s probably nothing more than a bench option unless you're in a super deep league, or if he cleans up his plate discipline enough to take a big step forward. If this is the case, he could become a priority waiver add.

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