No one is questioning Teoscar Hernández’s hitting anymore

CLEARWATER, Fla.—Teoscar Hernández entered the final couple spring trainings because the Blue Jays’ X-factor. This yr he arrived as the actual deal.

The Jays now not simply hope for fulfillment from Hernández, they’ve come to anticipate it. That’s what a pair of back-to-back Silver Slugger awards will do for a man who has turned uncooked abilities into the whole package deal whereas turning into one of many higher total hitters within the American League East.

It wasn’t all the time this fashion. The sixth-year slugger out of the Dominican Republic confirmed glimpses of success earlier than, like in 2017 when he slugged eight dwelling runs as a September call-up, or the next April when he slugged 4 extra with a Vladimir Guerrero Jr.-esque 1.054 on-base plus slugging share.

The problem was that he by no means appeared able to placing every part collectively for a full season. After a sizzling debut to 2018, his tempo slowed. The next yr, he needed to be despatched right down to the minors. Regardless of the apparent expertise, no one ever knew what to anticipate from one month to the following.

Hernández’s streaky nature appeared to alter in the course of the 2020 abbreviated season when he was the Jays’ high hitter with a .289/.340/.579 slash line. However these spectacular numbers needed to be taken with a grain of salt as a result of they got here throughout simply 50 video games.

The query of whether or not it might be sustained over 162 remained unanswered. Then got here 2021, and Hernandez put collectively an all-star season whereas hitting .296 with 32 homers and 116 RBIs. The skeptics had been silenced. Hernández is now considered as a bona fide run producer in one of many league’s high lineups.

“It’s an enormous distinction between now and three years in the past, and now I’ve extra expertise,” Hernández stated earlier than going 0-for-3 within the Jays’ 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday afternoon. “I’ve received increasingly confidence on the plate, and I simply attempt to hold my thoughts sturdy and go on the market with a plan, stick with it and see the outcomes.”

Hernández has spent lots of time over the previous few seasons speaking about his strategy. One yr he would really feel like he was being too aggressive, the following he was too passive. His intuition was to be a free swinger and making an attempt to withstand that urge made him overly tentative. The plan appeared to modified each different week.

Plate self-discipline was a giant a part of that however it hardly ever will get talked about as of late, and never for the explanations one would possibly assume. Hernández isn’t swinging much less, he’s swinging extra. In keeping with Statcast, the 29-year-old swung at 34.3 per cent of pitches outdoors the zone every of the final two seasons, which is up from 31.4 per cent and 32.2 per cent in his first two years with the Jays.

The identical factor occurred on pitches contained in the zone. In 2021, Hernández swung at 77 per cent of these choices, the very best mark of his profession. An total swing share of 51.9 per cent — on pitches inside and outdoors the zone — was a profession excessive, too.

Teoscar Hernández will be in his familiar spot behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the Blue Jays’ batting order.

So how does one clarify the career-high .346 on-base share in 2021? Properly, this isn’t a narrative a few man who instantly developed Jose Bautista’s eye on the plate, working deep counts each time he stepped into the field. As an alternative, it’s the story of a man who has embraced his aggressiveness, however in a approach the place he nonetheless has a transparent plan of assault.

If Hernández will get the pitch he’s searching for, in an space he’s anticipating it, he doesn’t usually miss. His zone contact, which signifies the variety of instances he makes contact on pitches contained in the zone, was a profession excessive 81.8 per cent final season, based on Fangraphs.

“I imply, placing up numbers like that, my confidence can be excessive, too,” Jays supervisor Charlie Montoyo stated of Hernández’s elevated capability on the plate. “When he gained the Silver Slugger, I bear in mind studying the numbers and going, ‘Oh my God, this man has numbers.’ If you’re speaking about Mike Trout and guys like that, he has numbers like that. He has been wonderful since 2019.”

Hernández is as soon as once more projected to be the Jays’ cleanup man, the place he’ll provide a little bit of safety to Guerrero. For the groups that don’t need to fiddle with the potential MVP, they’ll have a slugging all-star to cope with as an alternative. After final yr’s success, the sport plan hasn’t modified one bit.

“I’m simply making an attempt to maintain my thoughts sturdy. I attempted to do the identical work, getting my physique prepared for 162 video games … competing with my teammates and making an attempt to win ball video games,” Hernández stated.

Like all participant, Hernández will nonetheless undergo some ups and downs in 2022. One week he’ll appear to be among the finest hitters within the sport, the following it should appear to be he can’t hit a seaside ball. That’s how this sport works, even for the good ones.

However what Hernández has been in a position to do over the past two years is improve the peaks and restrict the valleys. That’s the way you go from a man who misplaced the arrogance of the teaching workers, to the purpose of needing to be despatched to the minors, to a man who will likely be within the lineup day-after-day.

The expectation from the Jays is extra of the identical. The man who was once a wild card is now an integral a part of the offence and one of many major causes this crew is so bullish on its probabilities at competing for a World Collection title.

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