At some point, the Houston Astros are going to need to locate a new center fielder. Dexter Fowler has been listed as a possible trade chip, and even if he is not moved, he is a free agent after next season. Robbie Grossman could potentially be the next center fielder for the Astros, but he may end up being the left fielder of the present and, possibly, the future. Until cloning is perfected for humans, Grossman cannot play two positions at once.
However, that center fielder of the future may be thought of as being close to reaching the majors. Even though it is unlikely that Teoscar Hernandez will be in the majors to start the 2016 season, he has certainly begun to garner attention for his performance in the minor leagues.
Last season, split between the Lancaster JetHawks and the Corpus Christi Hooks, Hernandez produced a .292/.362/.535 batting line with 21 home runs and 37 doubles. This comes a year after Hernandez hit 13 home runs for the Quad Cities River Bandits, showing that he could be developing as a potential middle of the order hitter for the Astros. While his 153 strikeouts, including 36 in 98 AA plate appearances, are a bit troubling, he may be able to correct that with more familiarity at the AA level.
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With a strikeout rate that high, it would seem likely that Teoscar Hernandez would have a relatively high batting average on balls in play to produce that batting line. In Lancaster, that BABiP was an astonishing .373, 49 points higher than the league average of .324. Yet, that average paled in comparison to his performance at Corpus Christi, where Hernandez had a .418 BABiP in his limited sample size. Overall, when Hernandez made contact, he produced a .381 BABiP.
The biggest key for Hernandez going forward will likely be his ability to make consistent contact. Good things seem to happen when he puts the bat on the ball, but that strikeout rate may begin to become problematic as he progresses through the minors. Advanced pitchers will not make the same types of mistakes that he was able to punish, and they would be able to exploit any holes in his swing.
However, there is hope that Teoscar Hernandez can make those adjustments needed. For as high as his strikeout rate was, 27.5% across the two levels, Hernandez also walked 9.2% of the time. That batting eye may help Hernandez attack mistakes early in the count, cutting down the strikeout rate. Likewise, he may be able to see the game plan being executed against him, and adjust accordingly.
Teoscar Hernandez has the potential to be the Astros center fielder of the future. The biggest key for that may be his ability to put the bat on the ball more consistently.