Could the Astros center fielder of the future be in Triple-A?
As kind of the side piece in the Alex Bregman roster move at the end of June, Teoscar Hernandez has shown the Astros organization why he deserved the call-up to Triple-A Fresno. Now with the Astros stockpiling young outfielders in their minor league system, Hernandez has hit his way into consideration of being the center fielder of the future.
Signed by the Astros in 2011 as a non-roster free agent, Hernandez started his career very young, at the age of 18. For his first two seasons in rookie ball and A-ball, he showed that he was a speedy outfielder with a bit of pop in his bat.
However once he made it to Double-A, Hernandez’s bat quieted down. In his full season at Corpus Christi in 2015, he hit .219 with a .637 OPS, with 17 homers and 48 RBIs.
With all the outfielders the Astros were drafting, like Daz Cameron and Kyle Tucker, it seemed as though Hernandez’s time to shine was over. However, something in his bat clicked in 2016. At Corpus this season, Hernandez had a .305 average with a .821 OPS. He hit 25 extra base hits, including six home runs, and drove in 30. He also utilized his running game stealing 29 bases.
After 69 games at Corpus and a call up to Triple-A Fresno, Hernandez’s bat has not quieted. In his ten games in a Grizzlies uniform, he has a .375 average with a 1.130 OPS. Also, in his 43 at bats, 10 of his 15 hits have been for extra bases, including two home runs, and has driven in nine.
So what has Hernandez shifted in his offensive game to become more successful? He has become more of a patient hitter at the plate. In his 69 games at Corpus Christi, Hernandez had his lowest strikeout percentage since 2011, at 17.1%. In his ten games at Fresno, he has stuck out even less, with only five in 43 at bats.
Another key for Hernandez is that he has produced some of the highest BABIP averages for his career in 2016. In his 79 games between Corpus Christi and Fresno, he has produced a .359 and .394 BABIP and both respective levels.
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This has proved to be a major reason in where he is batting in the lineup. He has split his time between the two-spot and the six-spot in the lineup. In each role, he has done what he needed to do to be successful. Both spots have high batting averages in the low .400’s. In the two-spot, a spot where the hitter is expected to get on base with regularity, he has a higher on-base percentage at .455. In the six-spot, Hernandez has proved to be a run producer, recording five of his ten extra-base hits and producing a .882 slugging percentage from that spot.
"Hernandez has shown the Astros that he can be whatever the need for him to be offensively. With Carlos Gomez becoming a free agent after this season, there will most likely be a hole to fill at the major league level in center field. If Hernandez can keep proving himself offensively and become the main offensive producer for a soon to be Bregman-less Fresno team, the spot is his to lose come Opening Day 2017."
**Statistics provided by Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and MILB.com**