The Blue Jays have brought outfielder Teoscar Hernandez back from Triple-A Buffalo, according to a team announcement, with Jonathan Davis going back to Buffalo in the corresponding move. Hernandez is in tonight’s starting lineup in center field, and general manager Ross Atkins told reporters (including Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi) that Toronto will regularly deploy Hernandez as a center fielder going forward.
The idea of Hernandez in such an important defensive role would have been unthinkable even a few months ago, as the 26-year-old looked borderline unplayable in left field for much of the 2018 season. However, a lot of offseason work led to a big turnaround in the early portion of this season, as Hernandez had a 20.8 UZR/150 and a +1 Defensive Run Saved over 295 1/3 innings as a left fielder in 2019.
Center field presents a much larger challenge, as Hernandez hasn’t played the position at the big-league level since 2017. The Jays would probably just be happy with average glovework from Hernandez in center as they continue to sort through their outfield picture. Randal Grichuk has seen the bulk of center field work since Kevin Pillar was traded to the Giants, though Grichuk will now move back to right field. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. should continue to see regular duty in left field, with Brandon Drury and Cavan Biggio also available for corner outfield work.
Beyond playing center field at Buffalo, Hernandez’s time at Triple-A was also intended as a way to get himself sorted at the plate. Hernandez was hitting just .189/.262/.299 at the time of his demotion, with only three homers in 141 PA and suffering from a huge dropoff in his power. Hernandez was a very hot-and-cold hitter in 2018, though he finished the season with a .239/.302/.468 slash line, 22 home runs, and a 107 wRC+ over 532 PA.