The Blue Jays announced Thursday that outfielder Teoscar Hernandez has been optioned to Triple-A Buffalo and that fellow outfielder Socrates Brito cleared waivers and has been assigned outright to Buffalo following his recent DFA. Infielder Richard Urena is up from Triple-A in place of Hernandez.
Toronto has held high hopes for Hernandez since acquiring him from the Astros back in 2017, but while he’s shown flashes of his potential, the 26-year-old has yet to establish himself as a consistent producer. Hernandez treated the Jays to about a half season’s worth of production last year, hitting at an impressive .268/.319/.550 pace with 12 homers, 16 doubles and five triples through the season’s first 54 games (238 plate appearances). Hernandez routinely lit up Statcast leaderboards with premium exit velocity readings and hit some prodigious home runs, but he slumped badly in the season’s second half and has seen his quality of contact take a nosedive in 2019.
So far this season, Hernandez is hitting just .189/.262/.299 with a near-30 percent strikeout rate. He’s connected on three home runs but has seen his average exit velocity dip from a hearty 91.8 mph to just 89 mph in 2019. His hard-hit rate, as measured by Statcast, has plummeted from 45.9 percent all the way to 34.9 percent, and he’s seen both his ground-ball and infield-fly rates increase over last season as well.
The endpoint here is arbitrary, but dating back to the middle of last June when his struggles seemingly begun, Hernandez is hitting .206/.279/.366 with a 35.2 percent strikeout rate through 426 plate appearances. That’s a far cry from his encouraging first two and a half months in 2018, and the Jays will hope that some time against lesser competition in a lower-pressure setting can get Hernandez back on track. If he can rebound, there’s still room for him to be a long-term option in the outfield or at designated hitter, but he’ll need to pare back the strikeouts and rediscover the frequent hard contact he made last season when he was in the 97th percentile of all big league hitters in terms of barreled-ball rate.
Brito, meanwhile, was designated for assignment last week after hitting just .077/.163/.128 in 43 plate appearances with the Jays. He’s already bounced from the D-backs to the Padres to the Blue Jays in a series of DFAs, but he went unclaimed this time around and will join Hernandez in attempting to get back on track in Triple-A.