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Blue Jays hoping Montoyo makes the difference for Teoscar Hernandez

Charlie Montoyo was hired as the next Blue Jay manager for many different reasons, including the hope that he can help Teoscar Hernandez reach his potential.

It’s amazing how much things can change in a year, and that’s especially true for the Toronto Blue Jays. This time last year we were debating whether a few tweaks and a better year of health could get the Jays back in contention, or if it was time to start the rebuild. We know the answer in hindsight.

One of the other big conversations last winter was about how to get Teoscar Hernandez regular at bats in the Blue Jays lineup. He had been acquired that summer from the Astros in a deal that also brought Nori Aoki to Toronto in exchange for Francisco Liriano, and it was a trade that looked like it would work out incredibly well for Ross Atkins. Hernandez responded by hitting eight September home runs in 2017, and was arguably the most dangerous hitter in the lineup during the final month. There had to be a way to get him into the lineup regularly.

However, the offseason additions of Randal Grichuk and Curtis Granderson crowded the outfield depth chart enough that Hernandez started the year in Triple-A Buffalo. It didn’t take long though, so a few injuries later and Hernandez found himself in Toronto, and starting off in a similarly hot fashion.

Fast forward through the 2018 season and a lot of the shine has come off of Hernandez’s star to Blue Jays fans. Instead of seeing a potential middle of the order power threat, now fans see a guy who can’t play defence, and strikes out way too much. The lanky outfielder finished the year hitting .239/.302/.468 with 22 home runs and 57 RBI, playing in 134 games. He did add 29 doubles as well, but his 163 strikeouts against 41 walks in 476 at bats really stand off the page. What’s worse, his defence ranked right near the bottom for outfielders across baseball.

On the plus side, Hernandez has found himself in the midst of a rebuild in Toronto, so there will be a little more patience for his development than there would be in, say, New York or Boston right now. That said, the Blue Jays have a ton of minor league talent in their pipeline, and Hernandez will need to perform in order to maintain his spot in the short, and long term outlook of this ball club.

The Blue Jays are hoping that they’ve already brought in a little help for the 26 year old outfielder in the form of their new manager, Charlie Montoyo. Nothing at all against John Gibbons, but the thought is that Montoyo’s skill set and experience should be of great benefit to guys like Hernandez. Being bilingual he’ll have the opportunity to communicate directly with Hernandez, and he’s also got a great deal of experience working with outfielders on the glove side of the game.

According to an article from the Toronto Sun by Steve Buffery, it sounds like Atkins is optimistic that Montoyo will make a difference, and that they still believe in Hernandez’s potential to be a serviceable outfielder.

“I’m really excited for he and Charlie to get together,” said Atkins. “(And) I’m really excited about our opportunities with our R&D department to work with him on his defence. We will have a new first base/outfield coach for him to work with and that will be a priority for us this off-season. I’ve talked to his agent about it, I talked to Teoscar about it. Teoscar’s one of the hardest working guys we have, so it’s a great opportunity.”

The reality is, 2019 is the perfect season for the Blue Jays to see what they’ve got in Hernandez. They’re not expected to compete, and while it might be frustrating to watch him struggling in the outfield, there is a potential for a decent pay off if he can figure things out. He’s never going to turn into Kevin Pillar out there, but he profiles as someone who should be an asset on defence, so you would like to believe that the right kind of coaching breakthrough could at least make him league average. He runs well, has a decent arm, and has a big stride, all things that should help him make his glove an asset.

Those things obviously aren’t enough to make him into a great outfielder though, and the hope is that a couple of new voices like Montoyo and whomever is hired to take over as the first base coach, will make a big difference for Hernandez.

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I’m willing to bet the Blue Jays could live with high strikeout numbers in exchange for a power bat in the lineup, but he’ll need to improve on defence to justify keeping him around as a building block. Here’s hoping a fresh start and some new guidance will help him do just that.

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