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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Teoscar Hernández

Hernández is inconsistent and his on-base skills are far from elite, but he could provide some much-needed impact power in the middle of the Yankees lineup.

Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Teoscar Hernández has a reputation for being a powerful slugger with issues getting consistently on base and a suspect glove. Whether all of those things remain true remains to be seen and will be discussed in this article, but the fact is that he is now a free agent and teams can gamble on that future.

The Yankees, as you probably know, were one of the league’s worst offensive teams last year — and that’s with 106 games of Aaron Judge. They could use a player capable of hitting 20 homers per season, especially if he calls the outfield his home.

2023 Statistics: 160 games, 678 PA, .258/.305/.435, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 105 wRC+, 1.8 fWAR

2024 FanGraphs Depth Charts Projections: 151 games, 651 PA, .257/.310/.453, 28 HR, 92 RBI, 106 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR

Previous Contract: Third arbitration year at $14 million with the Mariners

Now, who is Teoscar Hernández? He is a career .261/.316/.486 hitter with a 7.0 percent walk rate, a 29.7 percent strikeout rate and a 117 wRC+. Evidently, the on-base percentage is a tad low for the Yankees’ needs, but the slugging percentage is very, very nice.

So, yes: Hernández is a powerful slugger with issues consistently getting on base. His contact issues usually result in batting average fluctuations and streakiness, and he doesn’t have a good walk rate. He can mash, though. Since 2018, he has hit 22 home runs or more in each full season, peaking at 32 in 2021. He even hit 16 round-trippers in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. His .225 career isolated power (ISO) is rock solid, and he accumulated 57 extra-base hits in 2023.

The Yankees seriously need outfield help. They can’t keep relying on the Billy McKinney, Willie Calhoun, or Franchy Cordero types. Harrison Bader is out of the picture, Jasson Domínguez is injured and Giancarlo Stanton can’t be counted on to play more than a handful of innings in the outfield.

Hernández is an outfielder and is, as his 117 career wRC+ indicates, a good hitter. He would fit in with the Yankees, without a doubt, because their lineup is the definition of mediocre. It would be ideal if he was a center fielder, sure, but it doesn’t matter: from a baseball standpoint, he fits. If the Yankees decide to look elsewhere or allocate their resources a certain way, that’s another subject.

It’s important to point out that he had a 31.1 percent strikeout rate in 2023, but he also posted a 90th percentile hard-hit rate (49.4 percent) and an 88th percentile barrel rate (13.8). He punishes the ball.

Baseball Savant

It’s also necessary to discuss Hernández’s overall inconsistency. It can be maddening at times and it has plagued him his whole career. Let’s, for example, take a look at his monthly wRC+ finishes:

March/April: 84

May: 82

June: 160

July: 46

August: 191

September/October: 76

Hernández’s reputation, as we mentioned in the beginning of the article, is that of a mediocre defender: a well below-average one. He was, for some time — for example; in 2018, his DRS was -12 and his OAA was -6.

However, baseball players can get better. They train, they practice, and they learn. And Hernández, at least judging by the numbers, is now a decent defensive outfielder. His DRS went from -12 to -7 in 2019, -2 in each of 2020, 2021, and 2022; to 1 in 2023. That’s steady progress right there. He also finished this past season with a career-high 0 OAA, and he had a career-high 12 outfield assists, so there is that.

Whether the Yankees sign Hernández or not will probably hinge on how successful they are in signing their top targets. There hasn’t been much noise about Shohei Ohtani, but they do seem really interested in Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Cody Bellinger. If they fail to land both and are forced to look at the middle tier of free agents, then it’s not hard to see them increasing their interest on Hernández.

One thing is clear: he would be a marvelous addition to their lineup. Without being a hero or a savior, he is the type of hitter the Yankees should be targeting and accumulating. He is not a perfect offensive player, but if he had more contact or on-base ability, he would be getting a lot more attention.