Projecting Astros Call-Up Teoscar Hernandez by Chris Mitchell August 15, 2016 Teoscar Hernandez has always possessed an enticing combination of power and speed. His primary flaw, however, has been his inability to make contact. In 2014, he belted 21 homers and stole 33 bags, but struck out 28% of the time. Last year, he posted 17 homers and 33 steals with a 24% strikeout rate. The end result was a .219/.275/.362 batting line. More often than not, hitters who strike out that frequently don’t carry their success over to the big leagues, and it wasn’t at all clear that Hernandez was ever going to make enough contact to make it work. But a funny thing started happening this year: Hernandez has seemingly learned how to avoid the strikeout. He opened the year at the Double-A level, where he hit .305/.384/.437 with a 17% strikeout rate. Following a promotion to Triple-A, he slashed .313/.365/.500 with a 16% strikeout clip. Despite the added contact, he still managed 10 homers in just over 100 games — plus one more in Houston on Friday. My KATOH projection system projects Hernandez for 3.1 WAR over his first six seasons by the traditional method and 2.7 WAR by the method that integrates Baseball America’s rankings. Those projections make him a top-200 prospect, but he still falls well short of cracking KATOH’s top-100. To help you visualize what his KATOH projection entails, here is a probability density function showing KATOH+’s projected distribution of outcomes for Teoscar’s first six seasons in the major leagues. To put some faces to Hernandez’s statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps for the toolsy outfielder. I calculated a weighted Mahalanobis distance between Hernandez’s performance this year and every Double-A and Triple-A season since 1991 in which an outfielder recorded at least 400 batters faced. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. A lower “Mah Dist” reading indicates a closer comp. Please note that the Mahalanobis analysis is separate from KATOH. KATOH relies on macro-level trends, rather than comps. The fates of a few statistically similar players shouldn’t be used to draw sweeping conclusions about a prospect’s future. For this reason, I recommend using a player’s KATOH forecast to assess his future potential. The comps give us some interesting names that sometimes feel spot-on, but they’re mostly just there for fun. Teoscar Hernandez’s Mahalanobis Comps Rank Name Mah Dist KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR 1 Prentice Redman 0.66 3.3 0.0 2 Chris Durbin 0.80 1.7 0.0 3 Cole Gillespie 0.91 2.0 0.1 4 Steve Hosey 0.95 1.5 0.0 5 Seth Smith 1.05 1.8 8.0 6 Troy O’Leary 1.14 2.1 8.1 7 Franklin Gutierrez 1.19 4.0 13.1 8 Cesar Crespo 1.19 1.7 0.0 9 Charles Poe 1.19 1.3 0.0 10 Terrell Lowery 1.31 2.1 0.7 Hernandez has done a lot of encouraging things in 2016. He’s made contact, drawn a reasonable number of walks, and as always, has demonstrated a rare combination of power and speed. But his ugly 2015 still looms large, and drags down his KATOH projection. As a projection system, KATOH is calibrated to be conservative on prospects like Hernandez. On average, players who perform like fringe prospects one year and future big league regulars the next wind up somewhere in-between. Somewhere in-between isn’t very exciting. But if Hernandez finds a way to sustain his newfound contact skills, he stands a good chance of being a very productive player.