Passan: Mariners seeing signs from Hernández, what to do with Wong

May 17, 2023, 12:45 PM

Mariners Kolten Wong Teoscar Hernández...

Mariners 2B Kolten Wong and RF Teoscar Hernández collide on a pop fly on April 8, 2023. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Two of the Seattle Mariners’ biggest offseason acquisitions came on the hitting side of things in second baseman Kolten Wong and outfielder Teoscar Hernández.

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Neither has gotten off to the best of starts, but ESPN’s Jeff Passan thinks there’s less reason to worry about one than the other.

“I feel like you’ve at least seen some signs over the last couple of weeks, right?” Passan told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk of Hernández.

Hernández has been one of baseball’s top hitters and sluggers in recent years, but he had a very rough month of April for the Mariners.

And while the power numbers haven’t shot up and he’s still striking out at a high clip, Hernández is hitting over .300 for the month of May, and his season OPS is now up to .713 after being under .700 for most of the season.

“Here’s what you need to know about Teoscar Hernández,” Passan said. “He is not going to walk and he is going to strike out a lot. I think with a player like him, you just need to come to terms with the weaknesses. The weaknesses are always going to be there, but the question is can he summon those strengths? And that’s something that he’s managed to do, I think. Despite not walking, he’s getting on base more, he’s hitting for average, he’s shown some of the power.

“Is it the guy who was in Toronto playing at an All-Star level? No. But is it enough of a sign that you sit there and say, ‘I can see something good coming of this’? Absolutely. So yeah, the answer is I’m not concerned yet. But I also think that a recalibration of expectations (is needed) for those who may have thought, ‘Oh, perhaps he cuts down the strikeout rate, or maybe he’ll walk a little more,’ that’s probably not going to happen.”

As for Wong, it’s a very different case.

“I mean, the the answer is very simple. He just hasn’t been good there,” Passan said.

Wong is slashing a lowly .177/.259/.208 on the year, and he’s also had his share of issues defensively, including two miscues in Tuesday’s loss in Boston.

If Hernández has more struggles throughout the year, Passan doesn’t see the Mariners as having a clear in-house replacement for him in the outfield. That’s not the case with Wong and the second base position.

“I wonder if this just means more playing time for José Caballero who’s been a nice surprise and who does put the ball in play and who does get on base and who has played well defensively,” he said. “I think you give Kolten Wong a little bit of (a leash), but certainly not as much as you’re giving Teoscar Hernández. And I think Kolten Wong is a lot more fungible than Teoscar Hernández is because in Caballero, you have a ready-made replacement … There’s just nobody there who’s clearly going to be better than Teoscar Hernández. But I think right now José Caballero has clearly been better than Kolten Wong.”

Listen to the full interview with Passan, who joins Brock and Salk every week, at this link or in the player below.

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Passan: Mariners seeing signs from Hernández, what to do with Wong