We now delve into the top 10 on our list! The first, and largest, of what became many international investments made on the international market by the Blue Jays and Alex Anthopoulos is next in Cuban…..
#10: Adeiny Hechavarria
Short Stop / 22 years old / 5’11″ 180 lbs
Born: April 15th 1989, in Santiago de Cuba
Bats Right Throws Right
Cuban League Team: Santiago de Cuba
Signed: as an international free agent for $10 million ($4 million bonus, $0.5 million in 2010, $2 million in 2011, $1.75 million in 2012, and $1.75 million in 2013 – (all figures courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts) – Signed by Marco Paddy
- Hopes to bring his parents, father (Diosmede) and mother (Mirta), as well as brother (Alien) to America once he makes it to The Show.
- Is said to have close to no body fat, but is wiry and strong.
- Was rated as having the best tools of any Jays infielder defensively by Baseball America pre-2011 and was ranked 13th in their Jays prospect rankings.
- Keith Law from ESPN was quoted describing Hechavarria as follows: “I see above-average run, throw and probably field tools, but the bat is a work in progress.”
- Another credible source was quoted stating the following: “I saw him twice and he reminded me of a young Tony Fernandez,” said a former GM, “both his actions in the field and with the bat.”
- A scout stated the following: “He’s stronger than Fernandez,””He’s a live wire, with a good looking, live body. Everything he does has some zest and pop to it. He fields the ball well, he’s not going to be a home run hitter, but the ball comes off his bat well. He’s wiry. Wiry strong.”
- Yet another evaluator stated the following: “I saw him hit balls down the left-field line, right-field line and into the gaps,””If you see him in a uniform, you’d think skinny, but he has long, loose muscles.”
- Some people seem to believe that he may move to the OF, although I know many would dispute the need for such a move.
- Asked about the differences between playing in Cuba and playing in the U.S., Adeiny noted that pitchers and pitches were the same caliber, but “The ballparks are much nicer here.”
- Even though he avoided becoming his heir in NY, Adeiny’s favorite MLB player in Derek Jeter.
- He is already speaking with Yunel Escobar who is waiting for him to arrive in Toronto, and also talks with Jose Iglesias and Jose Contreras.
Jersey Number: #22 for the New Hampshire Fishercats
- Adeiny in batting practice video available here.
- His first AA AB available here, his 4th AA AB here, and a AA single here, another here.
- Adeiny stealing a base here, then gets in a pitcher’s head here.
- During his last season in Cuba, Adeiny hit .262 with 6 DB, 2 TR, 1 HR, and a .977 fielding % (5 errors in 217 chances).
Alex Anthopoulos signed Adeiny Hechavarria at a time when he was being chased for the same amount of money to be the heir apparent to Derek Jeter in New York. The fact that Hechavarria chose the Jays ahead of the Yankees already makes him a favorite in my books, despite the fact that he did so because the path to the majors was much easier in Toronto and the money was the same. A great breakdown of how Hechavarria became a Blue Jay, moment by moment, is available here.
Touching on Hechavarria’s family status, here is a quote from Alex Anthopoulos:
“He seems like he’s very close to his family,” Anthopoulos said. “And that’s something that — it’s hard to even relate to that and what these players go through, wanting to play in the major leagues and bettering themselves financially for their families. And we asked him that, specifically. One of his goals is to get to the big leagues and to be able to bring his family to Canada.”
I may be wrong here, but it seems that everyone assessing Adeiny Hechavarria‘s 2010 performance was much harder on him than they would have been on anyone else that made the leap to AA at age 21. He’s younger than Travis d’Arnaud who played in HiA Dunedin, close to 2 and a half years younger than Eric Thames, and is only 8 months older than Brett Lawrie who has been applauded for being in AA at such a young age. My point, he was very young for the AA level by most standards and should be applauded for doing well despite this and the fact that he was facing the cultural shock of a lifetime.
The Blue Jays handled Hechavarria the wrong way from the start in HiA Dunedin, and Jays fans need to come to terms with that. The mistake made was to not have anyone on staff who could speak his language, and therefore, he received much less instructions than he should have upon his arrival to the United States. How many players can adjust to a new culture and play well defensively or offensively without being able to speak to other players or coaches? Sure, Rey Gonzalez was there for a while to translate, and other players may have done the same for him. But, it was not a consistent line of communication that Hechavarria could use to learn how they wanted him to play defensively, to touch on how he could do some things better as a team, or how to better his approach at the plate.
I would also imagine that he got very little preparation in terms of what to expect from opposing pitchers and what to look for as a result. So, here he was, in a new surroundings, with little communication to help him get through things and to better his game, and without the language skills to communicate with other players on the team – and just as importantly particularly for a short stop, on the field. All of this after giving the following quote in an interview:
“Every day you have to find a way to improve,” he said. “And until I feel good (about my batting) I’ll find a way to get a little better every day.”
Where I give the Blue Jays full marks is that they recognized this early on in the season and addressed it. And by they, I mean Mel Didier who is a scout with the Jays. He’s the one who asked to have him promoted when he learned that nobody on staff in Dunedin was fluent in Spanish. When Hechavarria was promoted, everyone, myself included, seemed surprised about it because we only saw the stats and how much he was struggling at the plate. Instead, Adeiny got better and started to drive the ball hard to all fields. The key to the improvement was New Hampshire’s Manager in 2010, Luis Rivera, a Puerto Rico native who helped get Adeiny focused and relaxed. When asked about Rivera’s influence in a question and answer session, Adeiny stated the following:
“I found out about Luis when I was in Dunedin. I’ve learned a lot from Luis. He’s like my professor as well as my manager, and I’m continuing to learn from him every day. Because Luis was a shortstop, like I am.”
Had this move not been made, or worse, had he been demoted instead, the results if his 2010 season could have been an embarassment to the Jays who signed him to such a wealthy contract.
In terms of tools, Adeiny is a line drive hitter that uses the entire field, runs the bases extremely well although he hasn’t made as much use of his tremendous speed as he could (something the Jays will likely ask him to be more aggressive with in 2011 and beyond), and he still has enough strength to one day belt out 10-20 HRs in the majors to go along with many doubles. He has soft hands, a very strong and accurate arm, outstanding range, and the ability to turn some spectacular double plays.
Now that we know about the tools, the next thing I want to touch on in terms of Adeiny Hechavarria and assesing his potential is his fellow Cuban and friend, Jose Iglesias. Iglesias is now a Red Sox prospect and their heir apparent to the SS position, which makes him a natural comparison to Hechavarria who is Toronto’s SS of the future playing at the same level. They both come from Cuba, and both signed massive deals, with the one signed by Iglesias coming a year before Hechavarria and worth $8.25 million. Iglesias got to North America one year earlier, allowing him to get acclimated to North American life a little earlier than Hechavarria. Since Adeiny struggled for various reasons in HiA, I’ll assess their offensive performances in AA, since they both had a fairly similar amount of playing time there in 2010:
- Iglesias: 221 AB / .285 AVG / 63 hits / 10 DB / 3 TR / 0 HR / 13 RBI / 79 TB / 8 BB / 49 SO / 5 SB / 2 CS / .315 OBP / .357 SLG / .672 OPS
- Hechavarria: 253 AB / .273 AVG / 69 hits / 11 DB / 1 TR / 3 HR / 34 RBI / 91 TB / 12 BB / 40 SO / 6 SB / 3 CS / .305 OBP / .360 SLG / .665 OPS
The stats are so similar that it’s really hard to point out any major differences, this despite the head start that Iglesias got in getting comfortable in North America. While both players have similarities, one point I’d make here is that Hechavarria has at least shown the ability to have some power in his wiry swing, while Iglesias is pretty devoid of any power whatsoever, something that may guarantee Iglesias will hit 8th or 9th in the Red Sox lineup, while Hechavarria may be an eventual fit in the 2-hole for the Jays. Either way, both have to make real improvements at the plate to be effective in the majors, and both will likely be pushed quickly to the show due to their contracts. So, they’ll likely have to learn a lot of their hitting on the job and will get the best instruction there anyhow. Both have incredible defensive abilities that pretty much guarantee that they’ll make an appearance in The Show.
The point I’m trying to make here is simply this: the difference between Hechavarria and Iglesias is not as big as some make it out to be. While Iglesias has a slight edge defensively, both are rated as above-average at the position, so when we add in the lack of power from Iglesias and the potential 10-20 HRs from Hechavarria, it becomes a close as can be stale mate in terms of potential. Iglesias even went on to a lackluster .269 average, .292 OBP, .284 slugging, and 1 extra base hit in 67 ABs in the AFL in 2010, something that isn’t very promising for his offensive future.
Many people don’t see it that way and are boosting the status of Iglesias while putting Hechavarria down, something I really don’t understand at this point. Hopefully that’s enough motivation to make things click for him in 2011 and something that will drive him to prove the doubters wrong.
The way I see the Adeiny Hechavarria situation is as follows: he will learn to hit well enough to become a 2-hole hitter, he will make the pitchers he plays behind better because of his defensive abilities and great range, he will become a mainstay with the Jays as their SS for a long time, and he will prove many doubters wrong.
As far as his arrival time in Toronto, I touched on it in an earlier post that looked at each option the Jays have in terms of positions and timing. The Jays have a lot riding on the progression of Hechavarria and are therefore not going to rush him up to The Show. He should spend the majority of 2011 in the minors, but if he does break out beginning in spring training and through the first portion of the season, he could get the call sooner than people think. That’s mostly because the only thing holding him back from the majors at this point is his bat. Once that catches up to his defensive abilities, he should make an appearance with the Jays.
Expected 2011 Team: New Hampshire (AA) or Las Vegas (AAA)
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: Starting MLB Short Stop
Jays fans should be excited to see what’s to come from Adeiny Hechavarria in 2011, because he has the potential to be a real difference maker in the infield and in the lineup. He and Brett Lawrie (21) could both make an appearance this season, but will both surely be a part of the 2012 lineup. They’ll become key pieces as parts of the core of the Jays as they chase their next championship down.