Adeiny Hechavarria Improving in New Hampshire


I have always been a believer in Adeiny Hechavarria becoming the SS of the future for the Toronto Blue Jays. Why? Well, to me, the evidence lies in his defensive abilities, which would place him in the top 5 of all of MLB short stops if he was promoted to The Show today. Once you know that, you know that he will be able to man the SS position and the question becomes whether or not he can hit. Based on reports gathered from various scouting sites and videos, I really do think he has a good chance to impress even the most serious doubters when he develops in the majors, and that he’ll become a very important part of the Jays as they take aim at their next championships. Of late, Adeiny has shown glimpses that point to my opinion being credible, and he is outpacing the progression of other Cuban prospects who have come before him, or are coming up along with him.

Adeiny Hechavarria, as compared to Jose Iglesias (21 years old)

The Red Sox also made a big splash in terms of acquiring Cuban players when they signed Jose Iglesias, a short stop many say has incredible defensive abilities. Despite having a questionable bat, Iglesias was ranked 52nd on BA’s prospect ranking list pre-season while Hechavarria was left off the top 100 list altogether, and he began the 2011 season in AAA. The result, offensively speaking, hasn’t been pretty:

.227/.273/.245 with only 5 doubles, no triples or home runs, 7 SB (3 CS), and he has gotten worse of late with a .189/.231/.216 line over his last 10 games

Simultaneously, Adeiny Hechavarria who is 22 years old and playing in AA, has achieved the following stats:

.237/.276/.351 with 22 doubles, 6 triples, 6 HRs, 19 SB (12 CS), and more importantly, he has gotten better of late with a .381/.422/.548 line over his last 10 games which also includes 3 doubles, 2 triples, and only 8 SO (19% rate)

Not only does Hechavarria show a lot more power than Iglesias, he also shows more power than most short stops his age playing in AA or higher. He has been able to keep his strike out rate down, striking out only 74 times in 456 ABs, good for a meager 16% strike out rate after striking out only 15% of the time in 2010. At the same time, his extra base hit rate has gone from 3.6% in 2010 to a much better 7.5% in 2011. That, to me, is the most significant improvement of all for Hechavarria in 2011, as it shows how much better his abiltiy to square a ball up has been in 2011. Added to his latest surge in hits, the Jays have a lot to be happy about when it comes to his overall development. Finally, his fielding percentage has also improved from .962% in 2010 to .974% in 2011 (Iglesias has a .972% fielding percentage in AAA).

Therefore, in my estimation, BA may have overlooked Hechavarria’s offensive output potential, and may also have over rated the potential for Jose Iglesias to hit at the highest level of the minors, nevermind in the majors. I firmly believe that if you were to ask all MLB teams whether or not they would rather have Jose Iglesias in their system or Adeiny Hechavarria, the majority would pick Hechavarria. The simple fact is that he will be an impact player both offensively and defensively speaking, while Iglesias will struggle to find his offensive form in the majors when he does make it to The Show.

Adeiny Hechavarria, as compared to Yunel Escobar when he was 23 years old and in AA

I’ve decided to compare Hechavarria’s performance this season to Escobar’s 2006 minor league season, when he was playing for the Braves AA affiliate as a 24 year old. I believe it’s a decent yardstick to use because both had time to get acclimatized to the U.S. by this point in their minors career and both had been signed after defecting from Cuba. Therefore, both dealt with similar issues and can therefore offer a decent comparison.

Yunel’s stats in 428 ABs that season were as follows:

.264/.361/.346 with 21 doubles, 4 triples, 2 HRs, 7 SB (9 CS), and he improved on those numbers from that point forward.

I’ll repost Adeiny’s stats below (through 456 ABs) for comparison’s sake

.237/.276/.351 with 22 doubles, 6 triples, 6 HRs, 19 SB (12 CS), and more importantly, he has gotten better of late with a .381/.422/.548 line over his last 10 games which also includes 3 doubles, 2 triples, and only 8 SO (19% rate)

Now, these 2 players have completely different strengths. While Yunel’s strengths are good defensive abilities, a good amount of power for a middle infielder, and great OBP, Adeiny’s strengths are very strong defensive abilities, above-average power for a middle infielder, and speed (which he needs to learn to use more effectively on the base paths).

What is striking about the comparison above, however, is the similar numbers of doubles, triples, HRs and extra base hits as a whole. Adeiny has a slight edge in power, with a 7.6% extra base hit rate over Yunel’s 6.3% rate that season, but overall, they are fairly evenly matched. The slugging percentages are almost identical, leaving only the averages, OBP, and steals as the differences between the two. Yunel has the edge for the first 2, while Adeiny has more than double the steals Yunel had. What we have to keep in mind, however, is that Yunel was 1 full year older than Adeiny. Therefore, overall, it’s feasible to rate the two players evenly when it comes to rating their performances in AA.

Will Adeiny follow into Yunel’s footsteps and improve from this point forward? We’ll soon find out, and my bet is a resounding yes. However, the Jays are definitely going to want to see him hit for better average and get on base more consistently before they consider calling him up. If he continues on his latest hot streak and finishes 2011 with a bang, he could begin the 2012 season in Las Vegas, with a chance for a call up at some point that season.

Conclusion

Adeiny Hechavarria has clearly outpaced Jose Iglesias as a SS prospect this season, making him one of the best up-and-coming SS prospects in the majors. While he has also matched Yunel Escobar’s potential at similar ages and at the same level, he still has some ways to go before getting the call to Toronto. Refining his hitting so that he is more consistently on base seems to be one of his biggest priorities at this point. Overall, however, he should remain in the minors through most of 2012, with the possibility of a call up late in the season if he tears it up.

What does it all mean? Well, the Jays have some options coming up on Aaron Hill’s contract. They can pick them both up at $8 million per season (for 2012 and 2013), or decline them and offer him arbitration, or decline them and let him walk without offering arbitration. My best guess at this point is that they will decline his options and offer him arbitration, making it a win-win situation for the Jays. If he picks it up, they get him for 1 season at the arbitration price, which is sure to be fairly low after a couple of lackluster seasons. Following that season, they will have Adeiny Hechavarria ready to take over at either SS or 2B, and will be able to let Hill go a lot more easily as a result. If he refuse to accept arbitration, the Jays inherit a sandwich round draft pick, and also get to tell the fans that they tried their best to work something out with one of the more respected members of the franchise. There’s a chance that they’ll rework his contract and/or try to extend him at a cheaper rate than $8 million per season, but that seems like a less likely option to me since the Jays have so many options marching up the ranks, including Hechavarria.

For those of you who believe that the Jays should just go out there and sign a 2B or SS FA this off season, just who do you have in mind? Jose Reyes seems like a long shot to say the least and would cost way too much money for someone who is already having issues with his legs at his age. Jimmy Rollins will likely remain with the big budget Phillies, and Kelly Johnson isn’t an upgrade over Hill since both have similar issues (have power but no average).

The only viable alternative would be for Alex Anthopoulos to once again attain a top notch player – a 2B or SS – from another team in return for a package of its numerous prospects. Since everyone is back at 0 in the off season, it seems highly unlikely that the Jays will find a willing trade partner.

Meanwhile, Adeiny Hechavarria is improving his game in New Hampshire. While he is currently very far from being an MLB player, he is making good headway towards becoming a viable every day player. If he continues his progression, Jays fans should be anxious to see him arrive at some point in late 2012. However, that also means that they will likely have to hope that Aaron Hill finds his hitting form between now and then, because it seems extremely unlikely that they will head elsewhere to find a 2B until Hechavarria arrives.

- MG

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Tags: Aaron Hill Adeiny Hechavarria Jose Iglesias Yunel Escobar

  • He’s Done it Again!

    Mat, I have been hoping you would do a post on this guy! Great analysis, thanks a lot!

    Jays are definitely in a spot to allow this guy to develop. Yunel is playing above average defensively and although Hill is not producing, he is also playing great D up the middle for the Blue Jays. I would like to see Hechevarria remain at SS though. If his skills on the diamond are as advertised there is absolutely no reason to fuddle him up by changing his defensive scenery.

    I know Jays fans are in a frenzy about all of the young call ups right now, but AA should be patient with this talent. Perhaps let him see a few AB in September then season him next year in AAA. But even that is risky.

    Stoked for Henderson’s start on Wednesday! Jose who…? Go Blue Jays!

  • He’s Done it Again!

    Mat, I have been hoping you would do a post on this guy! Great analysis, thanks a lot!

    Jays are definitely in a spot to allow this guy to develop. Yunel is playing above average defensively and although Hill is not producing, he is also playing great D up the middle for the Blue Jays. I would like to see Hechevarria remain at SS though. If his skills on the diamond are as advertised there is absolutely no reason to fuddle him up by changing his defensive scenery.

    I know Jays fans are in a frenzy about all of the young call ups right now, but AA should be patient with this talent. Perhaps let him see a few AB in September then season him next year in AAA. But even that is risky.

    Stoked for Henderson’s start on Wednesday! Jose who…? Go Blue Jays!

  • earlweaverfan

    I hear elsewhere that Hechavarria is much stronger against LHP than against RHP. It will be interesting to see whether his recent surge continues, and if it applies to either type of pitcher.

  • earlweaverfan

    I hear elsewhere that Hechavarria is much stronger against LHP than against RHP. It will be interesting to see whether his recent surge continues, and if it applies to either type of pitcher.

  • jaysfan#2

    I love the defense but historically players that do not control the strike zone (obp) do not have success in the big leagues.. Yunel was leaps and bounds better in that aspect at similar ages. The slugging is not that big a deal to me as both would be 8-12 homerun type guys..

  • jaysfan#2

    I love the defense but historically players that do not control the strike zone (obp) do not have success in the big leagues.. Yunel was leaps and bounds better in that aspect at similar ages. The slugging is not that big a deal to me as both would be 8-12 homerun type guys..