Adeiny Hechavarria has Improved, is it Enough?


Adeiny Hechavarria has received some pretty regular playing time at his position of choice as of late.  A by-product of necessity and a decent run of play by the Jays rookie shortstop.  In September, Adeiny has improved across the board, putting up an above average .340 wOBA, halving his August strikeout numbers (in only eight less at bats), and upped his walk rate from 1.7% to 6.0%.

I did a piece recently discussing the Blue Jays spine and how these positions may play out next season.  In it, I argued that

Aug. 27, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (3) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the New York Yankees during the fifth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

Hechavarria, if breaking with the Jays in April 2013, should only do so as a shortstop.  That way he would be a plus defender at a premium defensive position.  This would mask the fact that he would probably be a replacement level bat at best.

His recent run of games doesn’t even qualify as small sample size, but watching Hechavarria of late has left me more comfortable that he could man the position without being a black hole on the offensive side.  The shift might only be slight, but I think it is fair to say that Adeiny has impressed since his re-call.  Defensively he is major league ready.  At the plate, he has been doing what a young hitter should, punish mistakes, and he has been doing so with a bit of pop.

Of course, pitchers do not have enough data yet to exploit his weaknesses.  It’s how he adjusts to the league when they catch up which will dictate what kind of long term hitter he can be.

Predicting what will happen this off-season is a fool’s errand.  Too many negatives have afflicted the club this season.  Changing for the sake of change could very well be the worst course of action.  The circumstances surrounding Yunel Escobar’s eye black fiasco and John Farrell’s subsequent vague allusions to baseball related ‘sit downs’ he’s had to have with him may mean the relationship damage is irreparable and Alex Anthopolous will look to cut his losses this winter.  I’m not going to speculate.

And despite my assertions above that I’d be more comfortable with Adeiny as the Jays shortstop than I was in August, I am still not sold that it would be the right move.  Looking at Escobar’s career WAR figures, he is prone to inconsistency:

Excuse my idiocy, y-axis values should read 2007-2012 rather than 1-6

You’ll have to excuse the roughness of the graph, but I’m not used to using excel on my Mac.  As per the caption, the numbers are from 2007 through 2012.

Using historical back testing to predict future performance is a dangerous game.  But, according to the numbers, Yunel is due a bit of a bounce next season.  At a salary of five million, the Jays hold a very cheap option on that upside.  Could he regress even further?  Maybe.  But if I was to run a statistical simulation predicting next year’s performance, I’m guessing I’d get a high probability the option is in the money.

(the above analysis is not scientific.  I know people have created models that do attempt to predict future performance but for the purpose of this article is not necessarily needed)

Right now Escobar’s value is at it’s lowest.  Removing all extraneous factors, emotion, etcetera from the equation, the decision is pretty easy.  Allow Escobar to increase his value with the Jays while Hechavarria works on his hit tool in Buffalo, away from spotlight in Toronto, and, of course, the offensive paradise that is the Pacific Coast League.

Worst case Yunel regresses further and Adeiny struggles in the International League.  But even then you are not much worse off than you are now.  You call up a plus defender and look to move Yunel.  Looking at the shortstop WAR leader-board it is not exactly a golden age for the position.  Someone will bite on his potential upside.

Best case scenario, they both play well.  Then you have options.  A position any general manager would like to be in.

I know there may not be the excitement there was last off-season, but with question marks over so many positions/players, it should definitely prove to be an interesting one.