In his first two full MLB seasons, Hechavarria has been bipolar. His rookie year of 2013 was about the worst case scenario a hitter can experience, with a .227/.267/.298 slash line over a full season. Yes, the Marlins trotted that .565 OPS out there for 578 plate appearances, en route to the club’s second-ever 100-loss season.
The Marlins have been in love with Hechavarria’s defense since acquiring him from Toronto in the infamous 2012 salary dump, but the advanced metrics haven’t been kind to his play in the field. In that 2013 disaster Hechavarria posted a 0.3 dWAR (Baseball Reference) and a -2.3 Def (Fangraphs).
Determined that he was a future perennial All-Star, the Marlins handed Hechavarria the starting job once more in 2014. And he certainly looked better; at the very least he looked like an adept Major League Baseball player. He hit .276/.308/.356 with a 84 OPS+ and 82 wRC+. Those aren’t awful numbers! But he still registered the same defensive rating (0.3 dWAR) and a nearly-identical -2.2 Def from Fangraphs. His total outcome placed him right at replacement level, if not a couple tenths above the exactly-zero wins plateau.
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So, when I say Hechavarria has looked bipolar, what I mean is he has either looked like one of the worst hitters in baseball (the Jeff Mathis of shortstops) or a AAAA player who serves as nothing more than a warm body at the bottom of the Marlins batting order.
Which Adeiny Hechavarria will the Marlins get in 2015? Let’s look at the projections:
ZiPS: .260/.296/.349, 78 wRC+, 0.7 zWAR
Hech will have his “best” season yet, according to ZiPS, albeit a marginal improvement over his 2014. But hey, at least that’s something. But those offensive numbers are actually down from what he posted last year, despite a slight increase in his win total.
Inexplicably, ZiPS grades Hechavarria with a 4.9 Def projection for 2015. In fact, Steamer and Fans also give him a positive defensive rating of 2.4 and 3.5 respectively, despite Hechavarria never registering a positive defensive rating in his first two seasons.
Has Perry Hill been working with him extra vigorously this offseason? Has Hechavarria been injecting himself with a rare strain of steroid that magically increases his defensive range and magnetizes his glove to batted balls but continues to render him a black hole at the plate? Maybe the computers know something I don’t. Or maybe they think he will finally live up to the defensive ability for which he was lauded in the minor leagues, the potential of which is the only reason Hechavarria should ever take up a spot on a 25-man roster.
I have no idea, but I think we will see something right between his dreadful 2013 output and the “meh” numbers he put up last year. I can see his batting average being right around the .260 mark as projected by ZiPS, which is perfectly acceptable if you hit 25 home runs a season. But Hechavarria does not. He hit one last season. One. And he actually walked less in 2014 than he did in 2013, and owns an hilarious career-4.7 BB%, so he doesn’t even have a reasonable OBP in his favor.
Hechavarria will still make the occasional flashy play that triggers verbal aneurysms from Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton, but at the end of the day the Marlins will still have one of baseball’s most disappointing shortstops in 2015. At a premium position where both defense and offense are critical to any lineup, the simple fact is the Marlins can do better. But Hechavarria is probably here to stay.
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