Step Away From Adeiny Hechavarria

Title: Step Away From Adeiny Hechavarria
Date: April 8, 2014
Original Source: Rotographs
Synopsis: This article looked at a hot start from Adeiny Hechavarria, warning against buying in on it.

For the second time in two days, I’m going to build off of Mike Podhorzer’s quick hits about the most added fantasy players through the season’s first week. Hey, this is a shortstop beat, it’s week two, and he touched on two of the buzziest shortstop names going.

One of those names was the second most added fantasy piece last week, vaulting from five percent ownership to 31 percent in CBS leagues. It’s been slower in Yahoo formats, but Adeiny Hechavarria is up to 13 percent ownership there, too.

I’m asking you today to throw him back.

It’s easy, I suppose, to talk yourself into Hechavarria. He’s a full-time starter, which alone has value, and he seems like he should be fast – he looks quick in the field, has a decent speed score and was advertised as being fast as a prospect. He’s also led off in three games, which would help his run totals, and he won’t turn 25 until next week.

Combine all of that with a hot start – he ranks fourth among shortstops in value thanks to an 11-for-28 stretch in which he’s scored six runs and stole a base – and the case for an add is there.

Unless you’re in an NL-only league, however, you can probably throw Hechavarria right back into the waiver bin if you’ve added him. There really isn’t much value here, and the hot start is just that, one good week.

It’s obviously important to keep 2013 in mind when informing an opinion of a player so early into 2014. Last season, Hechavarria had nearly 600 plate appearances and managed just three home runs, 11 stolen bases, 30 runs and 42 runs batted in, all while hitting .227. Part of the run total can be blamed on the fact that he spent more than half his time hitting in the seven or eight spot, and the .270 BABIP seems a bit lower than what should be expected (.300 seems appropriate, all things considered). Even a slight bump in runs and average, though, would have left the Cuban largely devoid of value.

There are three primary problems with Hechavarria’s case as a fantasy asset.

The first is that he doesn’t possess power, which is pretty straight forward. He topped out at nine home runs in 2011 and barely kept his isolated slugging above .110, save for a short promotion to Triple-A in 2011. He doesn’t hit many doubles, either, and he rarely puts the ball in the air. Playing at a pitcher-friendly stadium isn’t going to do him any favors, but his profile wouldn’t suggest double-digit power anywhere.

There are names that produce shortstop value without power, though, especially if they can steal bases. Unfortunately, despite scouting suggestions that he’s fast,Hechavarria doesn’t utilize his speed very well when it comes to stealing bases. He went 11-of-21 on the bases last year and is 12-of-22 as a major leaguer, following up a minor league career that saw him go just 42-of-65. As a professional, he’s now just 54-of-87, a 62.1 percent success rate, and there’s little evidence to show that baserunners get any better with experience (it seems logical that any tactical edge gained is subsequently lost by a drop in speed). Even at the top of the order, Hechavarria probably wouldn’t be given an appreciably frequent green light, because let Giancarlo Stanton do his thing, right?

So if Hechavarria is only going to hit five homers and steal a dozen bases, even if we very liberally estimate 50 runs and RBI, he needs to produce a strong batting average. Erick Aybar, for example, ranked 15th in shortstop value last season with six home runs and 12 stolen bases, but he hit .271 and had 68 runs and 54 RBI.Pedro Florimon had 44 runs and 44 RBI with nine home runs and 15 steals, but he ranked just 26th because of his .221 batting average. If Hechavarria is going to have Aybar’s speed-power profile with Florimon’s runs-RBI totals, he’s going to need to hit about .280 to be relevant, which simply isn’t going to happen.

Hechavarria just isn’t a good enough hitter to sniff .280 without a great deal of BABIP help, and there’s little to suggest he’ll be a major plus in the BABIP department (he has a favorable batted ball profile and a decent speed score but also had a fair number of infield flies, and the positives don’t stand out as a .330-BABIP kind of profile). He also has mediocre plate discipline, which limits his average upside further.

He swings a lot, at 50.3 percent for his career, but that makes some sense considering he has an above-average contact rate (89.1 percent) and sees an above-average portion of pitches in the zone (50.2 percent). However, his ability (or willingness) to discern strike from ball is concerning – he swings at 34.2 percent of pitches outside the zone with a 73.7 percent contact rate. The latter is an above-average mark, but the former is, too. The issue isn’t necessarily that he can’t make contact – his swinging strike rate and strikeout percentage are both below-average – but that he does nothing with the contact he does make, hitting just .223 on pitches outside of the zone compared to .260 on pitches in the zone; his isolated slugging is also just .073 on pitches outside the zone compared to .087 inside the zone.

Now, all of that would probably read similar for just about any player – obviously, most players are going to do worse on bad pitches to hit than good ones. The issue for Hechavarria is that he has the profile of a slap-hitter with no power but he’s not far enough above average in the areas that slap hitters need to thrive to survive. He would help himself a fair amount by cutting down on the outside swings, but Marco Scutaro this is not – of the top-50 players in contact rate, Hechavarria ranked fifth in strikeout rate in 2013 and dead last in batting average.

Similar batting profiles would suggest Hechavarria’s average will come up some, and it probably will. But that “up some” has a ceiling of about .260, and even an optimistic .260-6-12-50-50 doesn’t cut it in mixed leagues.

(One more aside: he’s had a hot streak before, batting .333 over a 39 game stretch, bookended by a 45-game stretch of .177 and a 33-game stretch of .160.)

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