After the Miami Marlins acquired shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the Toronto Blue Jays, former Marlin Hanley Ramirez spoke publicly about the talent the Cuban-born athlete has. Last season with Miami, Hechavarria struggled offensively, but after several spring adjustments with new hitting coach Frank Menechino, Hechavarria is off to a solid start.
Hechavarria batted .227 in 2013, and saw a lot of time in the eight spot in the lineup because of a lack of production. He got on base at a .267 clip, which for a player that can steal 20-30 bases a season, was unimpressive.
Defense has never been a problem for Hechavarria, who made several great plays last season. He has great range and moves to both his right and left sides very well. The poor offense let to a negative 1.9 WAR last year, but with a .427 wOBA heading into Sunday's contest, Hechavarria's approach change appears to be paying off.
Working with hitting coach Frank Menechino, Hechavarria has focused on a middle-of-the-field approach. The shortstop has adjusted his hand placement a little farther away from his body, and he has shortened his swing.
"I was just disappointed in my performance last year," Hechavarria said. "That was a driving force in me improving myself this year. I made a couple of changes. I'm separating my hands from my body a little bit more. That's helped me so far."
Menechino's offensive mentality has been evident in the early starts of Marcell Ozuna, Derek Dietrich, and Christian Yelich. But Hechavarria, who batted .458 through six games, seems to be benefiting the most from the "up the middle" attitude. He has hit the ball to all fields, and is versatile in his ability to hit in several different spots in the lineup.
Manager Mike Redmond has recently placed Hechavarria in the leadoff spot, where he has thrived. Christian Yelich started Opening Day in that spot, but since Yelich is thought to be more of a two spot hitter, Hechavarria may remain leading off if he continues to be successful. Rafael Furcal was originally signed to be atop the Marlins lineup, but with the injury that landed him on the DL to begin the year, he may not be much of a threat, at least stolen base wise.
Protection for Giancarlo Stanton was an offseason priority, but internally, Hechavarria has proven early that he can be a valuable assest and can get on base ahead of Stanton, which has led to runs in the early innings.
Hechavarria had a career-best four hits in Friday night's 8-2 victory over the Padres, and should he continue to hit well, will be an essential part to Miami's offense on a nightly basis.