After a minor panic late in the 2019 season when it turned out the Braves had no suitable backup shortstop option on the roster, they signed Adeiny Hechavarria. In addition to providing actual shortstop defense that season, he went berserk with the bat (162 wRC+ in 70 PAs). The Braves ended up re-signing him to essentially the same role in the offseason, giving him a one-year deal worth $1 million.
The Braves had their share of injury struggles in 2020, but none of them forced Hechavarria into regular playing time. As a result, he only got 67 PAs across 27 games over the course of the season. Unlike 2019, though, he didn’t make the most of his limited opportunity. Instead, he failed to do much of anything on either side of the ball, and was left off the playoff roster in lieu of guys like Charlie Culberson, Johan Camargo, and Pablo Sandoval.
What went right? Honestly, pretty much nothing. Hechavarria stayed healthy and was able to fill in at second base, third base, and shortstop as needed... but that’s about it. His biggest hit this season was this:
Not only was it almost caught, but it came in essentially a meaningless game. While Hechavarria scored the go-ahead run later in the inning, he made an awful play on a grounder (slipped while fielding it, airmailed the throw) that allowed the Red Sox to tie the game. So, there wasn’t even a great whole game to highlight.
What went wrong? While it’s hard to affirmatively say that anything went wrong for the team as a result of Hechavarria’s services, he probably wishes he had a better showing in his 70 PAs and spotty playing time.
Hechavarria put up just a 65 wRC+, his lowest mark since 2016. His xwOBA was .237, by far his lowest mark in the Statcast era. That was a bottom 25 mark in baseball among anyone with 50 or more PAs; his exit velocity mark (82.9 mph) was bottom 20. That could be forgiven, of course, given the small sample and the fact that Hechavarria wasn’t really on the roster to hit. What apparently couldn’t be forgiven, though, was his teeny-sample defensive miscues. By DRS, Hechavarria was slightly negative at both second and third; by UZR he ended up negative overall as well. Even by OAA, all he could manage was +1 at second and -1 at third; in brief, he was there for defense, but he wasn’t really defending, either.
The Braves’ September 24 loss to the Marlins wrapped all of Hechavarria’s issues in a neat little package. He booted two routine balls at third, one of which led to the go-ahead run scoring; on offense, he went 0-for-4 and made the last out of the eighth with the tying runs in scoring position.
About a week later, he was announced as not having made the postseason roster. Even when the Braves reshuffled their squad in later rounds, and even when Adam Duvall was hurt, Hechavarria’s name was not called — even though Charlie Culberson, Johan Camargo, and Pablo Sandoval, none of whom spent the whole regular season with the Braves, ended up getting some October playing time.
Outlook for 2021: Hechavarria is now a free agent. He’ll certainly find a minor league deal somewhere; a major league deal seems reasonably likely as well. The Braves could re-sign him, or they could look elsewhere. At best, Hechavarria projects as a real good bench player (1.5 WAR/600); if you take his 2020 to heart (and I’m not sure you should, given the playing time), maybe knock that down a bit, but he’s still an okay bench option. He does turn 32 next April, however, so a team probably won’t want to rely on him for anything other than short-term defensive support.