Tuesday’s game between the Braves and Red Sox featured several strong performances: Jake Lamb — a guy Atlanta brought in on a non-guaranteed deal this offseason — started at third base and finished 2 for 3 with his first home run of spring camp, to go along with a double and three RBI. Ronald Acuna continued his power display with a homer of his own, giving him four so far in Spring Training. And, despite a not-so-pretty line featuring seven unearned runs, starting pitcher Huascar Ynoa stayed in the high-90s MPH with his fastball and racked up six strikeouts to go with five hits allowed and two walks in 4.1 innings of work. Also, keeping up its trend for the spring, Atlanta’s bullpen collectively fired 4.2 scoreless frames, punching out eight batters and walking none.
None of the above was enough for the win as the Braves lost Tuesday’s matchup versus Boston, 7-6. But in a spring that’s included its fair share of excitement, perhaps it’s the guy we least expected that’s currently the most fun to keep up with.
Folks, Ehire Adrianza continues to rake, and he has almost certainly earned himself a roster spot with Atlanta come Opening Day.
When Ehire Adrianza flied out to end the game, it ended a string of eight consecutive plate appearances in which the #Braves utility candidate reached base on a walk, three singles, three doubles and a home run.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) March 23, 2021
The 31-year-old infielder — who signed a minor league pact in late January that’ll pay him $1.5 million if he lands on the Braves 40-man roster — didn’t get the start on Tuesday, although for the fourth consecutive game he picked up a hit, belting a two-run home run in the 8th inning after filling in for one of his opponents to make the roster, Pablo Sandoval.
Through 17 spring training games thus far, Adrianza is slashing .480/.594/.880 (1.474 OPS) with two homers, four doubles and six RBI, all while playing strong defense in the infield. During his current four-game hitting streak, he’s 7 for his last 8 (.875 AVG) at the plate, and Adrianza will no doubt go down as this year’s biggest surprise of the spring.
But where did all this come from?
Signed out of Venezuela by the Giants all the way back in 2006, Adrianza has long been known for his strong defense in the infield, more specifically his accurate arm, quick release and above-average range. At the time of his MLB debut during the 2013 season, there was certainly some excitement among Giants Nation regarding Adrianza’s call-up.
John Sickels, of SB Nation, had this to say about the then-23-year-old that September:
“He’s shown excellent range, especially to his right side, and is reliable as young shortstops go, making just 17 errors in 116 games this year. He is also one of those guys that always seems to be in the middle of a critical play, making his presence known in a positive way. He plays with fluidity and an alert relaxedness, if that makes any sense.”
But as Sickels noted nearly eight years ago, even as a switch-hitter, Adrianza’s bat just hadn’t developed enough to make him a noticed prospect in the industry.
Of all his years in professional baseball, Adrianza’s best performance would most likely go down as his 2011 campaign in the minors, when he played roughly 60% of the season between the Giants Single-A and High-A clubs. In 94 total games across the two levels that year as a 21-year-old, he slashed .273/.352/.434 (.787 OPS) with a whopping 44 XBH (34 doubles) and eight stolen bases.
Adrianza certainly hasn’t hit like that during his time in the majors, although from 2017-19 he did put together a solid three-year stretch as the Twins do-it-all player. During that time period, Adrianza averaged 89 games per season, to go along with a .260 AVG, four homers and 13 doubles, which essentially amounted to a 0.5-WAR utility-man. Only once has Adrianza managed an OPS+ higher than 100 in his eight-year major league career, though it’s at least comforting to know that particular season came as recent as 2019, when he posted a 103 OPS+.
At times, Adrianza has flashed a batting profile capable of posting high AVGs with gap-to-gap power, however, he also has had seasons like 2020. Last year, Adrianza hit just .191 with no homers and seven doubles in 44 games with Minnesota. It definitely appears he’s working on providing the former during his time with Atlanta.
We’ll see what happens with Adrianza, both in terms of what he can continue to accomplish in Florida with the Braves and whether or not he can earn a spot on the team’s roster. Fortunately for him, he certainly possesses more versatility as a defender than the likes of Sandoval and Jason Kipnis, and as far consistency, he’s already light years above Johan Camargo, who’s currently hitting just .188 with two XBH this spring.
Entering Wednesday, there’s still seven Grapefruit games left, but as of right now, there’s absolutely no way the Braves leave Adrianza off the Opening Day roster. This is a fun player to watch.