Slick defender Hechavarria becoming complete player

With .321 average in April, shortstop's offense is beginning to match glove skills

Slick defender Hechavarria becoming complete player

MIAMI -- The Marlins have grown accustomed to seeing Adeiny Hechavarria making highlight-reel-worthy defensive plays. The slick-fielding shortstop has made a habit of them since he was acquired from the Blue Jays after the 2012 season.

What's standing out this season is how the 26-year-old is rounding out his overall game, and his improvement at the plate is a big reason Miami has turned things around after a slow start.

In his third full season with the Marlins, Hechavarria is off to the best start of his career, finishing April hitting .321/.349/.481. He's driven in 16 runs and scored 16 runs, and he has two homers.

Hechavarria was recognized as the National League Player of the Week from April 20-26, going 12-for-24 with 10 RBIs and eight runs.

"That's why we get excited, when you see young players getting better," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "You don't know what the final product is, but you know that it's something that you like.

"Defensively, we knew he was one of the best. Now, you're seeing his ABs getting better. You're talking about your seven- or eight-hole guy getting better. It makes you have a deeper lineup, which ultimately will help you score more runs and win more games."

Hechavarria's leaping catch

The Marlins acquired Hechavarria as part of their blockbuster 12-player trade with the Blue Jays in November 2012. The book on the Cuban-born shortstop was that he was highly athletic and skilled in the field, but his swing and approach needed work.

On a 100-loss Miami team in 2013, Hechavarria batted .227, but he played in 148 games and got 578 plate appearances. His defense was strong, but he didn't offer much at the bottom of the order.

In 2014, Hechavarria's offense picked up, and he finished with a .276 batting average. He hit one home run and drove in 34. Defensively, he was a Gold Glove finalist.

This season, Hechavarria's pitch selection is much better, and he isn't chasing pitches out of the strike zone as often.

"I've tried to stay in the middle of the field and work to the opposite field," Hechavarria said. "But now, when I see pitches coming inside, I try to turn on them and take them to left field."

Hechavarria's nice glove flip

When the Marlins acquired Hechavarria, they envisioned his development could follow one of the top shortstops of this era -- Omar Vizquel.

Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove winner, was a three-time All-Star. His brilliant 24-year career ended after the 2012 season. But early in his career, the Venezuelan-born shortstop struggled. In Vizquel's first three seasons with Seattle from 1989-91, his slash line was .230/.290/.283 with four homers and 79 RBIs in 366 games..

From 2012-14, Hechavarria averaged .251/.286/.331 with six homers and 91 RBIs in 335 games.

"Vizquel was an example, because he hit .200 for five years," Hill said. "But he played Gold Glove defense. That's what kept him in the lineup and gave him time for his bat to catch up.

"I'm glad it's come along faster with Hech, but you never know how long it takes these guys. But from our standpoint, we just want to see them getting better."

Hechavarria's three-run homer

As his career progresses, Hechavarria could be capable of moving up in the batting order. On this Miami squad, though, he appears destined to remain at the bottom of lineup, especially with how Martin Prado is producing in the No. 2 spot.

Hechavarria is part of the Marlins' young core, along with Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.

"[Hechavarria's] progression is with Ozuna and Yelich, who are in a similar service category," Hill said. "You just want young players to keep making strides. That's how we evaluate them.

"We just knew that it was Gold Glove defense, and [Hechavarria] continued to get better. We never put a ceiling on how good he could be offensively. But we knew that it was in there for him to improve."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.