Twins Getting Greatness from Utility
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsAcquired in exchange for Francisco Liriano was back in 2012, Eduardo Escobar was a middle infielder that would shuffle his was around the diamond. After five big league seasons in Minnesota compiling a .709 OPS the 2018 season saw him break out in a big way. Through 97 games on a bad team a year ago, Escobar posted an .852 OPS and looked like he’d challenge the all-time doubles record. 23 homers were a new career high and he did it while providing utility all over.
Jettisoned to Arizona Escobar left a starting position open. The expectation isn’t for a utility player to take over an everyday role, but there’s certainly at bats to be gobbled up and opportunity to be had. In 2019 Ehire Adrianza is rewriting his own narrative.
In the offseason prior to the 2017 campaign Ehire was placed on waivers by the San Francisco Giants. After being claimed initially by the Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota brought him in. Getting in just 70 games that season he posted a .707 OPS. Adrianza was always billed as a very good defensive shortstop who’d never been given much leash in the Bay. The Twins played him in five different positions last season and that versatility was the bulk of his value as he posted just a 0.5 fWAR and .680 OPS.
Fast forward to 2019 and the explosion of sorts has happened. Adrianza hasn’t joined his teammates as a chief member of the Bomba Squad, but he’s no longer just a fringe utility man either. He’s got a career best .288/.377/.432 slash line and nearly has surpassed his career high fWAR (1.0 in 2017) through just 53 games of action. Dating back to May 12, 31 games ago, Adrianza owns a .397/.473/.603 slash line across 93 plate appearances. Jumping into his first career pitching performance 2019 has come with seven different positions on the diamond.
No one is willing to suggest that Adrianza is an All-Star caliber player or the guy that you build a roster around, but he’s absolutely the type that you round out a very good team with. In the Postseason you can generally find significant value in the 25th man on any given roster. Ehire has afforded Rocco Baldelli a significant amount of versatility in his lineups, and because his bat has performed at an otherwise unseen clip, there’s been less of a dropoff when teammates have dealt with injury.
Credit Adrianza for taking the path often traveled and turning it into a consistent opportunity. Rare is the light hitting minor leaguer like Luis Arraez coming up and batting near .400 for any considerable amount of time. Ehire’s trajectory is one many big leaguers before him have traveled. He could’ve been Pedro Florimon for something like 10 years and fizzled out over time. Instead he’s an irreplaceable cog on one of the best teams in baseball and all his teammates are better for it.
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