Ehire Adrianza Making the Most of His New Opportunity in Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 30: Ehire Adrianza
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 30: Ehire Adrianza /

In his first season outside of the Giants’ organization, Ehire Adrianza has made the most of his opportunity with the Minnesota Twins.

Ehire Adrianza was never really able to solidify himself with the San Francisco Giants, as he spent four seasons with the team and was shuttled back and forth between the big leagues and minor leagues, or missed chunks of time because of injury. Now with a new club and in a city, Adrianza has made his mark all over the field.

During his time in the Bay, Adrianza was the victim of poor performances and roster crunches. In 2016, he became the victim of bad luck. On April 9th, he enjoyed probably his biggest moment with the Giants when he took Clayton Kershaw deep to left field for an astonishing home run. The light-hitting infielder, who entered that game with a .215 average and one home run in 264 plate appearances, got the better of the game’s best pitcher.

Five days later, Adrianza hit a foul ball off his left foot, causing a fracture. That fracture was initially supposed to sideline him for six weeks, but he didn’t return to San Francisco for over three months. The team was forced to go without Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, and Matt Duffy at various times for extended lengths because of injuries of their own. If not for a little bit of bad luck, Adrianza likely would have easily surpassed any previous big league playing times.

After putting together a .245 average (solid for him) through the end of the season, he became the victim of a roster crunch again.

When the Giants inked backup catcher Nick Hundley to a deal, Adrianza was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. He would be claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers, but would spend only two days there. He was designated again, and the Minnesota Twins picked him up. It may have been the best thing for him.

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Though his first season outside of San Francisco has been stop and start because of a couple different stints on the DL, including one for an ulcer caused by food poisoning, Adrianza has made the most of his new digs.

With adjustments to his swing, Adrianza has become more than just a good glove that plays all over the infield. He’s become a usable bat rather than a liability at the plate. Minnesota’s hitting coaches, James Rowson and Rudy Hernandez, worked with Adrianza to use his legs more during his swing, and the numbers speak for themselves.

Adrianza has already surpassed his career highs in games played (66) and plate appearances (174), and has matched his previous highs in doubles (seven) and home runs (two). His two triples and eight stolen bases both represent career-bests, and his 24 RBI and 28 runs scored are more than twice his previous high. His average (.261), on-base percentage (.324), and OPS (.696).

As his bat has improved, Adrianza has added to his résumé by increasing his versatility. His still playing his customary positions of shortstop, third base, and second base with the same proficiency he did with San Francisco, but is doing just a bit more. He had played first base just once before this season with disastrous results (a groundball hit him in the face, causing a concussion), but has taken the position four times with Minnesota.

In addition, he’s started to play left field more and more frequently. He had never played the outfield with San Francisco, besides a couple games on back fields in spring training, but has done well out there as a Twin. He’s earned positive marks across the board according to Fangraphs.

Though no one will ever confuse him with someone like Ben Zobrist, baseball’s poster boy for super utility players, Adrianza has turned himself into an asset that most teams would love to have: a good (sometimes great) defender at multiple positions with enough of a bat to keep himself on a roster.

The Twins clinched a spot in the postseason on Wednesday, and are guaranteed a spot in next Tuesday’s Wildcard game. Adrianza hopes to do something he never did with the Giants: see the field for a postseason game. He was left off San Francisco’s playoff rosters in 2014, but was on the roster for the Wildcard game in 2016. He never made it into the game, instead watching from the bench as Madison Bumgarner‘s legend grew with another shutout, and Conor Gillaspie‘s legend was created with a game-winning three-run home run in the ninth.

San Francisco hopes to take a similar route to the one the Twins took this year. Minnesota lost 103 games last season, earning the worst record in baseball, but made a quick, tidy turnaround to the postseason this year.

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The Giants are on a similar path to the 2016 Twins, with 97 losses and three games left to play. They still hope to compete next year, and hope to do so spearheaded by a strong pitching staff. Maybe, just maybe, a guy like Adrianza can come in and make some contributions as they try to right the ship.