Signing: Signed in 2006
2011 Regular Season numbers: .231 average, .315 OBP, .378 slugging, .692 OPS, .315 wOBA, 90 wRC+, 18 runs scored, 3 home runs, 3 stolen bases (Single-A). .300 average, .375 OBP, .465 slugging, .841 OPS, .377 wOBA, 119 wRC+, 34 runs scored, 3 home runs, 5 stolen bases (High-A).
2011 Winter League numbers: .234 average, .282 OBP, .338 slugging, .620 OPS, 12 runs scored, 1 home run, 0 stolen bases, 0.50 BB/K ratio (Venezuelan Winter League).
Why you should know about Adrianza in 2012?
Adrianza is the best defensive infielder prospect in the Giants system. Even last year, when Brandon Crawford was still a prospect, Adrianza's glove and defensive ability was graded higher than Crawford's by most scouts and Minor League analysts. Though Crawford and the newly-signed Ryan Theirot will be holding down the shortstop position in 2012, Adrianza is certainly a candidate for the position in the next couple of years. If Adrianza's offense can catch up even a little bit to his defense in 2012, it wouldn't be surprising to see him earn a call up at some point this season, especially if other utility infielders like Mike Fontenot and Emmanuel Burriss struggle.
What are Adrianza's strengths as a prospect?
Defense, defense and more defense. Adrianza, according to scouts has "Gold Glove" potential, which isn't something you hear often about a lot of shortstop prospect. He had good range, a solid arm and is very smooth in his mechanics and technique at the position. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, who ranked Adrianza at No. 8 in his Giants Prospect Top 20, said this about Adrianza's fielding ability:
"There are no doubts about his skills with the glove as he is a plus defender across the board, from his range to his hands to his arm. At the very worst, he’ll have a career as a defensive utility man."
Though he isn't going to give Troy Tulowitzki or Derek Jeter a run for their money in terms of hitting ability, Adrianza has improved at the plate with more professional at-bats. Though he was repeating Single-A and High-A last year (he started in Single-A because he tore a thumb ligament in Spring Training), his OPS improved to .692 and .841 in Augusta and San Jose, respectively. He also displayed more power in his second go-arounds in the Sally and California League, as he posted career high ISOs of .147 and .165 (he did have a .167 ISO in Fresno in 2008, but that was only a two-game sample). So, Adrianza is starting to show more power potential, even if that power ceiling may not be much more than what he displayed last season.
Adrianza's strengths at the plate are his plate approach and his ability to make contact. Despite not hitting for high average so far in the minors (his career average is .252), he has never posted a BB/K ratio under 0.50 since 2009 (his first full professional season) and a strikeout rate over 19 percent (which was his Augusta stint last year where he was still recovering from his thumb injury). His contact rates have also been as stable as his BB/K ratios in his professional career, as he has only posted a contact rate under 80 percent once (with the Green Jackets last year). So, though the averages haven't really illustrated it (though he did hit .300 last year in San Jose), Adrianza has the skills and the potential to be a decent hitting shortstop at Major League level..
Though he isn't known for blazing speed (Rob Gordon of the Minor League Baseball analyst graded his speed as a 3-plus out of 5), Adrianza has showed potential on the basepaths in his career. While his stolen base numbers dipped to 8 total last year between Augusta and San Jose, he did steal 33 bases in 2010 in High-A. While I'm not sure if Adrianza will be a 20-plus threat as a professional (his previous career high was 7, though he did steal 23 in the DSL in 2007 as a 17-year-old), he could be a threat to steal 10-15 bags at the Major League level.
Where might Adrianza struggle?
For as much as scouts and experts rave about Adrianza's glove, they are almost equally as emphatic about his lack of offensive ability. Adam Foster of Project Prospect said this about Adrianza in a game report in 2011:
"Adrianza can’t hit. [I've] seen him 5 [times:] no power, poor [strike] zone judgment/pitch recognition"
I don't know if I would necessarily agree with Foster totally, simply because from what I've seen (I caught a couple of SJ Giants games last year) and from the numbers, the poor strike zone judgement contradicts his statement. Nonetheless, he's got a point when it comes to the lack of power, as the only power he's showed so far came in leagues he was repeating. For the most part, he's been pretty much a contact/singles hitter, and despite sporting some decent speed, it hasn't resulted in many extra base hits in his minor league career. Furthermore, he has a bit of a long swing and load and this was further emphasized by Mike Newman of Scouting the Sally. For a guy like Adrianza, his long swing certainly doesn't help things, simply because he doesn't have much power and he's swinging as if he's got a multitude of it (e.g. probably not the best approach).
Another thing Adrianza has going against him is that he pretty much lost a year of development in 2011. That's not really his fault totally (he was injured to begin the year), but there was some hope that Adrianza would see some time in Double-A in 2011. That didn't happen and now he's going to be 22 and in his sixth year of professional ball as he heads to the Eastern League. To make matters worse, the Eastern League is treacherous on hitters, so Adrianza will certainly have the chips stacked against him at the plate. Does that mean he is absolutely going to struggle? No, but I figured Adrianza would take a couple of years to develop offensively in the Eastern League. Going into last year, I figured he was young enough to do that. Now, well...he's still young enough, but I am less confident about that scenario than I was prior to the beginning of the 2011 season.
So far, Adrianza has only had one good season offensively at the plate in his career, which was last season in San Jose. A lot of experts took the numbers with a grain of salt, simply because it was his second year in High-A. Adrianza didn't do a lot to prove that the numbers were a fluke this Winter, as he struggled offensively in the Venezuelan Winter League. In 28 games, he posted a slash of .238/.282/.338, good for an OPS of .620. While it is a small sample, one would have hoped that Adrianza would have built on his solid campaign in High-A. Instead, he took a small step back.
Grades on Adrianza's Tools:
Hitting for Average/Contact Ability: 15/20 (This is a tough one to grade. If you look at the averages, he doesn't project to be a .300 hitter at the next level. However, if you look at the contact rates, one would think that he certainly has the ability to be a solid hitter at the next level. Last year in San Jose was a good sign. After a somewhat disappointing second stint in the Sally to begin 2011, Adrianza did extremely well in San Jose, hitting .300 and posting a career high .845 OPS. Of course, those averages are probably going to regress naturally in the Eastern League, but if Adrianza continues to sport the skills he showed in CL last season, then the numbers should still be decent for a shortstop.)
Plate Approach: 17/20 (Despite Foster's adamant stance, I think Adrianza has a solid approach. He doesn't strike out a lot, he walks at a good clip and his BB/K ratio has consistently been above average as a professional. His pitch recognition isn't perfect by any standard, but I think Adrianza's discipline at the plate is a strong tool he has going for him.)
Power: 12/20 (He just doesn't have much, and I don't think he'll develop much either. I think he's 6-8 home run guy at the Majors, maybe 10 max. He's got a good frame at six-feet, but he probably projects power-wise more to Elvis Andrus than Tulowitzki.)
Speed: 16/20 (It has showed so much on the basepaths, but Adrianza is athletic and has potential. At the very least, he is efficient on the basepaths, as he was successful on five of his six attempts last season. I still look at the 30 stolen bases in 2010 as a sign that he is capable of swiping 10-15 at the Major League level.)
Defense: 20/20 (Probably a little optimistic, but Adrianza is a wizard with the glove. I have seen it in video and in reports. His glove, range and arm strength are legitimate and Gold Glove-worthy.)
Health/Makeup/Intangibles: 16/20 (He's coming off a thumb injury and he repeated Single-A and High-A, so those things go against him. However, he has showed improvement at the plate on a year to year basis, so it's evident that he's taking well to instruction. Even though he's struggled, I think his experience in the VWL will help him, simply because of the exposure to a lot of Major League vets like Pablo Sandoval.)
Overall Grade: B
Projection: Starting Major League shorstop. At worst, utility infielder; at best, Gold-glove shortstop.
Summary: It all depends on how he develops at the plate offensively in 2012. A bad year, and well...his stock is going to take a major hit. A good year, and well, he could challenge for the shortstop position in 2013. Right now, it seems more people are leaning more toward the former than the latter, but I am optimistic that his approach and ability to make contact will carry him in Richmond. Some people will believe I'm ranking Adrianza too high, but he's still young and his defensive tool is plus-plus in my mind. His glove alone will carry him to the Majors, especially in this era of "defense-conscious" baseball. Whether he'll be able to be more than a late-innings defensive specialist though is still a question for debate.