Should We Believe In David Adams’ Bat?

At the beginning of every season, we bloggers tend to have some fun with bold predictions. Not to toot my own horn, but I did pretty well in 2012. I had Zack Greinke being traded and headlining the free agent market for starters in the fall over Cole Hamels, then I had Jesus Montero, Michael Pineda, and Hector Noesi struggling with Jose Campos being the most impressive piece of last year’s trade, and then I had the Nationals’ starting rotation beating out the Phillies’. This season I predicted that the Yankees would have a Rookie of the Year contender.

adams

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

When I made this prediction, I was purposely vague, as I honestly had no idea who it would be. The Yankees have an above average farm system, but most of the top prospects are at least a year away from the major leagues. I made this prediction based on injury concerns, and knowing that players in Triple-A would get a chance at some point. It could have been Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, Ronnier Mustelier, Thomas Neal, Zoilo Almonte or a number of other potential replacements that we watched in Spring Training. There has been some truth to it, as it’s only May and we’ve already seen a ton of rookies get a chance to play with the Yankees, yet none of them have succeeded enough to start considering them for RoY contention.

SMALL SAMPLE SIZE WARNING: David Adams has only had a handful of at bats, but he’s certainly received the most hype. Through 27 plate appearances , the infielder has already hit 2 doubles and 2 home runs while playing a very impressive third base. 7 games isn’t enough to judge any player, but his early showing has been extremely positive, and fans have already started talking about what the team should do when Kevin Youkilis returns.

Personally, I don’t buy the glove. I’ve seen him make some terrific plays, but with just 60 minor league games played at the hot corner, and a less than positive reputation by scouts, it’s hard to believe that Adams could continue to play a flawless third base. Regardless, Adams knows that he’ll live and die by his bat, and the only way he’ll stay with the major league team is to keep hitting the ball. The question remains, is his bat for real?

Looking over his minor league numbers, you’ll see that he’s produced a minor league slash line of .296/.380/.450, and the numbers only improve as he ascends levels. Anyone that’s followed the Yankees minor league system over the years knows Adam’s name, as he’s perennially been a top offensive prospect in the system. But an extensive injury history has held back Adams, who at the age of 26, was hardly young enough to earn the excitement of scouts and bloggers over the last couple of years.

His bat continues to prevail though, and in trying to make sense of his short success at the major league level, it might be a good idea to get deep into his offensive production in the minors. As I stated above, his triple slash is impressive, but what about his splits? Baseball Reference recently introduced seasonal minor league splits, and if you look at the numbers, you’ll see that his platoon splits have ranged over the years. Overall, he doesn’t seem to have a major advantage or disadvantage against left-handed or right-handed pitchers. To get deeper into the numbers, I did some calculating in my own minor league database (lifted from MLB’s Gameday data) in order to find his batted ball rates.

2012 v. R 2012 v. L 2012 total Career v. R Career v. L Career total
GB% 46.7% 42.7% 45.4% 44.9% 38.4% 43.0%
FB% 36.9% 33.3% 35.8% 34.0% 37.2% 34.9%
LD% 13.1% 16.7% 14.2% 16.4% 19.2% 17.2%
PU% 3.4% 7.3% 4.6% 4.8% 5.3% 4.9%
xBABIP .308 .295 .304 .318 .307 .322

Overall, there isn’t a huge difference between what he’s done in his career versus lefties or righties. The high career 19.2 LD% against lefties is nice, but xBABIP actually prefers his high GB% against righties. You can’t make much of it, but at the moment, according to FanGraphs, he has a 23.8 LD%, a 47.6 GB%, and a 28.6 FB% in the major leagues. Of the 6 fly balls he’s hit, 4 have been extra base hits, but of the 10 ground balls, only 1 has gotten through the infield. Unless he turns into Barry Bonds (he won’t), Adams will not continue at this power pace. Looking at his batted ball rates in the minors, he should be hitting more fly balls, but fewer of them should be falling for hits. Likewise, he should see more singles on ground balls. At this point, it’s very clear that his early slugging production won’t continue, but there’s a decent chance he continues to hit for contact. As his current .316 BABIP isn’t far off from his minor league .322 xBABIP, I see no reason to believe he’ll regress too dramatically in his average.

If any rookies has a chance to play for the team regularly, it’s Adams, and after looking at his minor league batted ball rates, I do think he can make quite an impact with the bat. The biggest hurdle, as it’s always been, will be his ability to stay on the field.