(Chance Adams is on the verge of making it to the big leagues less than two years after getting drafted. On Saturday, the Yankees honored Adams with the Kevin Lawn Award as the organization’s minor league “Pitcher of the Year.” Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com)
After two consecutive days profiling relief pitchers, our countdown of the Top 15 prospects who could help the Yankees this season shifts back to the starting rotation. Today, we look at No. 6, Chance Adams.
Position: Starting pitcher
Weight: 215 pounds
40-man roster: No
You can make a serious case that Adams was the best starting pitcher in the Yankees’ organization in 2016. In the Yankees’ minds, he was, as evidenced by them naming him the Kevin Lawn Award winner as the organization’s best minor league pitcher.
Originally drafted as a reliever out of Dallas Baptist University, Adams began his second professional season as a starter at High-A Tampa, the place where he concluded 2015 after short stints at Short-Season Staten Island and Low-A Charleston.
Adams made 12 starts with the T-Yanks last year and went 5-0 with a 2.65 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings. It’s safe to say that his best start in Tampa was his last. On June 10 at Bradenton, Adams fired five no-hit innings with a career-high 10 strikeouts. A hit-batsman was the only thing that prevented from retiring all 15 batters. That performance garnered him the Florida State League’s Pitcher of the Week award.
Six days later, Adams made his Double-A debut and pitched 5 1/3 shutout innings to pick up the win for Trenton. Simply put, that foreshadowed more dominance from the 22-year-old. Adams went 8-1 with a 2.07 ERA, 71 strikeouts and .145 batting average against in 13 games (12 starts, 69 2/3 innings). His lone relief appearance came Aug. 18 when he threw four no-hit innings with seven strikeouts. Adams then returned to the rotation for his regular-season finale and struck out 10 in 4 1/3 innings.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, they didn’t have their ace for the Eastern League playoffs, as the Yankees shut Adams down because of an innings limit. Overall, Adams went 13-1 with a 2.33 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 127 1/3 innings.
Adams is a four-pitch guy who runs everything off the fastball, which has seen a slight jump in velocity since his Dallas Baptist bullpen days when he averaged 92-94 mph. MLB.com’s scouting report noted that Adams’ fastball averaged 94 mph at Tampa last year before going up to 95 when he got Trenton. I guess the biggest issue with it would be that it doesn’t have a lot of movement, which the good hitters will take advantage of. But Adams makes up for it with such good command — he has 2.66 walks per-nine-innings for his career.
Adams complements the fastball with a slider, changeup and curveball. The slider has improved greatly during his pro days and has become a solid No. 2 pitch thanks to its sharpness and mid-80s velocity. While his changeup and curveball aren’t as advanced as the fastball and slider, Adams is not afraid to attack hitters with them when he’s on.
Here’s a profile on Adams that the Yankees’ video production team filmed during a trip to Trenton last summer with highlights and analysis from manager Bobby Mitchell, pitching coach Jose Rosada and catcher Kyle Higashioka among others.
Adams begins the at-bat below with a wild pitch that advances to the runner to third but overcomes it to record his first Double-A strikeout courtesy of the slider.
And here’s some more video taken from Baseball America during that Aug. 18 relief appearance. You’ll get a good idea of Adams’ pitch arsenal.
To me, Adams was a lock to begin the season with the RailRiders but I might be having second thoughts about that now. Adams has been working in the Trenton work group at the Yankees Player Development and Scouting Comple . That doesn’t necessarily mean that Adams is a lock to return to Trenton but I find it odd that he wouldn’t just be placed in the Scranton work group at this point if he was going to be with the RailRiders. Also, one National League scout told me that Adams needs “a lot more” time.
Either way, Adams is going to be with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at some point this season. It’s pretty incredible if you think about it, considering what he was as a draft pick less than two years ago. Many figured James Kaprielian would be the 2015 draft pick on the verge of the big leagues this spring. But as we know, baseball is so unpredictable.
Adams received a non-roster invite to big league camp and went 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three appearances, during which he walked six and struck out five over 4 2/3 innings. The odds of him making the Yankees’ Opening Day roster were unrealistic when spring training began but he is in a very good situation nonetheless. After all, the back end of the Yankees’ rotation is still unproven. If the Nos. 4 and/or 5 starters struggle and Adams continues to succeed early this season, the Yankees may decide to give the kid a look.
Regardless of whether it’s early or later in the season, Adams’ outstanding production in such a short amount of time has given him a legitimate chance — no pun intended — to make his major league debut this summer.