The Royals, chasing down the tumbling Tigers in the AL Central and holding the second wild-card berth by a slim margin, made a deal to add much-needed righthanded power by acquiring Josh Willingham from the Twins for righthander Jason Adam, Kansas City’s No. 9 prospect entering the season.
Willingham, 35, was claimed on waivers by the Royals and the teams worked out the deal, according to Baseball America correspondent Mike Berardino. Berardino said Willingham is owed $1.836 million for the remainder of the season.
It has been a disappointing season for Willingham as he spent time on the disabled list and when healthy is slashing just .210/.345/.402 with 12 homers after posting an .847 OPS from 2006-12.
Willingham is expected to get the bulk of his playing time at DH and perhaps playing some in the outfield, although his traditional left field spot is filled by Alex Gordon, who was recently voted as best defensive outfielder in our 2014 Best Tools survey.
Jason Adam, rhp
Jason Adam has tantalized the Royals with his potential from very early in his pro career. He sat at 94-96 mph in instructional league in 2010 as a newly turned 19-year-old, but his fastball backed up to a much more pedestrian 88-93 mph once he started pitching every fifth day. For the next two years, Adam looked much more like a groundball-inducing innings eater than a hard-throwing front-of-the-rotation starter, but he was durable and relatively reliable.
The Royals tweaked his delivery before 2013 and helped Adam find some of the velocity he had lost, but with it came erratic results as Adam mixed bouts of wildness and ineffectiveness with dominant outings. Adam’s last two years have been an on-and-off mix of awful and awesome.
Adam’s success or failure is largely tied to his delivery. When he gets too upright in his delivery and gets too mechanical he leaves his fastball up, it straightens up and becomes quite hittable. He has three games of seven or more runs allowed this year and he had five games of seven runs or more allowed last year.
But when he drives off the mound and gets extension, he gets just as much if not more velocity (92-95 mph) and generates good sink on his fastball while locating down in the zone. Adam added a slider this year, although at its best, his downer curveball is more effective and is usable both as a strike early in the count or as a bigger breaker when he’s ahead of hitters.
The Twins are getting a great lottery ticket. At his best, Adam shows two plus pitches (his fastball and curveball) as well as an average changeup and a slider that could develop into an average pitch and he does it all with potentially average control.
Minnesota will just have to figure out a way to get those outings from Adam on a more consistent basis. He struggles to keep his delivery in check and can have some ugly outings, but he has a chance to be a No. 3/No. 4 starter if it all comes together.
The Royals moved Adam to the ‘pen right before promoting him to Triple-A this July, with an eye on possibly using him as a reliever in their playoff push this year. But he’s durable enough to project as a starter—he topped 140 innings in each of the previous two seasons. As a worst-case scenario, Adam would be a useful reliever.
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Josh Willingham, of/dh
Willingham’s numbers have trailed off the past two seasons, but he remains at least a tick above hitter against lefthanders and his numbers are better on the road than at Target Field, indicating he could improve at Kauffman Stadium, which is slightly more favorable for home runs, Willingham’s raison d’etre. He likely will platoon with Raul Ibanez.