The Yankees are in the midst of a youth movement. With their major league team hovering around .500, the recent release of Alex Rodriguez, and hot starts for Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, that movement has Yankees fans excited for the future. But the well of minor league talent in the organization extends far beyond those young players at the highest level.
A couple of weeks ago, Baseball America’s Josh Norris shed some light on New York’s exceptional short-season rookie club at Pulaski, and Norris has since highlighted lower level prospects at the organization’s Gulf Coast League affiliate.
On Thursday night, Baseball America had eyes on righthander Chance Adams, the Yankees’ fifth round pick in 2015. Adams has ascended through the low minors quickly, and since a promotion from high Class A Tampa back in June, Adams has found immediate success at Double-A Trenton. On Thursday, Adams struck out seven and walked two over four scoreless, hitless innings.
Adams, who has been groomed as a starter this season, entered the game in relief on Thursday, in deference to rehabbing major leaguer Bryan Mitchell (more on him later). Adams entered the game in the fifth inning, and showed many of the traits associated with starting pitchers.
The 22-year-old has a compact, repeatable arm action and a thick, well-developed lower half. He’s well-balanced over the rubber, giving him a foundation for fastball command. Adams throws from a three-quarters arm slot and finishes across his body. The motion of his lower half is also repeatable, with a short leg lift and slight hip coil before a drop and drive into a powerful, online, foot strike.
What Adams does not have is the prototypical starting pitchers frame. He’s listed at 6-feet tall. But small wouldn’t be an appropriate descriptor for the Arizona native. He has shoulder width and a well-muscled build.
“He’s a bulldog,” Trenton manager Bobby Mitchell said. “I mean, you look at the legs on that guy, he’s stocky but he’s really strong. And he gets a lot of his velocity – I think we were talking about it during the game – out of his legs.
“Kind of like, way back when Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, these guys that threw really hard. It’s because they got it all out of their push. You watch (Adams) push, he’s charging, he’s coming off that mound hard. It’s not all arm. His motion and his stamina, just everything is conducive to staying healthy.”
While Adams isn’t throwing a triple digits heater like Ryan could, he did show excellent fastball velocity on Thursday. In his first inning of work, his fastball ranged from 95-97, touching 97 more often than it touched 95 (on Baseball America’s radar gun). In his fourth and final inning of the night, Adams threw his fastball at 93-96.
Adams’ command and polished four-pitch arsenal were more impressive than his pure velocity. Throughout the outing, he was able to consistently spot his fastball down and to either side of the plate, and was particularly adept at hitting the glove-side corner. Adams was able to finish tall and elevate his fastball too, flashing the ability to locate it in the sweet spot, above hitters’ hands but not too high that hitters could just watch it whizz by and put them in more favorable counts.
Adams threw three offspeed pitches with varying degrees of success. In his first run through the batting order, Adams worked in a hard vertical slider, with 11-to-5 shape and short-and-late break. Thrown at 84-87 mph, his slider flashed the ability to compete for swinging strikes in the zone, and he was able to lengthen its break and run it through the bottom of the zone for chase swings too. Adams threw most of his sliders down and away from righthanded hitters. His slider is at least an average offering, and has a chance to develop into an above-average pitch.
The righthander also threw a curveball with less velocity and longer break. In a vacuum, his curveball would be a fringe-average pitch, but in the context of the rest of his pitches, it allowed Adams to give hitters a different look and gave him another speed to pitch at, improving his overall deception.
“My changeup has really developed over the past few months,” Adams said. “That’s been a huge pitch for me for throwing off the hitters.”
Adams got multiple swings-and-misses with his changeup, throwing it only to lefthanded hitters but showing feel for the pitch. His changeup improved as he continued to throw it. It is still in its nascent stages, but Adams’ athleticism and aptitude on the mound, as well as the quick progress of the pitch, indicate a usable fourth offering. He threw his changeup at 86-89 mph.
When asked if he sees himself as a starter, Adams had a quick answer.
Adams elaborated a few seconds later, saying that he’s willing to do whatever the Yankees want him to do.
The sum of Adams’ parts certainly points to a future as a major league starter. He’s shown the ability to command four pitches and maintain velocity, and he was able to throw all of his pitches from the same arm slot. It is late August in Adams’ first full season as a starter, and he was as crisp as he has been all season.
Fifth-round picks usually are not this good this quickly. The Yankees clearly saw something in Adams that other teams didn’t, believing in his ability to start despite the fact that he was a reliever (and not a closer) on his college team, Dallas Baptist.
“They told me last year when they drafted me that they were trying me as a starter,” Adams said. Adams said that he got the impression that the Yankees were particularly interested in him during the draft process. Adams was signed by area scout Mike Leuzinger, who was also the signing scout for Matt Kemp and Javy Guerra, among others.
Following high school, Adams attended Yavapai (Ariz.) JC in 2013 and 2014.
“As a sophomore I was actually lower velo,” Adams said. “I was a low 90s guy and I would touch (94) occasionally,” Adams said of the Yavapai version of himself. He was a reliever as a freshman and transitioned to a starting role as a sophomore before going back to the bullpen at Dallas Baptist, where Adams was one of many hard-throwing righthanders, along with Drew Smith and Brandon Koch.
“When I went to DBU I started doing a lot more stuff, like lower body lifts and (throwing) weighted balls and it upped my velo to what it is now, which is mids to highs. I would say going to DBU was probably one of the best decisions I ever made,” Adams said.
Adams was the third of five DBU pitchers drafted in 2015, along with Smith, Koch, Cory Taylor and Joe Shaw. At this point, he’s the top prospect of that group.
News And Notes
- Bryan Mitchell, rehabbing from a toe injury, didn’t get the results he might have been hoping for, but he showed the same promising stuff that allowed him to ascend to the majors in each of the past two season. Mitchell’s fastball sat at 93-95 and touched 96 often, and he had success with his hard, slider-like cutter at 90-92. Mitchell’s curveball was inconsistent, with below-average spin and often loopy shape.
- Indians first base prospect Nellie Rodriguez showed plus or better raw power in batting practice, and he took that tool with him into game action. Rodriguez knocked Mitchell out of the game with two outs in the third inning, taking a 94 mph fastball and shooting a hard home run to center field. Rodriguez appears to have a whiff-and-swat style approach; he swung and missed at five fastballs in a 2-for-4 night at the plate.
- Yankees center fielder Dustin Fowler showed impact speed and defensive ability. When Indians prospect Greg Allen drove a sharp fly ball to left center field, Fowler was able to make an impressive running catch, thanks to a perfect read off the bat. On one ground ball, Fowler reached first base in 3.83 seconds; Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell said that is not out of the ordinary for Fowler.
- Indians righthander Michael Peoples struck out five batters, walked two and allowed three hits over six scoreless innings. Peoples pitched with a below-average fastball at 86-90 mph, but kept hitters guessing with a deep 12-to-6 curveball that he was able to manipulate the break of, and a changeup that showed enough fading action to prevent hitters from cheating on his fastball. Peoples is not a high-end prospect, but could have value as a spot-starter type.