We might feel like we know what to expect from Willy Adames.
Since his arrival in Milwaukee, much has been said and written about the Crew’s next #27.
We know Adames is a plus defender and powerful at the bat, at least for a defensively sound shortstop. We know he bolsters the clubhouse with his presence and endears fans with his energy, charisma, and connection with former Brewer Carlos Gómez. We know the Milwaukee Brewers have been trying to develop or deal for a shortstop of Adames’ caliber for a decade, and he’s here.
He’s also backed up the hype early on. Consider Adames’ May 27 performance less than a week after being dealt to the Crew. He was instrumental in the Brewer win, notching four hits, including a go-ahead home run, and throwing out the Padres’ potential go-ahead run with a bullet to home in the eighth inning.
We might feel like Adames has been around a while because he’s had so many playoff appearances the past couple of years (six series after the Rays made it to the ALDS in 2019 and the World Series in 2020).
We might forget Adames has only been in the league since 2018. We might forget that 2019 was his first (and only) full season (excluding the abbreviated 2020). So, we know a little about what to expect from Willy Adames, but we don’t know his ceiling.
In an extremely limited sample size, Adames is slashing .350/.458/.550 with the Crew. Over the course of his career, he’s put up .256/.323/.422. Both lines should be taken with some pause. On the one hand, we’re talking about six games and 24 plate appearances. On the other, Adames is making important adjustments and improvements that mean he hits with some power for a defender of his caliber.
In 2021, Adames is in the league’s top 75 percentile in terms of exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate. (He’s also speedy enough to be in the top 75% in sprint speed.) He’s added exit velocity every year since he’s been in the bigs. The improvement in his exit velocity over his time in the league can mean, well, the difference between an everyday position player and a utility player. In 2019, his first full year in the league, he saw a 20 HR season. In the abbreviated 2020, he hit eight home runs with an .813 OPS and 124 wRC+ (league average is 100).
Such a power-up often comes at the expense of OBP, and Adames is striking out more and getting on base less as his advanced power metrics improve. While Adames has been hot since he’s landed with the Crew, he’s slashing .217/.283/.395 on the season. He strikes out (33.1 K%), whiffs (bottom 4% in the league), and chases frequently. In terms of plate discipline, think of Adames as measurably better than Orlando Arcia but significantly worse than Luis Urías.
At his worst, Willy Adames is an above-average shortstop. He averages out to four defensive runs saved across his career, but in 2019 (his only complete and full season), he racked up 8 DRS. For comparison, Luis Urías (who has half the games Adames has at the big league level) has -5 DRS across his career. A -5 DRS represents a better shortstop than Urías with the yips, who we became familiar with shortly before his demotion to super-utility player.
For an eye test, check out some of his highlights.
Some of the difficult-to-quantify energy that depleted from the Crew’s clubhouse after the departure of longtime hype man Orlando Arcia seems to have returned with Adames. Even before Adames arrived in Milwaukee, he garnered a warm welcome from former teammates Daniel Robertson and Avisaíl García. When Jackie Bradley Jr. notched the first walk-off hit of his career, he had to credit Adames (who set Bradley up for the walk-off with a stellar performance of his own) for the energy and competitiveness he brings to the Crew.
When Adames gets a hit, he hypes the dugout. When someone else gets a big knock, he’s the first one out of the dugout to celebrate with them. He’s already the center of the Manny Piña tiger wall. He’s revived the latent dugout gauntlet. In short, he fits right in and excites.
Adames is the type of player whose impact is measurable in some ways and immeasurable in others. What to expect from Willy Adames? You’ll have to stay tuned.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Statcast, and Baseball-Reference