Jacob deGrom won back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2018 and 2019, serving as an indictment against the importance of single-season win-loss records. (Degrom’s seemingly sub-par records were due in large part to Mets mishaps in late relief.) The Mets’ 4.97 bullpen ERA since 2018 is fourth-worst in all of baseball, and the three teams behind them — the Orioles, Marlins and Royals — are all in various stages of rebuilding.
Watching deGrom dominate the league through 2018 and have a 10-9 record to show for it, by no fault of his own, helped awards voters cross the rubicon and disassociate quality pitchers from their wins. Forward thinking started right here in Queens!
Meanwhile, just a few miles away, the Yankees, who possess more power arms than they can fit, designated swingman Chance Adams for assignment. He was a roster casualty after the team officially added another pitcher of some repute to their team, and thus, was pinched from the 40-man roster.
But Adams has untapped potential that could be gleaned if he’s given a shot. It’s an opportunity he was never unlikely to receive on the Yankees, even without Gerrit Cole. The Mets pen, on the other hand, has nothing but opportunity.
Barring dramatic bounce-backs from numerous relievers, especially Edwin Diaz and Jeruys Familia, the Amazin’s will need significant contributions from pitchers that aren’t on the current 40-man roster to stand a chance at grabbing a playoff spot in 2020.
If you did your Googling, yes, Adams’ big-league performance fits right in with the current Mets pen. His 8.18 career ERA is atrocious, and he’s been plagued by the long ball — 10 in 33 innings.
However, there’s more to Adams than the back of his baseball card. A fifth round pick in 2015, the 25-year-old right-hander isn’t far away from being a highly regarded prospect in the Yankees organization, ranking 81st in Baseball America’s top-100 MLB list before the 2018 season.
Adams’ curveball, which sits around 85 MPH, has elite spin rate — 94th percentile, according to Statcast data. You would think he’d be throwing it all the time, given the tight movement, which correlates highly with whiffs. His slider is also strong, averaging 2934 RPM — an excellent number compared to the MLB average of 2412 for sliders. Adams has an appropriately small amount of YouTube highlights given his minimal success, but you can see the tight motion on his slider around the 40-second mark here:
Though Adams has pitched primarily out of the bullpen in the majors, his minor league workload (15 starts in 2019) and arsenal show the Yankees have been grooming him to be a starter. The next team that acquires him should scrap that plan.
Despite those promising spins on his other pitches, Adams threw 36 changeups last year and didn’t get a single swing-and-miss. It’s a “show-me” pitch that batters see loud and clear.
He also works off a fastball that also has a top-tier spin rate (87th percentile). Though it sits around 91 mph, softer than the league average, he’s thrown it nearly 59% of the time, per Brooks Baseball. Meanwhile, he threw his slider and curveball about equally — roughly 18% and 15% last year, respectively. Simplifying his approach with less fastballs, more breaking balls and ignoring the changeup could play to his strengths.
Additionally, if Adams has been conserving his strength to pitch deep into games, airing it out in short, one-inning bursts could help his fastball gain the tick or two he needs to gain an edge.
On top of that, he is as much of an economic fit for the Mets as any available pitcher, carrying a minimum salary. (Though that still might be a little pricey for the Wilpons.)
Adams is not the difference between deGrom going from 10 wins to 20. But if the Mets are steadfast in browsing the clearance rack for an unproven arm like Adams, they might as well try their ch — hey, let me finish!
Try their chance.