Remember Matt Adams? — Suspect defender, inconsistent power bat, occasional pinch hitter? After signing a one year, $4M deal, Adams hasn’t become elite with the glove or a pure contact hitter, but he’s been hitting the ball very well for the Washington Nationals. And, in just 95 at bats, has proven himself as one of their best performers.
Let’s begin with a quick rundown of his numbers in 2018. Adams has 4 doubles, 10 home runs, and 25 RBIs, .274 BA, .389 OBP, and an OPS of 1.031 in only 113 plate appearances. He has also shown an improved approach at the plate. Over Adams’ career, he has whiffed 451 times and walked 128 times, a ratio of approximately 3.5 K/BB. This season he has improved quite a bit, with a ratio of 1.5 K/BB (23 to 16). Is 23 strikeouts in 95 at bats still a good amount of whiffs? Yes. But, he has lowered the discrepancy that he usually maintained.
He’s been especially productive over the last two weeks. In 46 at bats over that stretch, he’d crushed 7 home runs and driven in 15 runs. He’s also walked more than he’s struck out, a rarity for him. His average exit velocity (via Statcast) is 91 miles per hour, edging out MLB’s average of 89 mph. His launch angle has increased like so many others, averaging 18.58 degrees. This trumps the MLB’s ever-growing average of 12.39.
As you can see above, Adams has done especially well on low pitches, his highest of those spots being down the middle of the plate. Some potential weaknesses here lie high and inside, which is fairly systematic for hitters. Based on his results, most of his success has landed on the lower side of the plate.
It is a small sample size, but Adams’ OPS, 1.031 is 230 points higher than his career norms, at .798. His OPS+ also far exceeds his career average of 115 at 174.
He’s also boasted a very high wRC+, exceeding teammates Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon. Around him are several all-star candidates, Odubel Herrera, Tommy Pham, Mike Trout, and Mookie Betts. Also in the same range is Adam Eaton, who he is playing in large part because of his injury. Below him? Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Jose Altuve and Mitch Haniger (hey, I made another article on him!).
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a hot start from Adams, though. He filled in for Braves star Freddie Freeman last season, hitting a scorching hot .314 with 10 home runs and 1.034 OPS. Sound familiar? His hitting was so solid that they moved Freeman to third base upon his return. His lackluster defense and cooling numbers led them to cut ties with him this past winter.
So, is his performance sustainable? While the numbers he’s posted have impressed, there’s some reason for caution. For starters, he isn’t facing left handers much. The only guy he has faced recently was Clayton Richard, who isn’t exactly a Clayton Kershaw prototype. His batting average against southpaws recently stands at a measly .180 with 3 home runs, so it seems he could be no more than a righty crusher, even with his hot start. With righty/lefty platoons as prevalent as ever, he could end up splitting time with Howie Kendrick when Anthony Rendon returns. Also, there’s the argument of longevity when looking at his career. Over his big league journey, he has only accrued a 6.0 WAR. This season’s 1.1 WAR could level out sooner than later.
On the positive side, Adams has shown a better approach, is outperforming many on an impressive Nationals team, and will get increased playing time in Eaton’s absence. Also, outfielder Brian Goodwin just hit the DL, opening yet another potential spot for Adams. Currently, the only lock down candidate for an outfield job is Bryce Harper (until Eaton returns). At bats shouldn’t be hard to come by in the next week and a few after, but eventually he will have some significant competition. The Nationals, a prime contender in the NL East, won’t hesitate to reinforce a weakness.
If you are desperate for fantasy points (we’ve all been there), it may be a good idea to pick him up, but “proceed with caution” may be the best advice.
(Image via Zimbia.com)