A couple months ago, I wrote that Chance Adams, Domingo Acevedo, and Albert Abreu all needed to have strong 2019 seasons to maintain some semblance of a prospect status. Thanks to injuries and poor performance, their collective prospect stock had never been lower when I sat down to write that piece. To their credit, it might be coming back up. Adams, Acevedo, and Abreu haven’t had perfect seasons, but it does appear they’re on the road to regaining some prospect shine. Let’s break it down:
Adams’ stat line doesn’t look great right now — 4.80 ERA in 30 innings, but it’s a little misleading. His first three appearances this season were dreadful. In 11.1 innings, Adams surrendered 13 earned runs, walked 10, and gave up four homers, but the problem might’ve been in his mechanics.
Adams made some small changes to his delivery while working with RailRiders pitching coach Tommy Phelps, and Adams’ statistics have done a complete 180 since. Including his three-inning outing with the big league club, Adams has thrown 21.2 innings with a 1.25 ERA since making the adjustments. He’s struck out 26, walked just six, and hasn’t allowed a homer either.
It’s certainly a positive to see Adams putting up some better results. Granted, he’s thrown fewer than 25 quality innings this year, but at no point last year did he have a streak like the one he’s on right now.
Still lacking a changeup, Adams probably won’t ever be the mid-rotation piece scouts thought he might become. In spite of that, he’s started finding success again and his velocity has rebounded from the 88-91 mph range he was for most of last season. With the Yankees’ pitch staff so depleted with injuries, Adams is going to get more chances this season. With corrected mechanics and improved velocity, Adams is on track to regain at least some of his lost glory.
After multiple years of dealing with small, nagging injuries, the Yankees decided to move Acevedo to the bullpen. The Yankees have tried to ease his transition to the bullpen by structuring his outings. He pitches one to two innings every couple of days, rather than the more traditional, “any given night” deployment most relievers experience. Similar to Adams, Acevedo has found success and experienced a rough patch.
Acevedo took to his bullpen assignment early, starting the season red hot out of the gate. Between April 6 and May 1, Acevedo pitched 14.1 innings across eight games with 16 strikeouts and just three walks. His ERA was just 1.26 and had an 18% swinging-strike rate.
Since then, things have taken a bad turn. In his last five outings, Acevedo has thrown eight innings and owns an 11.25 ERA. His strikeout numbers remained about the same, but his K/BB rates took a massive hit because of Acevedo’s four walks during that span.
Hopefully, this is just a rough patch and not the new normal. The scouting report on Acevedo has always been that he has a big fastball, but his other offerings left something to be desired. Reports from this season say his fastball hovers around 92-94 mph. That’s a far cry from the upper 90s — tops out at 103 mph — heat Yankee fans spent years hearing about. Velocity like that certainly doesn’t disqualify him from pitching in the big leagues, but it could be worrisome for a pitcher who relies on that velocity more than anything else.
When I included Abreu in my piece a few months ago, I tempered my criticism by saying that he hadn’t quite yet lost his prospect shine, but he was in danger of doing so. Injuries have severely limited Abreu’s contributions. He hasn’t eclipsed 100 innings in a season since joining the Yankees prior to the 2017 season. So far this year, he’s had health on his side, but the results haven’t followed.
Command has been the number one issue to plague Abreu in his career and especially this season. The lack of command leads to an inflated walk rate, as evidenced by a 6.1 BB/9. When he’s in so many deep counts, hitters have a better chance at getting a pitch to hit, and the data shows they are. Hitters have a .283 batting average and a .414 slugging percentage against the right-hander. Double-A manager Pat Osborn recently had this to say about Abreu’s struggles:
“His stuff is so good that command-wise, it doesn’t have to be great. It just has to be in the strike zone. But when he starts to get scattered, hitters are able to shrink that zone into a baseball-sized spot and he’s got to give in. I think that’s where he gets hurt.”
If Abreu can find the strike zone a bit more, his upper-90s fastball and three solid offspeed offerings can pave the way to better results. Thankfully for Abreu, he still has plenty of time to put it all together. He’s young for Double-A, about a year and a half younger than the average player in that league. It’s always nice to see guys put it all together at 22, but some pitchers take a bit longer to find success at the big league level, like Dellin Betances and Domingo German
All things considered, these three pitchers haven’t gotten off to perfect starts this year, but they’ve all flashed the tools that made them prospects in the first place. With their collective injury histories, health will remain paramount in determining how well this season goes. Adams, Acevedo, and Abreu all needed strong 2019 seasons. They haven’t knocked it out of the park, but there’s still reason to believe these guys aren’t done yet either.