Chance Adams has been a difficult prospect to predict. Adams didn’t rank highly on many prospect lists until he tore through two levels of the minors in 2017. His raw statlines were excellent, but a lack of development time and concern about how many of his pitches were MLB-ready delayed a call-up until the following season. An unimpressive stint in the majors alongside a rising ERA in Triple-A Scranton prevented him from sticking to the majors, and more of the same occurred in 2019.
The overwhelming majority of his career appearances have been as a starting pitcher, but with a lack of spots on the big-league roster and a downward trend in his development, perhaps it’s time to consider a long-term change. A move to the bullpen could bring the best out of Adams, and provide the best solution for the Yankees if they want to get the most out of their former top pitching prospect.
Adams’ arsenal consists of his primary four-seam fastball, and then a mix of offspeed choices that don’t stand out much from each other: a slider, change, and curveball. It was crucial to Adams’ development that he continue to work on all of these pitches, since an MLB starter with only one or two options won’t often succeed. However, cutting down on those options could help him improve and wouldn’t impede his progress as a reliever.
Focusing specifically on his fastball, Adams hovers around 92 mph. Paired with a set of relievers like Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Chad Green who come out of the ‘pen throwing heat in the upper 90’s, Adams could fit comfortably into a middle relief role that changes the timing of opposing batters. Several of the Yankee starters, like Luis Severino and James Paxton, also rely on high velocity setting up their pitches, so bringing a contrast to that cavalcade of hard-throwing pitchers could be especially beneficial.
Then comes the question of which secondary offering Adams could best pair with his fastball in an effort to become more of a two-pitch reliever. Adams has tended to use his slider and curveball roughly the same amount in his outings, somewhere around 20 percent each, while his changeup is more of a show pitch that appears less than 10 percent of the time.
Cutting the changeup seems like the best decision, since it isn’t a pitch he’s shown much confidence in. Adams can then use his slider as a secondary set-up, and either throw the occasional curveball to keep hitters honest or transition entirely to a two-pitch arsenal. It may be best to keep the curve in his repertoire, since a finesse pitcher like himself needs some movement to set up his pitches, and with the changeup out he could use the curve solely to get chasing swings in the bottom of the strike zone.
Adams has one more year before he’s up for arbitration, and he could be a non-tender option if he doesn’t make an impact soon. Considering the other pitchers ahead of him in the system like Deivi Garcia, Michael King, and Jordan Montgomery, and the lack of opportunities for starters remaining, a move to the bullpen may be Adams’ best chance to latch on in the majors in any significant capacity.