Adames Time Will Come Very Soon, Just Not Now
Willy Adames is ready for the big leagues, the Rays aren’t ready for him.
Entering Monday night he was batting .302 (29-for-96) for the Rays Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls. A robust 13.8% walk-rate elevates his on-base percentage is .397. Nine of his 29 hits, including three homers, have been for extra-bases. He has an isolated-power of .177 and a healthy .479 slugging percentage.
Although it’s only 27 games, there is no reason to believe that resistance is hiding for him around the corner. He spent the 2017 season in Triple-A and hit .277/.360/.415 with 45 extra-base hits including 10 homers. Did I mention, he’s just 22 years old?
At first glance his .366 batting average in balls in play suggests that some regression may be lying in wait. While it’s somewhat high for the most players (.326 is the average in the International League), Adames carried a .354 BABIP through the ’17 season.
The case to #FreeWilly is indisputable. He is ready. The time to keep him in the minors to gain an extra service year has passed. The only other variable in calling him up is financial. Keep him in the minors long enough that he isn’t part of the Super 2 class during arbitration.
According to MLB.com, “To qualify for the Super Two design, players must rank in the top 22-percent, in terms of service time, among those who have amassed between two and three years in the majors.
Last year, the Super 2 cutoff was 2-years and 123 days of service (written 2.123). In 2016 it was 2.131 and in 2015 it was 2.130 (MLBTraderumors). The 2018 season is 187 days in length. Using the span of 2.123 (2017) and 2.131 (2016) the callup date to avoid Super 2 would be sometime between May 24 and June 1st. However, most teams like to play it safe and call the player up a couple weeks later than projected, meaning mid-to-late June.
In almost any season, the #FreeWilly movement would have to wait until after the Super 2 cutoff date. This year, even a team like the Rays, may not be so concerned about the Super 2 class.
After an off-season of tension between the Major League Baseball Players Union and ownership including the commissioner, the service time issue on the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) may be a moot point.
So, why is Adames stuck in Durham laying waste to Triple-A pitching? Rather than just looking at the Super 2 cutoff as in previous seasons, I believe the reason he’s stuck in Triple-A is that the Rays aren’t ready for him.
Everyone in the infield is currently fulfilling a role and is healthy. Normally, this isn’t a Rays thing:
- Third baseman Matt Duffy is batting .295/.320/.368 is just now starting to get his legs under him.
- Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who is making $5.9MM, is as steady as they come at shortstop and is hitting .260.
- Second baseman Daniel Robertson, who can man second, shortstop, or third is batting .295/.439/.487 with three homers in 98 plate appearances.
- Joey Wendle hasn’t been overwhelmed at the keystone either. He is batting .286/.344/.429 spanning 93 plate appearances.
The easy solution would be to trade Adeiny Hechavarria. The Rays could trade him to the Los Angeles Dodgers who just lost shortstop Corey Seager for the year to an elbow injury. Makes even more sense considering the relationship between General Manager Erik Neander and Dodgers President Andrew Friedman (read more here).
While the aforementioned Dodgers/Rays deal may eventually happen, it’s unlikely the Dodgers would immediately use trade chips to acquire a shortstop when they have Chris Taylor. He has played in 102 games (86 starts) at the position in the big leagues. He also had a breakout season with the bat in 2017 batting .288/.354/.429. While he’s off to a slow start in 2018, batting just .238/.289/.429, the production is still above average for a shortstop.
The #FreeWilly moment will either happen due to an injury or will happen later in the season after a trade. The trade season will most likely occur after the Super 2 deadline, but the financial implications isn’t keeping Adames in Triple-A.