A look at San Diego Padres’ reliever Austin Adams.
As a 29-year-old reliever, Austin Adams has already been involved in three trades. He was a minor leaguer with the Los Angeles Angels when he and Kyle McGowin were traded to the Washington Nationals for Danny Espinosa. Three years later, he was shipped off to the Seattle Mariners for Nick Wells and cash considerations.
Another year, another trade. This time to the San Diego Padres alongside Dan Altavilla and Austin Nola, where he remains on the roster. Coming off of knee surgery after tearing his ACL late in the 2019 season, Adams appeared in just four innings, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out seven and walking two.
On the mound, Adams utilizes a fastball/slider combo. The slider is the better of the two pitches as batters hit a mere .133 and slugged .229 against the pitch in 2019. The slider has an incredible amount of movement, averaging 34.4 inches of drop and 6.6 inches of horizontal break. Pair this with a 47.8 whiff rate, and Adams struck out 40.8 percent of batters in 2019.
Thanks to the knee surgery, Adams lost velocity on both of his pitches. In 2020, Adams averaged 93.3 MPH on his fastball and 87 MPH on the slider. As his knee strength continues to build, expect those pitches to reach their average velocity of 95.1 MPH and 89 MPH, respectively.
A problem that has plagued Adams since his major league debut has been his command. Even with a high K/9, walks have continued to dog him in Seattle and San Diego. In 1.2 innings of postseason work, Adams walked two batters, hit two, and struck out just one while allowing a single run. In those 1.2 innings, Adams didn’t surrender a hit as the run scored off Matt Strahm.
There is also a hint of uncertainty surrounding Adams. While there were flashes of success in his few appearances in 2020, he will have to prove that he has fully recovered from the torn ACL and that he can recapture his 2019 form.
Even with questions surrounding his potential performance, Adams figures to be a key contributor to the San Diego bullpen in 2021. If his velocity can return to its full strength and maintains his movement on the slider, Adams will be a rock in the pen. If not, then Adams may struggle to find innings or be deleted from the roster.