The midseason prospect lists are in! The midseason prospects lists are in! It's the most wonderful time of the year!
Don't look now, but prospect-wise the Rays find themselves right up there with other well-regarded franchises. It helps that much of the young talent has graduated this year (Kris Bryant, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Joc Pederson, etc.) but the Rays have still managed to put three players in BA’s, BP’s, and Keith Law’s Top 50 Prospects List.
Sharing the honor amongst all three lists are Blake Snell and Willy Adames, the latter of which is the subject of today’s Swing Analysis. As always, the videos used in the GIFs was taken by DRaysBay’s resident swing expert Curt Wilson, a Professional Swing Consultant. Technically, I don’t think he counts as a resident if he doesn’t actually live and sleep in the server room (like I do...grad school is expensive) but obviously we’re glad he’s around nonetheless. Let’s dive right in and see if there’s anything about Adames worth getting excited over.
Spoiler alert: there is.
Maybe you remember the Swing Mechanics piece for Steven Souza, where we discussed how Souza has a lot of easy pop.
That's Souza lined up next to Wil Myers, his partner in trade. Souza’s the kind of guy who takes batting practice drills by hitting baseballs off of a tee into the outfield seats; he’s never had a problem with natural power, and he’s been showing that off in the majors this year (when he’s not striking out). One of the most important parts of the last article mentioned how Souza kept his hands back until the very last possible second (as you can see above), and we can see a very similar thing with Willy Adames.
Here’s a clip from a recent High-A game. In this at-bat, Adames lined a ball hard to left field for a base hit. Later in the game, he’d hit a home run, and also knocked a ball over 400 feet, but foul.
That's him on the left. Check out his hands, right below that thick red line. Notice how they stay sitting on that line as long as they possibly can, before Willy has to swing the bat. It’s about five frames worth of time. Here’s the thing too: that ball that he crushed to left was well inside. When it’s that far in, you’ve got to drop your hands a bit earlier to go reach it. Even so, Willy kept his hands stationary for five whole frames. That’s an eternity, and it allows the lower half of the body to work and coil and unleash all at once, like a python on a steak. Or a mouse. Or a kangaroo. Snakes, right?
That fellow on the right, by the by, is none other than Yung Joc Pederson, all the wat back in 2013. The way he keeps his hands back is nearly identical to the way Adames does. So there’s that.
Let’s check out a new angle. We’ve talked about hand placement, lower torso activity, and even bat angle in previous installments. Look at this GIF, and pay close attention to the path of the bat for both players.
The player on the right is Jake Marisnick, a player in the Houston Astros organization. Marisnick is 24, and at 6’4’’ and 220 lbs, he’s an imposing figure at the plate, right on line with Souza’s 6’4’’ and 225 lb frame. That said, Marisnick has never been able to maintain consistent power numbers, putting up a career slugging percentage of .373, and an OPS of .596. Why can’t Marisneck slug like Souza, who’s slugging .417 and hits those loud and long home runs we’ve all seen? For starters, check the bat plane.
Marisnick’s bat never seems to fall and get deep into the zone. It never gets behind his body. This means that Marisnick’s margin of error for hitting the ball hard is very small.
In contrast, check out Adames’ swing. The bat falls and falls until it’s almost parallel to the ground, and only then does the meat of the bat slide through home plate. The bat gets on plane super early, and thus reaches the plane of the ball before the ball has even arrived.
Are you a visual learner like I am? Think of Marisnick’s bat path as scraping along the edges of a water balloon. With more of a looping swing, the range in the swing where the bat travels parallel to the ground (at the bottom of the water balloon) and has a higher potential for contact and hard hits is small. With Adames, imagine his water balloon is squished up against a table. The more compressed, oblong shape of Adames’ bat path permits a wider range to smack the ball with authority, just as Adames did this very at-bat. I hope my water balloon metaphor was very helpful, beacuse I'm having second thoughts about it. If only there was a way to delete words on a computer. Ah well.
Is there anyone else in the MLB who keep his bat back and deep? Probably not.
Oh yeah except for Albert Pujols. He keeps his business pretty much flat until it’s time to explode on the ball, and that’s why he’s really good at hitting a baseball and you should be afraid of him. High levels of contact + hard hits = excellent batter.
That said, do we have any proof that Adames is hitting the ball on the screws? Sure he’s only 19, but his home run totals are not very high at all. Is this something we should be concerned about?
Above is an excellent indicator of power. Look at the way Adames keep his hands back in the above GIF. That’s the source of so much power. Whereas Marisnick stretches his hands out to slap at the ball, losing the lower body strength that can muscle a ball over a fence, Adames keeps his hands back, coiling and coiling like (once again) a snake. Is it too late to give Willy Adames a nickname? Because I’m going to start calling him "King Cobra." There, it’s settled.
Here’s that other angle again. Check out his lower half. His hips start to run even before he reaches "toe touch," the equalizing point of all swings. All batters reach that point in their swing, and using that as a Rosetta Stone we are able to compare on swing to another. Adames, before he even reaches that point, is already coiling up like some sort of legless reptile to generate some serious power. So much in fact, that Adames actually sometimes comes off the ground.
Again, this pitch is inside and not representative of all of his swings, but it’s pretty encouraging to a see a 19 year old with power manifest in his swing build up so much energy and torque in his swing that it literally can’t be contained on earth. It’s defying gravity, essentially. Willy Adames can power a rocket. These are all reasonable assertions.
Look, the Rays farm system has been going through a serious resurgence. Led by Richie Shaffer and Blake Snell, we’re starting to see some of the choices of the old regime starting to pay off. The lost draft of 2011 is beginning to take shape, and it’s encouraging.
But prospects that were traded for are also starting to shine through. Jake Bauers and Willy Adames, two young prospects in advanced levels for their ages, are breaking through and lighting up the minor leagues. No one has been talking about either of them (especially Jake Bauers, a 19 year old in AA hitting .338/.384/.446!) until recently. It’s exciting to see mainstream sites start to latch onto the Rays’ farm team and take notice. Adames has been well-valued by this community since arriving in the Price trade, and others are starting to catch wind of him as well.
There’s still even more that can be said about Willy Adames (Curt had enough info for a whole 'nother article), but it’s important to remember that he’s only 19 years old. It’s possible that another one of these pieces can be written soon regarding Adames, yet in a year his swing might have changed considerably. Willy Adames is full of untapped potential, and he hasn't even hit drinking age yet. What's next for him? Probably good things.