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How Willy Adames’ defense stacks up with Infielder OAA

Baseball Savant’s newest stat allows us to take a deeper dive into Adames’ defense

Willy Adames had a breakout campaign in 2019 on both sides of the ball. Adames’s defensive improvements throughout the season provided Rays fans with a glimpse at the potential the young shortstop has.

With Statcast and Baseball Savant introducing their newest advanced metric, Infielder Outs Above Average, let’s not only take a look at how Adames’ 2019 season compares to other great defenders at his position, but understand the situations that allows Adames to play his best defense.

Adames recorded four Outs Above Average, or OAA for short, in 2019, ranking him 16th among infielders. His success rate was 86%, which was exactly the same as his expected success rate, so Adames performed as expected on defense. But you can dive a lot deeper thanks to the newest data.

Before we dive deep into the numbers, let’s find Adames’ best catch from the 2019 season.

Willy caught four outs that had an estimated success rate of less than 50%, two outs that were less than 25%, and one that was less than 5%. On March 31st, in the season opening series against the Houston Astros, Adames covered 68 feet to steal a single from Alex Bregman.

Adames’s biggest area of weakness was errors on plays with a 90% estimated success rate or better, where he recorded seven errors and allowed four hits, costing himself -11 OAA. The good news? Adames recorded 340 outs on plays with the same probability, good for an overall of five OAA. These mistakes will undoubtedly be cleaned up, and it goes to show just how much the good outweighed the bad last season.

Adames recorded 381 plays from the shortstop position, with only 83 of those plays positioned straight up, recording -2 OAA. When shaded towards either 2B or 3B, Adames was at his best, recording five OAA in 295 attempts. Those five OAA are what I want to take a deeper look into, as it puts Adames in some elite company.

Narrowing our search down to shortstops playing shaded (toward 2B or 3B), Adames’ five OAA ranked just behind both Francisco Lindor and Trea Turner (6 OAA each), but still behind the truly elite like Javier Baez (10 OAA) and Andrelton Simmons (12 OAA). To make comparisons with defenders that good, we have to go back a few paragraphs and look at estimated success rate (ESR).

Only eight defenders had catches with an ESR of 25% or less, with only three of those players having a catch at 5% or less. Adames, as shown earlier, is one of the three with a catch that difficult, while Francisco Lindor and Trea Turner are the other two, who both made jumping catches on line drives in their difficult catches.

Here’s a look at how the eight players with impressive unlikely catches compare, including two shortstops who graded highly in overall OAA:

While no extreme conclusions should come from this, although the numbers do back-up the article’s lead image, it is impressive to see the 24-year-old Rays shortstop in elite company after only his second season in the MLB.

With the expectation that the number of errors should be reduced and the improving bat on the other side of the ball, there is a lot of potential in Willy Adames, and that is all without even mentioning the electric personality that Adames possess.

Without getting too ahead of ourselves, it is easy to say that the Rays have, at the very least, a good young player on their hands.