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Could Austin Adams Be the Next Elite Reliever?

In late June, Austin Adams entered a game for the Mariners against the Brewers with the reigning National League MVP, Christian Yelich, at the plate. He caught Yelich looking at an 89-mph slider for strike three before using that same slider on Ryan Braun and Mike Moustakas to get swinging strikeouts. He induced a groundout by Jesus Aguilar to finish his outing for the night. Navigating that part of the Brewers lineup is no easy task for any reliever, yet Adams almost effortlessly racked up three punchouts while facing only the four batters. That gave Adams four straight relief appearances with three or more strikeouts, part of a dominant stretch that saw him strike out 25 over 12.1 scoreless frames. On a struggling Mariners team, Adams has emerged as one of the lone bright spots. Soon, he could become the next elite bullpen arm in baseball.

Adams could also become the next name on a growing list of valuable relievers the Nationals have traded away in recent years. Felipe Vazquez and Blake Treinen have been reliable and at times elite closers for the their respective new teams. On May 4th, the Nationals traded Adams to the Mariners for Nick Wells and cash considerations. The trade came shortly after the Nationals designated Adams for assignment on April 29th. Starved for relievers and sporting MLB’s second-worst bullpen ERA of 6.29 and fifth-worst FIP of 4.89, the Nationals might have let another elite reliever slip away.

Since debuting with the Mariners on April 20th, Adams has been masterful. The 28-year-old right-hander, an eighth-round selection by the Angels out of the University of South Florida back in 2012, has a K/9 of over 15 and a K% of 43.9% through 24.1 innings pitched on the year thus far. He’s pitched his way to a 2.46 FIP and 2.28 xFIP, both of which come in well under his ERA of 3.70 (he was mostly recently charged with three runs on July 3 after leaving the bases loaded and having all runs score after he exited the game). In 36.2 innings in 2019, which includes his Triple-A numbers at Fresno and Tacoma, he’s served up just two home runs. At every level of professional baseball he’s pitched in since 2014, he’s accumulated a K/9 north of 12, including a 15.15 K/9 and a 1.93 FIP in 2018 while at Triple-A Syracuse in the Nationals organization. Read the rest of this entry »