While guys like Nolan Ryan cause scouts, pitching coaches and baseball executives to salivate, it's often guys like Mark Buehrle that become fan favorites. With flamethrowers like Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease capturing the headlines, it's possible a pitchability guy sneaks into the starting rotation and remains a fixture for a few years or a decade. After all, Jamie Moyer pitched until he was 49.
Triple-A Numbers Sending Mixed Signals
"I'm not the type of guy who goes out there and strikes out a lot of guys," Spencer Adams said in a phone interview with FutureSox. "I'm a guy that pitches to contact. So, I try to get them out in the first couple of pitches. We play the shift quite a bit and I try to pitch to my strengths."
In 90.1 innings at Triple-A Charlotte, this season Adams struck out 42 while walking 38. "The strike zone gets a little bit smaller up here. There's been a couple games where I haven't had a feel for my breaking pitches. I've always taken pride in not walking many guys, so that number does annoy me," said Adams. "My best pitch since I've been in Triple-A has been my fastball location."
The numbers bear that out as Adams walked 20 while striking out 53 in fewer innings at Birmingham. "I don't worry about strikeout numbers. I feel that if I eat up innings, I'm doing my job out there," he said. By that measure, Adams has been successful by pitching deeper into games. From the major league's doorstep, he threw 22 more innings in only two more starts than he had at Birmingham.
Surprisingly, he's been more successful at run prevention while struggling with his control. His ERA is down to 3.19 vs. 4.59. Opponents are batting .248 against him at the highest level of the minors as opposed to .290 in Double-A. He's also reduced his WHIP to a near league average 1.33, and at 22 years old he's a good two to three years younger than the average pitcher in the International League.
Major League Ready
In a conference call earlier this summer, Chicago White Sox Director of Player Development Chris Getz discussed what it takes for a pitchability type to become major league ready.
"With a power pitcher, you don't need to be as fine with your command. There is more margin for error. With a pitcher whose fastball may be a little light, we focus on secondary pitches and getting ahead early with those other weapons and then use the fastball differently. Then it just comes down to executing pitches. You are able to get away with more things when you have more weapons."
Based on that statement, it appears that overcoming his command issue is the first hurdle that Adams needs to address in order to make the trip to Chicago. "I don't know if there is one thing in particular or if there's multiple things that I need to prove that I can be in the big leagues. I try not to think about that. I try to control, what I can control," said Adams.
Plenty of Weapons
Adams is determined to make it as a starter at the major league level. "Right now, I'm doing everything I need to do to remain a starter." With Carlos Rodon and Kopech looking like potential front-end starters and Lucas Giolito coming on, opportunities are dwindling in the White Sox rotation. But Adams has the complete repertoire that Getz covets to make it happen. He features a fastball that ranges from 92-95 which he offsets with a solid change-up. His mid-80s slider is his best pitch, and he adds a two-seamer to complete the package. There's one school of thought that says a rotation should have a well-rounded mix of styles to keep hitters off-balance over the course of a series. If the White Sox adhere to that mindset, Adams is the type of pitcher who could fit that role.
Finishing Up Strong
"I'm just trying to finish up the season strong. I'm hoping to build off of what I've done so far," said Adams. By that criteria, Adams did well going seven strong innings in his final start of the season on September 2 allowing only one run, while striking out four and not issuing any walks en route to a 3-0 victory for the Charlotte Knights.
As for the offseason, Adams plans to take care of his body a little better. He's looking to add strength and flexibility. He's hoping to eliminate the injuries he entered spring training with this season in order to get off to a good start.
One More Step
As for becoming a fan favorite, Adams may have the sense of humor to make that happen. This interview took place the day it was announced that Kopech was being called up to the majors, so naturally, the topic came up. When I asked him about it he joked:
"The other day Kopech got the first pick-off of his career at first base. I joked with him, if I were you, I would have gotten that pick-off a long time ago, so you could've gone ahead and checked that box."
We all know how Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn feel about sliding around on a tarp during a rain delay, but Siera Santos and Chuck Garfien could be lining up Adams for post-game interviews in he continues to display that type of wit. He's only one step away and he just might have the stuff to get there.
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