Brewers: What to Expect From New Shortstop Willy Adames

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - MAY 19: Willy Adames #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays fields against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 19, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - MAY 19: Willy Adames #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays fields against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 19, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

Brewers fans have had a little less than 24 hours to process the move that was made by the team yesterday, but one thing is for certain after all is said and done. Milwaukee has a new starting shortstop going forward. Again.

Yesterday, the Brewers shook things up when they traded two of their main relievers to the Tampa Bay Rays for shortstop Willy Adames and another right-handed pitcher. This came less than two months after the team traded away their previous long-term starting shortstop, Orlando Arcia.

Milwaukee reportedly had been eyeing up Adames for months and there had already been discussions with the Rays about him in the past. So the team says this was not necessarily a knee jerk reaction to Luis Urias‘ defensive struggles this season, more so a chance to add a player they really wanted.

With the dust settled on the team’s most recent trade, Adames now slots in as the team’s primary starting shortstop for the foreseeable future. So let’s take a closer look at the new guy who will be roaming the infield.

What can Brewers fans expect out of their new shortstop, Willy Adames?

Adames was originally signed by the Detroit Tigers as a teenager during the 2012 international signing period. Two years later he would be traded to the Rays as part of the blockbuster move that brought starter David Price to Detroit.

Within a few years, Adames would end up developing into Tampa’s top prospect, reaching the No. 1 spot in MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Rays prospects to start 2017 and being named a Top 25 prospect in all of MLB that year by the site as well. This was what their offensive scouting report for him had to say that year:

"Adames generates hard line drives across the entire field thanks to a combination of plus bat speed and barrel control, and he consistently puts himself in a good position to hit thanks to his advanced feel for the strike zone and knack for working deep counts."

As a pro, Adames has been at least an average hitter over his career, hitting .254 with a .740 OPS and a 20-homer season to his credit in 2019. His numbers have been down to start 2021 a .197 average and a .625 OPS. Still, his 103 OPS+ is just above average and is higher than the career MLB marks for either Arcia or Urias.

There are signs that this year’s numbers could be ready to jump though. Adames is sitting on a .276 BABIP for the year, under his career .340 mark. His barrel rate of 14.8% and hard hit rate of 44.4%, though, sit in the 90th and 69th percentiles, respectively. So as his BABIP evens out, it’s going to result in some big hits.

Another big reason for optimism comes from his career home/away splits. Adames had a .219/.277/.347 career slash line with a  76 wRC+ in his career at Tampa, but a .291/.363/.495 slash line and a 130 wRC+ everywhere else. A move for American Family Field could be big for him.

The big concern for him offensively, like other Brewers hitters, to be honest, is his propensity for striking out. His career rate of 29.7% isn’t exactly great, but it has elevated further to 36.1% in 2020 and 35.9% in 2021.

Defensively, the Brewers get a major upgrade to their run prevention unit. With Urias seemingly going through the yips at short, Adames steps in with a reputation as an excellent defensive shortstop and immediately shores up the position.

After a rough defensive start to his career in 2018 (-8 DRS), Adames has been worth 12 defensive runs save since then, topping out at 8 defensive runs saved in his last full year in 2019. That ranked second among qualified AL shortstops that year behind only eventual Gold Glove winner Francisco Lindor.

All those numbers aside, the Brewers are getting an excellent teammate in Adames. He has drawn nothing but positive reviews from teammates and writers back in Tampa and even was given a ringing endorsement by former Brewer, Carlos Gomez.

Should Adames’ offense level back out as expected, Milwaukee finally gets a solution to the shortstop position that they’ve been trying to find for years, not to mention a stellar new teammate. And with all three years of arbitration remaining, he’ll be around for a while.

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This is now the third consecutive shortstop the Brewers have brought in with a high prospect pedigree. Hopefully, as they say, the third time is the charm.