It is no secret that Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns’ trade with the Rays in May 2021 for shortstop Willy Adames was not only one of the best trades he made last year, it was one of the more effective ones in all of baseball in 2021. Adames provided a spark to the team and the result was that they immediately began winning a lot more ball games.
That winning continued throughout the season as the Crew went on to become National League Central Champions and finished with a 95-67 record. It also gave them a franchise record fourth straight postseason appearance.
A lot of credit goes to Adames for his role in turning the Brewers season around. As a Brewer, he hit .285 with a .886 OPS while managing to hit 20 long balls and drive in 58 runners. Overall, he finished the year with a total of 25 home runs, 73 RBIs, and finished 16th in NL MVP voting. Had a quad injury not sidelined him in September, he might have put up even better numbers.
Throughout the season, there were stretches where Adames was playing like a legit MVP candidate and was putting up similar statistics to superstar Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. He also was one of the best clutch hitters in the game and developed a flare for the dramatics.
With year one being so impressive, that begs the question as to what Brewers fans can expect from Willy Adames in 2022.
According to the Steamer projections on FanGraphs, in 2022, Adames is in line for a .262/.337/.481 slash line. He is projected to hit 23 home runs, drive in 73 runs, and finish with a 105 wRC+.
That is a pretty good season by most players standards, but to me these projections seem a bit light for a player who is coming off a season in which he received MVP votes and is currently entering his prime playing years.
To support this, let’s acknowledge the fact that Adames finished 2021 with a 119 wRC+ that includes his struggles with Tampa Bay to begin the year. As a Brewer, that number rose to 135. His 105 wRC+ projection for 2022 is surprising and he should finish with a higher number.
Additionally in 2021, he established new career bests in several advanced metrics. A few examples include barrel percentage (11.4%), average exit velocity (89.5 MPH), launch angle (16.5 degrees), hard hit percentage (44.7%), and walk rate (10.3%). All signs are pointing in an upwards trend for Adames.
Another factor to take into consideration is American Family Field. Historically, Adames has had drastic home/away splits that he himself said was due to issues seeing the ball at Tropicana Field. This gives one hope that with 81 games now in Milwaukee, he will continue to hit and produce.
Given all of this, I do not think it is unreasonable to expect a season in which Adames hits closer to .280 with a wRC+ in the 115-120 range. If healthy, he has the potential to set new career highs in home runs (25) and RBIs (73). Only time will tell if this happens, but I do believe that Adames will improve upon his already impressive 2021 campaign.