It has been a disappointing start to the year for Milwaukee's star shortstop. After a promising month of April, Willy Adames is in the midst of the least productive offensive season of his six year career. He's shown in the past that he can be one of the most influential bats in Milwaukee's lineup, but he has failed to be a major contributor for the Brewers' offense this season.
Following his offensive outburst in 2022 , there were high expectations set for Willy Adames heading into the 2023 season. Adames paced all National League shortstops in home runs with 31 last year, and his 98 RBIs were the third-most among MLB shortstops. It felt as if Adames was ready to take that next-step in his player development this season.
Instead, it has been a lackluster season at the plate for one of the team's most important hitters. Adames has been the anchor at the top of Milwaukee's lineup since joining the team back in 2021, but he hasn't seen nearly the same degree of success this season.
Batting Order Spot
Willy Adames has greatly struggled as the two-hole hitter in 2023. On top of his inefficient numbers illustrated in the table above, Adames also has a 34% strikeout rate when hitting second in the lineup. While his numbers are slightly improved when batting third in the lineup, they're still not what you want to see out of your three-hole hitter, especially for a player of Willy Adames' caliber.
His overall numbers on the year have fallen short of expectations, and Adames has yet to gather his footing since returning to the lineup from the concussion injured list. Since his return on June 7th, Adames is slashing just .175/.250/.275 for an OPS of .525 and wRC+ of 45 in his 44 plate appearances. More significantly, he is sporting a strikeout rate of 31.8% in that stretch, and he has just one RBI in his 10 games back.
With his struggles at the plate thus far, is it time for the Brewers to drop him down in the lineup for the time being? Let's look to what might be contributing to Adames' rough offensive start to the season.
Despite having 10 home runs this season, Willy Adames has seen his power metrics dip in 2023.
The Brewers' offense has struggled thus far this season. They have the fifth-least runs scored in MLB, and they rank 26th in team OPS (.683) and wRC+ (87). There are several factors that have led to Milwaukee's struggles to score runs, and one contributing factor is Willy Adames' lack of production at the plate.
In 258 plate appearances this season, Adames is slugging only .364 to go with an OPS of just .649, which are both the lowest marks of his career. It's also noteworthy that Adames' wRC+ of 77 is also the lowest mark of his career (he has never finished a season with a wRC+ below 99). Despite accumulating 10 home runs on the year, Adames' quality of contact and power metrics have all regressed in 2023.
His hard hit rate, or the percentage of batted balls that were hit 95 miles per hour or more, currently sits at 33.3%. That is his lowest hard hit rate since his rookie season in 2018, and it is greater than a 10% decrease from last season's number. In turn, it's no surprise to see Adames posting the lowest average exit velocity of his career this season at 86.3 miles per hour.
His drop in power numbers, specifically extra-base hits, is captured by his noticeable decrease in ISO, or Isolated Power. In his first 61 games this season, Adames' ISO number sits at just .164. It's his lowest ISO number since 2018, and it's a substantial decrease from last season's number of .220. For a player that has established himself as one of the most electric power threats in the lineup, Adames' power presence simply hasn't been felt this season.
Willy Adames has failed to consistently put the ball in play as he continues to battle swing-and-miss concerns.
Adames saw his efficiency at the plate dip last season, as both his batting average and on-base percentage saw a major dip from his 2021 numbers. Unfortunately, that trend has continued so far in 2023.
Adames is hitting just .200 on the year while getting on-base at a .285 clip, which are both the lowest numbers of his career. He is an integral piece to Milwaukee's offensive game plan, but he has not put together efficient plate appearances in 2023.
He continues to struggle with putting the bat on the ball, which is an area he has grappled with all throughout his young career. His whiff rate currently sits at 31.6%, which is up 3.4% from last season and is in the bottom 20% in baseball. He is also sporting the worst chase rate of his career at 32.2%, which is a 2.5% increase from 2022. Regression in these two areas are contributing to his 26.7% strikeout rate, which is in the 24th percentile according to Baseball Savant.
It has been a step-back in almost every aspect for Adames offensively this season. He is struggling to put the ball in play, and he is not generating impactful contact when he does connect. He is failing to do the job of a number two or three hitter at the moment, and it's contributing to this team's struggles at the plate.
Willy Adames is the heart and soul of Milwaukee's clubhouse camaraderie, and he still brings fantastic defense to the shortstop position. However, he has not been producing like a hitter who belongs at the top of the lineup this season. It might be time for Craig Counsell to consider dropping Willy Adames down in the lineup until he can turn things around at the plate.