What’s Interesting About New Atlanta Braves 1B Matt Adams

May 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves first baseman Matt Adams (18) talks with second baseman Jace Peterson (8) in the dugout in the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
May 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves first baseman Matt Adams (18) talks with second baseman Jace Peterson (8) in the dugout in the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Sure – we have no way to replace an elite hitter like Freeman.  But the Braves could have done a lot worse.

When the Atlanta Braves lost Freddie Freeman for 10 weeks with a wrist injury, most likely the 2017 season went with him. Freeman is an elite talent who’s turned himself into truly one of the best hitters in baseball and his absence leaves a gaping hole in the team.

That reality along with the fact that 1B was a thin position in Atlanta’s farm system charged John Coppolella and company to go out and acquire – something for first base.

That something was Matt Adams.

Now this is not a piece telling you Matt Adams is this hidden gem Coppy has uncovered that will carry the Braves to new heights. Steamer projects him at a 104 wRC+ the rest of the season and the most likely scenario is he continues to be who he’s been.

But Matt Adams, the 2017 version, is at least interesting.

Why is Matt Adams interesting? I’m so glad you asked.

Numbers!

Here’s the Braves 2017 average exit velocities

Here’s that same list but with Adams instead of Freeman

Matt Adams is hitting the ball really hard this year. Harder than Freeman, in fact. Since he’s gotten to Atlanta he’s put 10 balls into play with an average exit velocity of 98.7mph. Mercy.

That 92.7 mark he’s putting up this year is up more than 3 mph from his 2016 exit velocity, which was 89.5 mph. A 3 mph increase in your AVG EV is something to take notice of, so I’m taking notice.

But Adams isn’t just interesting to me because he’s hitting the ball harder. That’s just half the equation. He’s interesting to me because he combines hitting the ball hard with hitting the ball in the air.

Here’s the highest Fly Ball % by qualified hitters last year:

Now here’s that same table if you lower the minimum PAs to 300:

There’s our boy. And that approach really hasn’t changed much this year. He’s fly ball rate in 2017 is 43% which is far and away the most on the team. It’s even higher than Freeman’s.

Now I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the increased effort by major league hitters to hit the ball in the air. The “elevate and celebrate” idea is all over baseball and guys are seeing numbers they’ve never seen before by hitting the ball in the air more. Matt Adams is hitting the ball very hard and in the air very frequently. This is what makes him interesting to me.

And none of this even mentions the fact that his new home is 1000+ feet above sea level, in a warm weather city, and with an apparent jet stream out to right field… and even before the Summer heat and humidity thins out the air.

Adams still has his warts, of course. He’s struggled against lefties his entire career (though don’t tell Tony Watson) and his contact rates have dropped every year the last 4 years to a career low 68.4% this year.

He is a flawed player.

But that’s why Coppy was able to get him for an A ball first baseman. There are red flags. But there’s no denying some of these baseline number improvements along with the fact that he’s drastically changed his body type to be more lean and fit.

If he can make a little more contact, it really wouldn’t surprise me to see Adams have the best 10 weeks of his career.

Next: More Construction Could Soon Spring Into Action

There’s no replacing Freddie Freeman. It was a dark, dark day went he got hurt. But in Matt Adams, they at least have a lantern to help them find their way while they wait on the sun to rise again.