Cubs could look to Jason Adam to be a late-inning presence

Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images /

The Chicago Cubs could be dealing with early bullpen questions.

Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel has really struggled in spring training, giving up seven hits and nine runs in just 2 2/3 innings of work.

Granted, fans shouldn’t place too much emphasis on spring training. Position players and pitchers alike are still working out the kinks. Starters and relievers have time to hone their mechanics. Still, Cubs manager David Ross might not have a ton of patience should Kimbrel struggle to hold down the ninth inning. He very well could look elsewhere.

Cubs: Is it possible Jason Adam could get an opportunity to close?

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Jason Adam is one of the more intriguing players on Chicago’s roster heading into the 2020 season. The team signed the right-hander to a minor league contract in January last year. He did not get an opportunity with the Cubs until August and struggled from the jump.

The 29-year-old took the loss in his first outing and gave up a run in each of his first three appearances. But things improved substantially immediately thereafter.

Adam held opponents to three hits and two runs (neither of them were earned) in his next 8 2/3 innings of work. He also struck out 11 in that stretch, showcasing his ability to generate whiffs with power stuff.

It should be noted this is a very small sample size. Adam will have more to prove over the course of a 162-game season. But if Chicago’s bullpen is in flux, why not give him some closing opportunities?

Hitters have averaged an exit velocity of 86.6 MPH off Adam since 2018, per Baseball Savant. That is a positive sign for a guy who relies upon his power stuff to be effective.

Adam averaged close to 95 MPH with the fastball and also ranked in the 99th percentile in fastball spin, resulting in a 35.3 percent whiff rate. What’s more, the right-hander had a sizable increase in curveball spin.  That increase yielded a whopping 69.2 whiff rate, with a .167 xwOBA.

Look at Adam spin off three nasty breakers against Francisco Lindor this past September. He starts Lindor off with a “get me over” curve, followed by one that front-door spinner that gets Lindor swinging before throwing another curve that totally falls off the table.

Throw in a changeup Adam can deploy to keep hitters off balance, and you have a guy capable of getting a lot of big outs in high leverage.

There are likely to be other options for the closing role. Rowan Wick is likely to be in the mix when he eventually returns from the intercostal injury that has hindered him since last season. Brandon Workman has closing experience.

Maybe the Cubs have one more move up their sleeve prior to Opening Day. Perhaps a reunion with Jeremy Jeffress could be on the cards after he was released by the Washington Nationals earlier this month. Or, Kimbrel might solve his mechanical issues and more closely resemble the guy who dominated last September.

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Regardless, Adam has the stuff to be a late-game weapon for Ross. Whether he gets that chance or is more of a middle relief guy remains to be seen.