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Jason Adam: Two First Names, One Pitcher

Just what did the Royals give up to get Josh Willingham?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In case you missed it, the Royals traded prospect Jason Adam to Minnesota for Josh Willingham. It's a sad parting to see Adam go and by all means a good swap for the Minnesota. They turn a buy-low two/three month rental into a guy.

Adam is a local boy. He was drafted in the 5th round out of Blue Valley Northwest. Baseball America ranked Adam the 54th best prospect in the draft but any team wanting to sign him would need to buy him out of his Missouri commitment. BA noted prior to the draft:

Adam began the year as the highest-rated pitching prospect in Kansas. Though Ryne Stanek has since surpassed him, Adam has pitched well enough that the state could have two high school pitchers drafted in the first three rounds for the first time ever. Adams' draft status hinges more on the strength of his commitment to Missouri than his stuff, which fits near the top of the draft. He has a low-90s fastball that tops out at 95 and also spins a good curveball. His changeup shows enough promise that he eventually could have three average-or-better pitches with good control. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he's more physical than Stanek, and he also repeats his delivery more consistently.

The Royals would successfully buy him out of the Mizzou letter for $800,000, but he would debut fully professionally until the next year.

During his first organized debut for the Royals in the instructional league in 2010, Adam lit his fastball into the mid-90's (what would be a 70 grade) and impressed the Royals staff as a 19-year old throwing some major heat. In a somewhat aggressive assignment, KC sent him to Class A Kane County to begin his career and Adam struggled at times to finish with a 4.23 ERA with a 6.6 K/9 and 2.2 B/9. His fastball would slow down once he started pitching on a more traditional schedule.

Despite a tough debut, Adam would make the Royals Top-10 by BA and come in at #8. After showing a 95-96 mph fastball during instructional league in 2010, Adam didn't have the same velocity while enduring the grind of starting every fifth day. He pitched at 88-93 for much of the season. His curveball shows flashes of being a plus pitch, and he locates it well for a 20-year-old, but the pitch lost some of its bite when his velocity dropped. Adam's changeup eventually could give him a third average-or-better pitch. He was glacially slow to the plate at the start of the season, but while he improved, he has to get quicker after giving up 27 steals in 30 attempts.

The Future: Adam didn't dominate in his pro debut, but he did make every start after arriving in Kane County. He's a potential No. 3 starter and headed to high Class A.

Adam put up a strong debut in pitcher friendly Wilmington with a 3.53 ERA 7 K/9 and 2.1 B/9. The reports on Adam were still mixed. Some scouts saw him as a mid-rotation guy while others saw the inconsistency he showed in his senior year and wondered if the bullpen will be his ultimate destination.

Adam usually works at 90-92 mph and occasionally hits 94 with his fastball. While he has had some success, the Royals aren't ready to give up on finding that lost velocity. They believe he needs to return to the bigger hip turn and higher leg kick he showed in high school, instead of the more tall-and-fall delivery he has used as a pro. He had trouble repeating his high school mechanics, so returning to them could detract from his command, which has been better than expected. Adam's below-average curveball needs more bite, though he controls it well. His changeup is also below-average because he struggles to maintain his usual arm speed.

The Royals did just as Baseball America suggested. They tweaked Adam's mechanics and unlocked some of his prior velocity but at the expense of control. He would then be shelled in AA as a 21 year old to the tune of a 5.19 ERA. Adam would repeat NWA this year and have similar struggles with bouts of inconsistency and command. The stuff just wasn't good enough to get hitters out on a consistent basis multiple times through an order. After promoting him to AAA he was moved to the bullpen. From that move he's looked better from a runs allowed standpoint but has also seen an increase in his H/9 and a decrease in his K/9. Perhaps the exact opposite of what that move was supposed to do.

Following yesterdays acquisition, Baseball America discussed what the Twins are getting in our hometown guy:

The Twins are getting a great lottery ticket. At his best, Adam shows two plus pitches (his fastball and curveball) as well as an average changeup and a slider that could develop into an average pitch and he does it all with potentially average control.

Minnesota will just have to figure out a way to get those outings from Adam on a more consistent basis. He struggles to keep his delivery in check and can have some ugly outings, but he has a chance to be a No. 3/No. 4 starter if it all comes together.

The Royals moved Adam to the ‘pen right before promoting him to Triple-A this July, with an eye on possibly using him as a reliever in their playoff push this year. But he's durable enough to project as a starter-he topped 140 innings in each of the previous two seasons. As a worst-case scenario, Adam would be a useful reliever.

Minnesota plans to use Jason as a starter. Maybe this is a reclamation of sort. Adam is still very young for AAA and has had some positive results in reports and performance, but the inconsistency and inability to develop a true second or third pitch will leave him as being a reverse platoon reliever who struggles to get opposite handed batters out. He stands a chance if he can continue to run the fastball up to the mid-90's, but the inconsistent curve and below average change are going to make him susceptible to not only lefties but same handed batters.

What's interesting to think about is what if Jason decided to go to Missouri or if he was close to another outcome. Coming into the draft he was one of the top 55 talents available so there is a considerable ceiling there and he was committed to a major D-1 university.

Here are the players listed next to him in BA's pre-2010 draft rankings:

50: Kevin Gausman

51: Kellin Deglan

52. Christin Yelich

53. Kris Bryant

54. Jason Adam

55. Delino DeShields Jr

56. Cam Bedrosian

57. Chance Ruffin

58. Robbie Aviles

59. Aaron Sanchez

Gausman would commit to LSU and go 4th overall in the 2012 draft and has debuted for the Orioles. Yelich was snagged in the 1st round that year by Miami and would peak as a top-15 prospect in baseball. Kris Bryant would go to San Diego, be picked 2nd over in the 2013 draft and is now arguably the best prospect in baseball. DeShields hasn't reached the peak of the previous guys but he's still a potential role 50/60 guy. Cam Bedrosian has become one of the best relief pitchers in the minors, striking out 15 K/9 in AA this year, and has been promoted to the Angels major league bullpen. Aaron Sanchez would go to the Blue Jays in the first round that year and entered this season as the 32nd best prospect in baseball despite his control issues.

Maybe in another world or organization Adam could have unlocked that curveball and maintained his mid-90's velocity, but as the world continues to turn so do his struggles.

So it's sad to see Jason leave his home town organization, but the Royals may have made a marginal improvement to bolster this years club in exchange for a guy who's a little more than a lottery ticket but has had expectations dampened by an inconsistent track record.

Similar to Jason, the Royals traded an okay pitching prospect for a "upgrade" outfielder last year: Kyle Smith. He has a 4.54 ERA and 3.76 FIP in AA.