Time is running out on Adon's rotation chances

While not officially prospects anymore, my last two review posts are going to be on two young players who contributed a good amount of time to the Nationals’ major league club in 2023 but didn’t get player reviews of their own.


Age on opening day 2024: 25

How acquired: Signed as international free agent, July 2016

MLB debut: Oct. 3, 2021

MLB service time: 137 days

Salary: $720,000

2023 levels: Triple-A Rochester and Washington Nationals

2023 stats: 2-4, 6.45 ERA, 12 G, 10 GS, 2 GF, 51 ⅔ IP, 60 H, 37 R, 37 ER, 8 HR, 24 BB, 3 IBB, 48 SO, 3 HBP, 6 WP, 1.626 WHIP, 67 ERA+, 4.98 FIP, -0.3 bWAR, 0.4 fWAR (major leagues)

Quotable: “Man, his fastball was good. His breaking ball was good. His changeup. His changeup was really, really good today and made all the other pitches that much better. He attacked the zone and when he does that, he's really effective. He pitched really well for us and we were able to get a win.” – Davey Martinez after Adon’s second no-hit bid

2023 analysis: Expectations weren’t too high for Adon coming into the season. After starting 2022 in the Nationals’ Opening Day rotation following his impressive major league debut on the last day of the previous season, the right-hander began 2023 in the minor leagues and didn’t make his big league return until July.

With their young pitchers starting to wear down and wanting them to finish the season, the Nats made the decision to go to a six-man rotation over the last two months. Up came Adon in an official starting capacity in August after making two relief appearances in July.

Adon was 3-5 with a 4.62 ERA and 1.506 WHIP in 17 starts with Rochester, so expectations were once again low. But he made an impressive return to the Nats rotation by taking a perfect game into the sixth inning against the Reds in Cincinnati during his first start. Twenty days later, he took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning against the Marlins in Miami – where he had a disastrous start before being sent down for good the previous year – to earn his second win in four starts.

But aside from those two gems, what we saw from Adon over his 10 starts in August and September was much of the same. He struggled to consistently stay in the zone. He couldn’t put batters away, leading to too many men on base. And occasionally, he was susceptible to the longball.

By season’s end, he was 2-4 with a 6.56 ERA, six home runs, 44 strikeouts and 22 walks in 46 ⅔ innings over 10 starts. Opponents hit .294 with an .854 OPS off him.

Despite occasionally dealing with cramps, the good thing Adon did was take the ball 10 times over two months, allowing Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore and Jake Irvin to get extra rest.

2024 outlook: Adon’s impressive major league debut against the Red Sox (nine strikeouts and two runs over 5 ⅓ innings) seems like a distant memory.

Though he’s shown flashes, the righty hasn’t been able to consistently recapture that special stuff over the last two years.

While his base numbers don’t offer too much encouragement, his underlying metrics don’t provide much confidence, either, as he ranks in the lower percentiles in most major Statcast statistics.

Once thought to be a diamond in the rough for the organization’s pitching depth, Adon is now on the outside looking in and possibly running out of opportunities. Gray and Gore will headline the Nats’ rotation for years to come, followed by Cade Cavalli and possibly Irvin and Jackson Rutledge.

Cole Henry remains a wild card, but prospects like Jake Bennett, DJ Herz and Andrew Alvarez have surpassed Adon in terms of potential, though they are still a ways away from the majors.

Adon does provide depth and controllability at a low cost. He’s not eligible for arbitration until after the 2025 season and not a free agent until after the 2028 season. He can stick around to give the Nats an emergency starter when needed or a sixth starter if they want to give the other guys more rest.

But until he can find more success consistently, Adon will likely be a placeholder while the younger prospects continue to develop.

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