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South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect No. 84: Spencer Adams

There may be no greater fallen star in the White Sox system than this once-hyped righty.

Before the storm: Adams was ready to attack the 2019 season, but back injuries shortly after his spring training sidetracked the starter. (Kim Contreras/South Side Hit Pen)

Spencer Adams
Right-handed starting pitcher
171 pounds
Age: 23
SSHP rank among all right-handed starting pitchers in the system: 12
Top Prospect ranking a year ago: 29

After Adams had a spectacular senior season for his varsity baseball team in the Atlanta area, the White Sox happily pounced on him with their second round selection in the 2014 draft. And after a terrific season for the AZL Sox that year, in which he struck out 59 batters while walking just four in 41 2/3 innings, it certainly looked like the sky was the limit for Adams.

Adams continued to post solid numbers with every new stop in the organization, but his stuff seemed to back up as his strikeout rates plummeted. In 2017 for the Birmingham Barons, he posted a 4.42 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over 152 2/3 innings by relinquishing 171 hits (.281 OBA) and 40 walks (6.1%) while fanning just 113 (17.2%). He again posted decent overall numbers with Birmingham and Charlotte for 2018, but with concerning peripherals: 3.79 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over 159 innings allowing 162 hits (.267 OBA) and 58 walks (8.6%) while fanning 95 (14.2%).

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Adams’ 2019 just never got off the ground, due to a combination of ineffectiveness and injuries. Of course, the injuries caused many of the issues, but a combination of a lack of overpowering stuff and the live Triple-A ball didn’t help matters any. In five games (three starts, with his last outing on April 28), Adams posted an 8.00 ERA and 2.39 ERA over 18 innings as he allowed 35 hits (.412 OBA) and an unusually high eight walks (8.3%) with 10 strikeouts (10.4%). A back injury is what finished Adams’ season prematurely, and it’s hoped that he could return to Charlotte in 2020.

Adams, who was a former Top 10 prospect in the White Sox organization, did have 50 grades with his low-90s fastball and changeup, while he graded a bit better according to MLB Pipeline with his control (60) prior to his injury. He's still just 23 years old, but it feels like his time as a prospect of note is long passed.