Teams regularly call up minor leaguers for injured stars throughout the course of the season, and the expectations for these newcomers are rarely high. Such was the case when Jim Adduci joined the Detroit Tigers in late April, taking over some right field and bottom of the order responsibilities after JaCoby Jones was placed on the disabled list. While Jones has since recovered from his injury, the organization decided to send him to Triple-A Toledo. Part of this was due to a desire to work on his hitting, but this decision would not have been possible without Adduci’s hot start.
It has appeared in just 13 games so far, but Adduci has earned himself more time in the majors. He has done everything asked of him and more, posting great offensive numbers in his limited opportunities. During his past time in the majors he was an above-average defender, and he has continued this trend in Detroit. However, his work at the plate this season has been a pleasant surprise.
Wasting no time
Adduci entered 2017 with only 61 games of major league experience, all coming with the Texas Rangers in 2013 and 2014. He hit just .189 during these appearances with very little power, totaling a measly 37 wRC+. This gave way to time spent in both the minors and Korea, where his results were promising enough to give him an opportunity in the Tigers’ system.
Right out of the gate, Adduci looked like a brand new player in Toledo. He was completely on fire to start the season, hitting .349 in his first 12 games, good for 140 wRC+ and a shot in the majors. No one was expecting him to replicate these numbers in Detroit, but a .318/.388/.500 line has made his name known early on this season. His 145 wRC+ is even better than it was in the minors, and his 0.6 fWAR ranks fourth among Tigers position players so far.
Solid all around
Though the competition level jumped up significantly, Adduci continued a similar strategy when coming from Toledo to Detroit: hit the ball hard and go the opposite way. Because of limitations with data collection, it can be hard to determine how well Adduci had done these things in the past, but by all accounts his approach so far with the Tigers has stemmed from his experience over the last 12 months.
The most noticeable aspect of Adduci’s approach at the plate is his willingness to go to left field. He currently has hit the ball in this direction 48.5 percent of the time while only pulling the ball at a 18.2 percent rate. With Toledo he employed the same strategy, going the opposite way 48.4 percent of the time. This is a significant change from his time with Texas, where he never achieved even a 30 percent rate.
Much of his success comes from his willingness to use all parts of the field combined with very good contact. Adduci currently has a 63.6 percent hard contact rate, which is unsustainable but not necessarily a complete fluke. The eye test seems to match his batted ball numbers, and his walk rate and opposite field approach show good plate discipline. With the Rangers his hard hit percentage was under 30 percent, so this revamped approach is yielding great results.
Room to contribute
As with any player with under 50 plate appearances, there is a sample size caveat when addressing Adduci’s performance. Still, his numbers should not simply be overlooked because it is early on in the season. There are 348 players in the majors who have been to the plate at least 40 times; Adduci ranks at the very top in both hard contact rate and in going the opposite way. These numbers may decline as time goes on, but they represent a dedicated strategy that he has implemented.
When J.D. Martinez returns from the disabled list and Jones makes his way back up from Toledo, the Tigers will have some decisions to make. This is a good problem to have, and it is likely a necessity given inevitable injuries over the course of the season. At the very least, Adduci will be a solid replacement bat that can fill in as needed. However, he could turn out to be another diamond in the rough that finds a home in the Detroit outfield.