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T-Rat Talk: Luke Adams

Young Infielder Has Showed Power, Patience and Speed in Early Pro Care
April 8, 2024

Kyle Lobner returns with another season of T-Rat Talk. In the inaugural edition for 2024, Lobner gets the story of Luke Adams from his manager, from prospect watchers, and from Adams himself.

Kyle Lobner returns with another season of T-Rat Talk. In the inaugural edition for 2024, Lobner gets the story of Luke Adams from his manager, from prospect watchers, and from Adams himself.

There are several position player prospects on the 2024 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, but one of the youngest stood among the tallest when the team lined up along the first baseline on Opening Day.

Infielder Luke Adams is one of four 2024 Timber Rattlers with a 2004 birth date and won’t turn 20 until later this month. He’s also 6’4” and 210 pounds, however, and he put his combination of power and athleticism on display with Carolina in 2023. Adams posted an .801 on-base plus slugging (OPS) in 99 games for the Mudcats last season, connecting for eleven home runs and 18 doubles and finishing second on the team with 30 stolen bases.

“First of all, power,” new Timber Rattlers manager Victor Estevez, who also managed Adams with Carolina last season, said when asked what makes Adams so effective. “He’s a very strong kid. And then just the way he plays the game. He really goes out there and has fun. He’s an interesting guy. He’s going to be playing third base and first base a little bit. But he’s a strong kid, he’s young, the way he prepares at the gym and on the field is very impressive. I think if Luke figures it out, we might have an interesting corner guy over there.”

The Brewers selected Adams in the 12th round of the 2022 draft after he batted .404 and hit four home runs in 16 games for the Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp of the Prospect League as an 18 year old, where he was two and a half years younger than the average player. He’s experienced a lot of success in the year and a half since, showing power and patience with a .410 on-base percentage and .415 slugging across two levels. Every major publication included Adams among their annual lists of the top prospects in a loaded Brewers organization, with FanGraphs, Baseball America and MLB Pipeline all ranking him the highest at #16. FanGraphs’ prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen said Adams’ peripheral data is even better than his raw numbers.

“His contact metrics — 8% swinging strike rate, 83% in-zone contact — were impressive for a teenage hitter Adams’ size and his measured power — 41% hard-hit rate, 112 max exit velo — even more so. The gap between Adams’ spreadsheet power and his actual 2023 slugging was pretty substantial, indicating a 2024 breakout could be looming,” Longenhagen said in his annual writeup of the Brewers’ top prospects, before going on to say that he now values Adams in the range of a second round pick.

Adams would likely rate higher on prospect lists for other organizations: The Brewers are a consensus pick right now to have one of the best collections of minor league talent in the sport. He’ll also likely move up on lists soon as outfielder Jackson Chourio and infielder Joey Ortiz, who both opened the season in the majors with Milwaukee, accumulate enough MLB playing time to no longer be eligible for these rankings.

“It’s super cool,” Adams said of being in an organization with so many highly regarded prospects. “Being in spring training around all these guys that are really good, having live at bats against all these pitchers that give you very difficult at bats and kind of gets you ready for the season. But even some of the guys, like last year when I started I wasn’t a prospect, there are guys that aren’t prospects that in other organizations they would be a prospect. So there’s tons of good players all around, that’s super nice.”

The weather may not have been ideal when the Timber Rattlers arrived at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium to check out their home for the 2024 season, but Adams has seen colder conditions. A native of Hinsdale, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, Adams is a lifelong football fan and made the trip to Green Bay in January to watch the Bears face the Packers at Lambeau Field. The temperature at kickoff that day was 34, a little warm for January in Wisconsin but likely colder than anything he’ll see as a Midwest Leaguer in 2024.

“When we talk about the cold weather, I kind of looked at that as an advantage. Growing up in Chicago, freshman through senior year playing baseball, the cold was something I loved. So now being back out in the cold I can use that as an advantage because some guys haven’t played in temperatures like this before,” Adams said.

Adams has primarily played third base as a professional, but also has experience at first and a little in the outfield. He said he cares more about getting to play than where he’s positioned defensively, and when he’s on the field he’s hoping to work to even out the highs and lows in his season in 2024.

“I think the biggest thing for me this year is trying to be a little more consistent. Last year in the middle months I had some great stretches, and early on and at the end of the year I fell below the average. So it’s really about being consistent, whether I have a good game or a bad game, just keeping the baseball at the facility, flushing it and looking toward the next day,” Adams said.

One of the notable aspects of Adams’ game is his patience at the plate. He finished second in the Carolina league with 76 walks last season, a relatively rare skill for a player with his experience level. While his willingness to go deep into counts was certainly valuable to the Mudcats in 2023, this season Adams said he’s going to try to do more to keep pitchers honest early in at bats.

“As far as on the field, the biggest thing I’m going to try to do this year is swing a little earlier in counts,” Adams said. “Last year I had one of the lowest first pitch swing percentages in all of Minor League Baseball. So I don’t want to have that pitcher know that he can try to just flip in a first pitch strike. I want to be a little bit more aggressive on the front end of counts.”

Off the field, Adams and many of his 2023 teammates with Carolina will benefit from having a familiar face in the manager’s office. Adams is one of 18 players on the Timber Rattlers’ Opening Day roster who played for Estevez at Carolina last season.

“Victor’s the best. Being bilingual totally helps a lot, being able to communicate to the whole team. A lot of the same infielders and position player groups (from Carolina), we’re back here. So it’s really good to have that teamwork and that camaraderie. So I’m looking forward to being back with Vic. It’s going to be nice. I would say he’s a player’s manager. He cares about us more than himself. He’ll put us in situations to succeed, and that’s the best thing as a player. You want a manager that wants you to succeed before he does,” Adams said.

While it’s obviously not a top priority, Adams also entered the season as a possible candidate to break a Timber Rattlers record: Catcher Darrien Miller was hit by 24 pitches during the 2022 season with Wisconsin, the most in Timber Rattlers history. Adams was hit by 21 with Carolina last season, however, and doesn’t intend to stop taking one for the team anytime soon.

“When I was younger if I ever got out of the way my dad would yell at me,” Adams said. “So when I’m in the box I just kind of look at that as ‘if the ball’s coming, it gets you on base and helps the on-base percentage.’”

Adams is one of a large contingent of 2024 Timber Rattlers who have experience in postseason baseball: The 2023 Mudcats went to the Carolina League postseason and the Arizona Complex League Brewers won that league’s championship. Now, they’ll work together to get back there with Wisconsin.

“Getting to the playoffs is addicting. Last year in the first half of the year we tried to make a playoff push and we came up just short. Making the playoffs in the second half was probably the most fun thing I’ve been a part of. So I think the goal for this team is to first get into the playoffs, then see what can happen,” Adams said.