ROME, GA — Melvin Adon throws some serious gas.
The San Francisco Giants right-handed pitching prospect was lighting up the radar gun Tuesday night in Rome. He definitely turned some heads early on, but raised a lot of question marks as well.
Adon was signed by the Giants out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 20 in 2015. He was a bargain, costing a mere $50,000 signing bonus. Then again he was a relative unknown.
He had a strong debut in the 2015 Dominican Summer League. The right-hander went 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA. Despite bringing near-triple digit heat, his command was raw and he didn’t even strikeout a batter per inning, sitting down 54 in 69 innings pitched via strikeout.
His 2016 in the short-season Northwest League exposed his weaknesses. Adon went 5-5 with 5.48 ERA, albeit with a somewhat better 4.32 FIP. He was victim of a high BABIP (.385) but didn’t help his cause by seeing his walk rate double (4.54 per nine) from his DSL debut. Still bringing the heat, Adon only struck out 7.35 per nine.
Adon took his talents to the desert and hit triple-digits in the Giants instructional league last fall. Now 23, he needed to show improved command in his full-season debut to rise up the Giants prospect charts.
He came out firing on Tuesday against the Rome Braves, but some pretty bad defense behind him put him in an early 5-0 hole. You can really tell that the three errors had more to do with the runs and little to do with Adon’s pitching that inning. He came out hitting 97 regularly, topping out at 99. The most impressive takeaway?
He threw 19 pitches. 16 were strikes. So much for command issues.
Adon has three pitches. He does well locating his fastball and holding its velocity. He was throwing 98 regularly in his fifth and final inning. He plunked the R-Braves Randy Ventura with a 99 mile per hour fastball on his last pitch. His slider and changeup are inconsistent, but still show some real potential. If he can control the slider it crosses in the high-80s.
He repeats his delivery well, but the arm seems to have a lot of whip in my opinion. He takes a big leg kick and comes right at the plate, not afraid to attack hitters.
His final line wasn’t pretty Tuesday, but he was let down by poor defense behind him all night. He allowed ten hits and 11 runs, four of which were unearned. Several base runners reached on misjudged balls that were rightfully deemed a hit, but may have been fielded under normal circumstances. He struck out four and walked just one, landing 57 of his 78 pitches for strikes (73 percent).
Though his walk rates are down, they are still a tad bit higher than his 2015 debut, allowing 3.42 per nine. That being said, he was around the strike zone all night showing much-improved command. He does get hit, and hit relatively hard already allowing three home runs this season in just 47.1 innings. Most of his outs come on the ground (a 50 percent ground ball batted ball rate) so the home runs seem to be well-timed connections.
The Giants continue to stretch Adon out as a starter. He seems to be able to throw 80 pitches an outing with relative ease, but someone with that kind of heat should be able to strike out more than seven batters per nine over the course of his career. It will be interesting to see how long the Giants take their current approach, because Adon may be better suited in a bullpen role.
Whatever the case, it will be fun to watch him fire away that fastball.