What were the expectations?
Lane Adams was signed by the Braves to a minor league contract in 2017 after spending 2016 with the Yankees’ and Cubs’ minor league systems. Adams began his career with the Royals who drafted him in the 13th round out of Oklahoma in 2009. Adams never really took off in the minor leagues for the Royals but eventually made his way to a Major League debut in 2014, getting into six games and coming to the plate three times. Adams was known for his blazing speed and modest power numbers for an outfielder coming into 2017 where he began the season at Gwinnett. Given that, there were essentially zero expectations for him other than providing depth.
Lane Adams may (or may not) remember 2017 as the year he saved his career. The rookie was exceptional in the fourth outfielder role and hit .275/.339/.468 with a 110 wRC+, posting a higher WAR than two of the starting three outfielders for the Braves. Although he often seemed overmatched and posted a strikeout rate north of 30%, he showed much better than expected pop (.193 ISO) and really advocated for advanced analysis and statistics when asked about his success. Adams also was a threat on the base paths late in games and was 10-10 in stolen bases.
There were some light orange-to-red flags in his game, but it’s hard to nitpick a fourth outfielder that wasn’t even expected to play at the major league level all too much. He had an unsustainably high BABIP (.368) and HR/FB rate (20%), had one of the lowest contact rates in MLB on both pitches inside and outside the strike zone (12th-lowest contact rate in MLB overall among players with 100 or more PAs in 2017, 18th-highest whiff rate), and didn’t really distinguish himself in the outfield (0% catch probability added per Statcast, -2 DRS, -0.5 UZR in 170 innings). It was a fun season for him, no doubt, but the Braves shouldn’t expect him to replicate anything remotely close to his 110 wRC+ or 3.4 fWAR/600 pace from 2017 going forward.
Lane Adams has definitely played himself into at least a bench role for 2018, if going solely off of his 2017 surface performance. There is still room to grow for Adams and, if he plays well enough in his opportunities, could really play his way into a future contract with the Braves. 2018 is another pivotal year for Lane as it will decide whether he can further stick in the Major Leagues. But, the Braves would be wise to heed his peripherals and his age (he turned 28 a few days ago) when planning for the future.