Joan Adon’s best pitch has always been his fastball, but the Nationals’ starter took his four-seamer to places it had never been before Tuesday against the Miami Marlins.
On the season, Adon’s fastball averaged 94.5 mph, which Statcast pegged as the 70th percentile among MLB arms. He had thrown just one pitch of at least 97 mph over his first seven starts. The 23-year-old then came out Tuesday and threw 11 pitches that registered as 97 or higher, including two over 98.
Adon wasn’t just chucking balls toward home plate, either. He threw eight of those fastballs for strikes; the Marlins hit four of them into play and all four resulted in groundball outs. Though he did see his velocity drop back down to his typical levels as the night went on, Adon finished with 62 four-seamers that combined to average 96.2 mph.
He exited Tuesday’s 5-1 loss having allowed just one run on five hits, no walks and two strikeouts on 84 pitches (54 strikes). The lone blemish of the evening was a solo home run by Miguel Rojas on a fastball up. That he didn’t walk anyone was perhaps the most significant development after Adon gave up 10 free passes over his previous two starts combined.
“His pitch count got up there a little bit but hey, 65 percent strikes, his velo was the highest I think it’s been all year and his tempo — the way he controls his body, he mechanics — was way, way better,” manager Davey Martinez said in his postgame press conference, as aired on MASN.
“For me, it was more about…his mechanics. [Pitching coach Jim] Hickey cleaned a lot of that up with him. During the bullpen session, we talked about him staying in his legs. He did that really well today and you saw the velo, it spiked up. Twenty-three times he was at 96 or better so to me that’s positive and that’s a great sign.”
The Nationals included Adon in their Opening Day rotation and he’s responded with a 6.38 ERA over the first five weeks of the season. While he’s struggled to go deep into games — Martinez pulled him with two outs in the fifth Tuesday — the former international signee out of the Dominican Republic has flashed potential at times.
Signed for just $50,000 in 2016, Adon was a middling prospect in the Nationals’ farm system until 2020. The right-hander impressed the club with his performance at its alternate training site in Fredericksburg during the pandemic season. He then earned a spot on the 40-man roster the following winter before making his MLB debut in the Nationals’ final game of 2021.
MLB Pipeline ranks Adon as Washington’s No. 8 overall prospect, sixth among pitchers. His lively fastball was the only pitch that made a big impression on scouts until he introduced a curveball to his repertoire last season. The curve has since become his primary offspeed pitch and it’s already proven effective with a .238 batting average against this season.
Whether or not the fastball velocity he showed Tuesday becomes a permanent part of his game, Adon will have plenty of chances to show he can be a part of the rebuilding club’s rotation plans for 2023 and beyond.