Matt Adams, 1B St. Louis Cardinals
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 230
Matt Adams signed with the Cardinals after being drafted in the 23rd round of the 2009 draft out of Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. Adams signed as a catcher for $25,000 after leading NAIA with a .495 AVG in 2009 and setting a school record with a career .454 AVG. So hitting is no new revelation to Adams and he hasn’t seen his AVG dip below .300 in any season since he joined the Cards.
In 2009, Adams hit .365 with 6 doubles and 6 HR in just 115 at bats with Johnson City in his debut and he followed that with a .346/.394/.523 slash line in Batavia with 11 doubles and 4 HR over another 130 AB. A stellar debut and one that for some reason didn’t make a lot of headlines. Perhaps the big man’s move to 1B and his slightly advanced age for the level put him on the back burner for some.
In 2010 he just kept on hitting while moving up a level to Low-A Quad Cities, where he went .310 with 41 doubles and 22 HR while striking out just 78 times over 464 AB. The season put Adams into our Top lists but it wasn’t enough to crack the top 100, although Adams wasn’t done and his 2011 made it clear that he was a bat with major league potential. So he hit the Cards Top 10 list preseason and into our Baseball Instinct 360°:
109°. Matt Adams, 1B, Cardinals, 8/31/1988 – Adam is not going to be the greatest defender, but he will be effective enough to be an everyday 1B. With Albert Pujols gone, his future with the Cardinals may start now. He has enough power and contact ability to be a solid regular at 1B and could be a 30+ HR type. He may not be a .300 type average hitter, but .280 is definitely possible and he controls his K numbers well for a power hitter. ETA 2012.
The ranking was done before Pujols actually signed with the Angels although we updated the comments to reflect the trade. The trade actually boosts Adams 2012 value and possibly beyond. Let’s take a look at the bat and the glove and see what’s moving Adams into the upper level of the prospect world and what to expect in 2012 for the Fantasy League players out there as well.
Adams has hit level to level throughout his minor league career, actually by-passing High-A in 2011 and going straight to Double-A, where he put up impressive numbers. His hitting mechanics are clean with a compact stroke and straight drive through the ball. With his 230 lb frame he has the bulk to generate power and gets additional drive out of pure bat speed and plane to the ball.
His .316 career minor league AVG makes some suggestion that he could hit .300 as a major league regular. I think it would be a mistake to expect that of Adams in 2012, with the jump to St. Louis, if he wins the jobs of stepping into Alber Pujols 1B shoes.
The positives: He controls the strike zone well and for a power hitting 1B, he doesn’t strike out at a high rate, garnering a 17.5% K rate in 2011, which was his highest rate of his career. Another positive is that his IsoP has jumped year over year from .200 in 2009 to .231 in 2010 and up to an elite level .266 in 2011.
His BABIP in 2011 was just .317, so there was no artificial inflation of his AVG. The same stands to 2010 as well.
The negatives: His walk rate is around 7% for his career. Not a bad number, but also not a number that screams future success at a high level. Also, his K rate should be expected to jump some with one of the most difficult jumps in all of baseball. From Double-A to the majors. His splits for Lefty and Righty are also a concern that may see him eventually in a platoon role if certain development milestones are not achieved.
Adams was a catcher out of college and moved to 1B soon after being drafted. He’s not a stand out defensive corner with his size slowing him down some, but as a catcher he does have soft hands and a solid accurate throwing arm. The downside is that, although he hits from the premium left side of the plate, he’s a crossover and throws right-handed, making his positioning at 1B less than premium.
He’s going to need to rely on his bat to make him and then keep him as a major league regular and RH 1B that produce at elite levels are few and far between.
Adams is getting a serious look in Spring Training by the new regime in St. Louis. He’s going to be given the opportunity to win the vacant 1B job at least until Allen Craig is fully healthy, giving them more options. As I mentioned, the jump from Double-A to the Majors is going to be a tough one to make. Adams has shown growth and adjustment at every level of his career so far and we’re suggesting that he will be able to make the adjustments as he moves forward as well. But this jump may be a little more than he can handle.
If he makes the team out of camp, expect regression at every level of his game and struggles in the short term.
If he gets time in Triple-A and in the long term, Adams, can be a solid defensive 1B with a possible .275 AVG and 25-30 HR power. That’s a very respectable level for a major league 1B.
The downside here is natural regression to the major league level and Adams not getting enough time to adjust, which could see him struggle to hit for the high AVG he’s become accustomed to. He could fall into the sub-.250 level if he doesn’t learn to take more walks and get into prime hitters counts where he can use his natural power. That power, we think will translate either way and if given regular ABs he will be a 20+ HR power bat even if his AVG drops. But getting regular At Bats as a 1B means premium production and that isn’t premium. That will lead to a platoon situation. But Major League Regular production is something that Adams could be capable of if the “Cards” are played right.
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