Prospect of the Day: Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
We've been talking a lot about the Cardinals lately, but they simply have a lot of good prospects relatively close to the majors, so the topic is inevitable. Another example is first baseman Matt Adams, currently tearing up Triple-A and waiting for a slot to open up in the major leagues.
Adams was an excellent hitter in college, an NCAA Division II star at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. His 2009 season was one for the ages: he hit .495/.556/.853 with 14 homers, 24 doubles, 31 walks, and just 17 strikeouts in 184 at-bats. However, he didn't have the physical tools to draw huge interest from scouts, and "Division II star" doesn't necessarily translate into pro success. The Cardinals drafted him in the 23rd round and gave him a modest $25,000 bonus.
Adams didn't skip a beat in pro ball, hitting .365/.406/.574 in 32 games in the Appalachian League, then .346/.394/.523 in 31 games in the New York-Penn League. He continued to rake in his first full season in 2010, hitting .310/.355/.541 with 22 homers and 41 doubles in 464 at-bats for Low-A Quad Cities. He drew just 33 walks, but only fanned 78 times. 2011 was even better: .300/.357/.566 with 32 homers, 40 walks, and 90 strikeouts in 463 at-bats for Double-A Springfield, earning Texas League MVP honors. The devastation continues this year in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, with a .400/.434/.660 mark in his first 13 games for the Memphis Redbirds.
Listed at 6-3, 230, Adams is a 23-year-old left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower. As you may expect, he doesn't run well and is no threat on the bases. His defense at first base is average, but that will be enough if he continues to hit. Adams has a surprisingly compact swing and shows solid hitting skills to go with his power. He's aggressive and can be impatient, but he doesn't strike out as much as the stereotypical minor league sluggers, and has a better chance to maintain his batting average than most. Minor league pitching hasn't been much of a challenge for him.
Finding a place to play in St. Louis is the main issue now. With the departure of Albert Pujols to Los Angeles, Adams isn't as blocked as he used to be. He should be in the first base mix for 2013, and at his continued pace he'll be ready for a trial if a spot opens up this year.