Springfield Cardinals 2011 Player of the Year

Big first baseman Matt Adams not only led the Double-A Cardinals, he also topped the Texas League.

The Springfield Cardinals struggled with pitching in 2011, ranking last in the Texas League. But their offense was the best in the league, which resulted in a number of high scoring affairs. The Springfield Cardinals led the Texas League in batting average (.278), home runs (166) and slugging percentage (.443).

With the league's best offense, a lot of Cardinals players stepped up and contributed impressive offensive numbers, but none more so than Matt Adams.

Adams did not take the normal route to Double-A, no matter how you look at it. Hailing from Pennsylvania, he was scorned by the University of Pittsburgh, and instead elected to attend Division-II Slippery Rock. A couple of monster college seasons later, he was the 699th overall pick of the 2009 draft, selected by the Cardinals.

Coming into the 2011 season, Adams had led the St. Louis organization in batting average the last two seasons, and was coming off a breakout season playing for Class A Quad Cities. In 2010, Adams hit .310, with 22 home runs and 88 RBI. As a reward for a tremendous year and a solid spring, Adams skipped Palm Beach and was assigned to Springfield's opening day 2011 roster.

As a 22-year-old in the Texas League, Adams was about two years younger than the league average. You never would have known. It didn't take Adams long to generate a lot of attention from the other teams in the league. Adams hit .311 with five home runs and 18 RBI in April. He followed that with a .352 batting average in May, while knocking nine homers over the wall and driving in 25. It was safe to say that Adams had been able to make the adjustment to the Texas League. Adams played in only nine games in June due to an oblique injury, but he still posted monster numbers. Adams hit .450 with three home runs and nine RBI in those nine games.

Named a Texas League All-Star, Adams garnered more attention from scouts and those that make prospect lists. At the All-Star break, Adams was hitting .354, with 15 home runs and 47 RBI. Although he politely declined an invitation to take part in the home run derby, Adams still showed off his power for the fans, blasting a home run in the All-Star Game.

In the second half, Adams average fell off, perhaps due in part to losing his protection in the lineup. On July 31, the St. Louis Cardinals traded the Springfield Cardinals' cleanup hitter, Alex Castellanos, to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Rafael Furcal. Adams hit .261 in the second half, with 17 home runs and 54 RBI.

Record Breaker
Matt Adams will surely be remembered in Springfield, Missouri for the summer that he gave the fans in 2011. He now holds the team record for home runs in a single season, as well as runs batted in. Adams finished the 2011 season with a final line of .300, 32 home runs and 101 RBI. He led the Texas League in RBI, slugging percentage (.566) and home run to at-bat ratio (1/14.47).

Adams was named the Texas League Player of the Year, the first time that a Springfield Cardinal has received the award from the league. In 2011, he was one of the shining stars in the entire St. Louis Cardinals organization. Coming into 2011, Adams was ranked #33 in The Cardinal Nation Prospect Rankings, and the article asked this: "The slugger was a major surprise in 2009. He impressed again in 2010. Is Matt Adams for real?" It would appear that Matt Adams informed all of us that, yes, he is for real.

Honorable Mention

Zack Cox – The third baseman was playing in his first full professional season, and early on one could tell that he was struggling mightily to adjust to the Texas League. After his promotion from Palm Beach, 33 games into his Double-A career, Cox was hitting just .200, with two home runs and just 10 RBI and had committed 10 errors in the field.

When the calendar turned to July, Cox looked like a completely new player. He hit .380 with three homers and 19 RBI in July. He followed that with an August line of .333 with five home runs and 19 RBI. On August 4, he fought all the way back from the Mendoza line, and raised his batting average above .300 for the first time since his 20th at bat in Double-A. Although he finished the year going just 2-for-16, Cox owned a .293 batting average, which would have been a mere dream on the morning of July 1.

Cox finished with 10 home runs and 48 RBI in 352 at bats in the Texas League. After committing 10 errors in his first 27 games, he committed 10 in his final 66 games, to finish with a .912 fielding percentage. And though it is clear that Cox still has some work to do on defense, it was also evident that his daily individual work with manager Ron Warner was paying off. With a Texas League stint that started so poorly for Cox, he authored a tremendous comeback in his first full season.

Ryan Jackson - The big question about the shortstop for most people was whether or not he could hit at the upper levels. His 2011 season did a lot to quell some people's concerns. Jackson was named the St. Louis Cardinals' Player of the Month in April after he hit .337 with a home run and 10 RBI. He went through some ups and downs, but finished with a very respectable line of .278, with 11 homers and 73 RBI. All of that came from a solid defensive shortstop… It would appear that Jackson thinks his bat will play at the upper levels.

Jose Garcia - Garcia kind of slipped under the radar, surrounded by bigger names and bigger numbers in the Springfield lineup, but he put together a very complete 2011. The second baseman hit .318 with five home runs and 38 RBI. It seemed like Garcia was always on base, with a .374 OBP, and he caused trouble once he was on base, leading the team with 19 stolen bases.

Charlie Cutler - In limited playing time, Cutler hit .333 and owned a .398 on base percentage. Although not the primary catcher in 2011, he was tough to keep out of the lineup in the second half.

Eric Duncan - Though no longer considered a prospect, 26-year-old Eric Duncan was a big presence in the clubhouse for the Cardinals, and a major piece of the puzzle offensively. Duncan hit .274, but was second on the team in home runs, with 22. It will be interesting to see where the former first round pick of the New York Yankees goes from here.

Link to master article with all 2011 award winners, team recaps and article schedules.

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