TCN 2012 Cardinals Prospect #9: Matt Adams

The question seems not to be if, but when the big first baseman will reach St. Louis.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
33 1B 8/31/1988 6-3 245 L R 2009 23rd

School: Slippery Rock University, Pennsylvania

Selected 2011 stats

SPR 0.300 463 80 139 23 2 32 101 40 90 0 0.357 0.566 0.923
AFL 0.250 80 15 20 6 0 4 19 3 28 1 0.258 0.475 0.733

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (10): Matt Adams is undoubtedly the most talked-about Cardinals prospect on the internet that I can ever remember. Thankfully, the discussion does not center around whether Adams will be good or bad, but more on whether he will be good or great. Of course, it also centers on his unusual baseball body and whether his large girth will prejudice his performance.

After a monster 2010 season, few expected Adams to repeat those numbers in 2011; particularly after the organization skipped him over High-A Palm Beach and sent him straight to Double-A Springfield. Adams not only repeated his 2010 numbers, he exceeded them.

Despite his outstanding numbers in 2011, Adams actually struggled significantly in the second half of the season with his batting average almost 80 points lower in the second half than the first half and a similar drop off in his isolated power. Many speculate that this could be the result of him making a conscious effort to increase his walk total, which had been well below-average the first half of the year. While he did manage to increase his walks in the second half, it was not significant. Regardless of the dropoff, Adams finished with 32 home runs, which is the most I can remember in any recent year by a legitimate Cardinals prospect.

After a full year of outstanding play at Double-A Springfield, Adams most certainly will be headed to Memphis in 2012. While there was some talk of him being tried in the outfield, that move would seem less likely with the departure of Albert Pujols. He will now compete with #20 prospect Mark Hamilton for playing time at first base in Memphis and the right to be the heir apparent to the Cardinals' first base job.

Message board community (10): Matt Adams clocked in at 10th for the community, up from 25th last year. He received his first votes for the sixth spot. The big lefty turned 23 on the last day of August.

I confess that I started as a skeptic about Adams after watching him while he was with Batavia in 2009, so tended to discount his strong 2010 at Quad Cities. But he skipped a level to start 2011 at Springfield, while not missing a beat.

His game is power, as he slugged .565 last season to go with a .357 OBP. Adams handled lefties (.893 OPS) nearly as well as he did righties (.936). While he did take advantage of the friendly confines of Hammons Field (.961 OPS), he was pretty solid on the road as well (.887 OPS). In one comparison suggesting how well Adams hit, Alan Craig also played Double-A at 23, posting an OPS of .867 there in 2008.

Those overall numbers from Adams might be dampened by the effects of an oblique injury. Adams posted otherworldly OPS's of 1.167 and 1.264 in May and June (respectively) before missing time. In contrast, his July and August/September OPS's were .848 and .748. He fanned 89 times in 510 AB. Hopefully the diminished stats late in the year were more due to injury than to the pitchers finding a hole to which he couldn't adjust.

Adams' power makes him an interesting possible eventual first baseman (and first base really is his position). The Cards are going to have some difficult decisions about Triple-A this spring. Adams and Zack Cox don't seem to have anything left to prove in Double-A, so should be considered for Memphis. But Matt Carpenter and Mark Hamilton might not break camp with the big league team, and you likely have Adron Chambers, Tommy Pham, and Aaron Luna to consider for outfield spots.

Still, I suspect Adams will get most of the first base time at Memphis, with Hamilton splitting between DH, left field, and a little first base. Along with Allen Craig, Adams seems a possible first baseman of the future. - Gagliano

Brian Walton (10): As impressive as his 2011 was, Adams still concerns me in several dimensions.

First of all, whatever the reason, Adams' numbers dropped off in the second half. Injury and fatigue are understandable, but some of the results may have been driven by pitchers exploiting holes in Adams' swing. If so, he did not fully react to their adjustments.

Further, Adams' hitting in an offense-first environment, the Arizona Fall League, was most ordinary. On the positive side, he collected 19 RBI in 20 AFL games, but the power hitter's line was just .250/.258/.475. Every single team in the league had an OPS as good or better than Adams' .733 mark.

His stint in the desert ended with inflammation in his patella tendon that is supposed to be minor. Until he reports in the spring and handles game action over the course of the season, we have no way of knowing for sure if he is truly 100 percent.

Finally, as CariocaCardinal noted, there is Adams' body. In his defense, he is working with a trainer at Penn State this off-season to come to camp in the best shape possible. On the other hand, he is what he is and what he is going to continue to be – a big man who is not particularly athletic.

One scout offered a pair of comps for Adams. The good news is that both players were major leaguers. The bad news is that while they each had their moments, overall they had relatively short shelf lives. The comps are Paul Sorrento and Bob Hamelin.

Originally, that caused me concern. Hamelin, the 1994 American League Rookie of the Year with the Royals, never again approached his results from that season and was done five years later. His career OPS+ was 109, but skewed by a 146 OPS+ in his first season.

Then again, after looking at Sorrento, I felt better. He logged seven above-average offensive years in 11 MLB campaigns and finished with a career 108 OPS+. I bet if the Cardinals could make a choice, they would take a Sorrento-like career from Adams.

Starting no later than 2013, they should find out if they have another Hamlin, Sorrento or something even greater.

Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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