As we draw closer and closer to the start of another baseball season, it’s not a bad time to take a look at how things are shaping up for the future at the first base position. Albert Pujols is gone, Lance Berkman’s career is winding down, and the Cardinals will soon need to find someone to man the corner opposite of budding star David Freese. Is last season’s Texas League Player of the Year Matt Adams capable of filling this role long term? Find out after the jump.
Obviously, the St. Louis Cardinals can go one of two ways in filling the void at first when current first baseman Lance Berkman decides to retire. They can either build/promote from within (the less expensive, less complicated option) or look externally at free agent/trade possibilities. Recent history would suggest that the club is more than comfortable with the second option, and with Pujols’ contract off the books, spending some money on a free agent first baseman sometime in the next few years might be best for the organization. Of course a third option would be to consider a position change for a guy like Allen Craig, but we’ll leave that out of the equation for now.
If, however, the Cards prefer option one, they’re looking at the aforementioned Matt Adams. The 23-year-old Adams was drafted by St. Louis in the 23rd round of 2009 Amateur Draft and has quickly climbed the Cardinals’ Minor League ranks. He skipped Class A Advanced altogether last year, going straight to Double A Springfield and putting together his best season yet (32 HRs, 101 RBIs).
Adams currently ranks fifth on the Future Redbirds 2012 Top 20 Prospects list and sixth on MLB.com’s Top 10 First Basemen list. He, along with just about every other Redbird prospect, has been somewhat overshadowed by the highly touted Shelby Miller. Now, Adams’ production is simply too promising to ignore at this point.
Simply put, Matt Adams can hit with the best of his peers. A career .316/.365/.552 hitter, he has swung the bat well everywhere he’s been. He can hit for both power and average, which is hard to come by in guys of his stature. The fact that he hits for such a high average but has such a low walk rate is a bit of a mystery, but he doesn’t strikeout nearly enough for that to be a real concern.
Adams is certainly nothing special defensively, and at 6’3” 230 pounds, he brings almost nothing to the table on the base paths. He does run relatively well for his size, but that’s not saying a whole lot. At worst, Adams should be a more than competent pinch-hitter/DH. He is still young and has yet to reach his ceiling as a player, so who knows? Maybe some improved defense and steady signs of consistent power could even allow Adams to crack the Cardinals’ starting lineup somewhere down the road.
While he knows the Cardinals may have a hole to fill at first in the relatively near future, his sole focus is on improving his game (as it should be).
"I hated to see Albert go. He brought so much to the team and the organization. He’s an amazing player. I’m concentrating on improving my own game more than where I’m playing, but yeah, it’s exciting to maybe have an opportunity to contribute."
Anything is a possibility as it stands right now for Matt Adams. Lance Berkman probably only has about three years of baseball left in him, so if Matt performs well for Triple A Memphis in 2012, we could see him break through at the Major League level as early as 2013. No matter who plays first base for the St. Louis Cardinals in the coming years, one thing is for sure: That person will have impossibly large shoes to fill.