St. Louis Cardinals best/worst case 2016: Matt Adams

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After an injury-riddled 2015 campaign, Matt Adams will be competing with fellow first baseman Brandon Moss for at-bats with the St. Louis Cardinals this year.

The St. Louis Cardinals have been absolutely starved of production at the first base position the past two seasons. General Manager John Mozeliak tried to play match ups in 2015, signing Mark Reynolds to spell Matt Adams against lefties at first base.

Adams went down to the quad strain in late-May, and Reynolds took over full-time first base duties until the club traded for underwhelming first baseman Brandon Moss amidst a very difficult season with Cleveland.

The end result was an uninspiring effort from both men, and sub-par production once again at what is typically the game’s most productive offensive position. While the Adams/Moss/Reynolds trio did combine for 22 home runs and 80 RBI a season ago, they also combined to slash just .237/.312/.395 with 204 strikeouts in 689 at-bats.

With Reynolds gone to the Rockies, it will be up to either Adams or Moss (or both) to provide some sort of uptick at first base in 2016. The future for each guy in St. Louis is going to be dependent on how they perform this year.

With so much uncertainty at the first base position in St. Louis, particularly for Adams coming back from his difficult 2015, there are wide-ranging possibilities for what 2016 could hold.

Best Case: Adams enters the regular season in the best shape of his life, handles lefties well, produces like a top-five first baseman

In a best-case type scenario for Matt Adams, I would say that 35 home runs and 100 RBI are definitely possibilities. A .380-.390 OBP is a realistic possibility, particularly if he starts handling left-handed pitching at a more respectable clip than he did in 2014 and 2015.

Sep 28, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams (32) smiles on the field before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 28, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams (32) smiles on the field before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

In Adams’ best-case 2016, he develops a newfound ability to drive the ball with authority to the left-center field gap. This helps Adams stay in on left-handed pitching and limits the quirky shifts that the opposition can employ.

With the quad fully healed, there are no lingering complications in 2016, and Adams turns in the first 30-homer season for a Cardinal since Carlos Beltran hit 32 back in 2012.

Adams turns in a slash line in the .290/.380/.510 area while earning 500+ at-bats and relegating Brandon Moss to full-time backup duties.

While accumulating a 6.0+ WAR value, Adams makes his first All-Star game appearance en route to a top five NL MVP finish. Adams wins his first Silver Slugger Award for NL First Basemen when he slugs 36 long balls.

The new, slimmed-down Adams is much more nimble around the first base bag and challenges for an NL Gold Glove with his underrated defense.

Worst Case: The quad issue lingers, the pop in the bat is non-existent, Moss takes hold of the starting job

Quadriceps strains can have a way of lingering, especially if they aren’t fully rehabbed and if the athlete tries to return before letting the injury fully heal.

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The absolute worst case for Adams this year would be to go back down to a similar quad issue early in the season with an extended DL stint that follows.

Similarly, the quad problem could just nag Adams all season without being “injured.” The result could be a loss of range defensively, a loss of power at the plate, lost speed on the base paths, and a lost job at first base.

To compound either losing Adams or having an ineffective Adams, the worst case would involve Brandon Moss providing zero relief in Adams’ absence. When you consider the fact that 13 of the 22 home runs that were hit by Cardinal first baseman came from Reynolds last year, you can start to imagine how bad Cardinal first base numbers COULD be in 2016.

My Prediction: Adams starts hot, maintains pace through the summer, ends with very respectable numbers in a bounce back year

I’ve said it plenty before, and I believe it now as much as ever. I think that Adams is due for a big season, at least compared to what he’s put together in the last couple of seasons.

Adams made it known in an interview with STL Today’s Derrick Goold last week that he feels like he is staying balanced at the plate better than a season ago. That balance and keeping it on his back foot could be the difference between rolling over against left-handers and driving a ball into the left-center gap.

Likewise, Adams thinks that the pop is back in the bat, now that he’s got his weight back and balanced. “My swing was the same, but I was just reaching. I wasn’t able to drive the ball. I’m on my backside. I’m balanced… my hands are able to work the way they need to work” said Adams.

Read Goold’s entire piece here.

I would be shocked by any less than 20 home runs from Big City this year, and would be mildly surprised with any less than 25, assuming he’s healthy. After splitting time early with Moss, I have Adams running away with that job on his way to a 90+ RBI campaign.

Next: Best/Worst Case 2016: Randal Grichuk

My official Matt Adams 2016 stat line reads .287/.358/.474 with 31 home runs and 97 runs batted in. Boy, would that be a relief at first base for the Redbirds this year.

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