The St. Louis Cardinals have had top prospect Matt Adams around, first as their de facto starter in the wake of the Lance Berkman injury and now as Allen Craig's uneasy platoon partner, for 21 games now, and over that time we've had ample opportunities to see Adams's strengths and weaknesses on this big stage.â†µ
Strengths: Well, basically just his strength. Adams has seven extra-base hits in 63 at-bats as a Cardinal, including this 440-foot-plus home run over the center field fence (and Tal's Hill) at Minute Maid Park.â†µâ†µ
It's obvious, already, that Adams is every bit as strong as he looks. His swing is easy, but when he connects he can hit lofty, Adam Dunn-style bombs, and when he catches a ball square he's got a surprising burst of line drive power, too.â†µ
Weaknesses: Unfortunately, Adams has also been every bit as defensively limited as he looks. It's far too early to take his awful defensive statistics as representative of his true talent, but he's looked adrift and somewhat less than smooth at first base, which is the only position he can play. He has time to become less of a liability—and given his lack of versatility, that's going to be crucially important if he wants to keep a starting job.â†µ
He's also shown that his lack of plate discipline in the minor leagues wasn't only a matter of his ability to hit everything. I wouldn't worry too much about his .254 batting average, yet, but the five walks to 17 strikeouts are disconcerting; a starting first baseman simply has to provide some value in the on-base percentage column, and it will be hard for him to do that consistently unless he's walking more frequently.â†µ
Adams won't be playing every day with Allen Craig back on the roster, but he'll get plenty of playing time, now and in the future, to work on these weaknesses. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to more highlight-reel demonstrations of his strength.