It is Wednesday, May 20, 2015. The St. Louis Cardinals currently sit on top of the NL Central with a record of 26-13. They sit 4.5 games up the Chicago Cubs and 8 games in front of the Reds and the Pirates. The team has 123 games left to be played and now isn’t quite the time to hit the panic button.
Yet, Matt Adams hasn’t exactly been an offensive force.
This season Adams is off to a disappointing .244/.272/.353 triple slash line, spending 94 of his 125 plate appearances batting 4th. When it comes to Runners In Scoring Position (RISP), he is hitting .250 with 11 RBI and a meager 15 RBI overall. When it comes to doubles and home runs, he has a total of seven (4 HRs, 3 doubles). To put that into perspective Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta, Jason Heyward, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina all have more than 7 doubles, that does not include home runs. Wong also has 7 total doubles, tying Adams for his combination.
So who is Matt Adams? He has shown post-season heroics. He has shown power by hitting 17 home runs in 319 plate appearances in 2013. Last season he hit 15 home runs in 563 plate appearances, but where he lacked for lost home run power he managed to hit 34 doubles. He also hit .284 and .288 respectively.
Yet, with those good numbers comes the bad.
Adams, throughout his career has been atrocious against left-handed pitching. His career stats are the following: 225 plate appearaces, 5 doubles, 6 home runs, 26 RBI, 6 walks, 70 strikeouts, .192/.222/.308. Yes. That is 70 strikeouts to just 6 walks.
Against right-handed pitching Adams has put up much better career numbers. 873 plate appearances, 53 doubles, 31 home runs, 121 RBI, 51 walks, 174 strikeouts, .301/.341/.490.
Now, the Cardinals front-office and team management can argue that the sample size against left-handed pitching is too small to be sure if he can or cannot hit left-handed pitching. But, Adams has 648 more plate appearances against right-handed pitching throughout his career. The statistic would indicate the front-office and management both know he can’t hit left-handed pitching. If he could, he would be playing more.
Adams doesn’t have to hit 30-35 home runs to be a valuable player. He doesn’t have to put up traditional power numbers at the first base position to help the team offensively. Adams can hit in the .270-.290 range with 15-20 home runs to be a valuable player. Fantasy numbers are flashy, but they shouldn’t be used when judging Adams.
When it comes down to it, Adams will be turning 27 this season and should be entering the prime of his offensive career. But, the power has not shown up this season as the year is right at a quarter of the way through. The evidence is pointing towards Adams being a platoon player that shouldn’t hit against left-handed pitching. While Adams is still in his per-arbitration years, this will help to crush his overall value if he doesn’t play everyday.
Matheny could continue to drop Adams in the lineup as he has done recently, hitting him in the 5th spot. Yet, Molina is suffering from a long power outage and Heyward hasn’t done much at the dish himself. It would be tough to move Big City further down when other guys have shown they are getting the job done.
While the Cardinals have team-control over Adams they may have to decide how they move forward. So what are the options for the team going forward? A trade is highly unlikely given the amount of team control left and his age.
- Stephen Piscotty – He is 24 and might potentially be the most overhyped prospect in baseball. He isn’t a guy that hits for power but he relies on his hitting skill and there were rumors of having Piscotty play some first-base with the crowded outfield situation.
- Matt Holliday – Holliday has never been praised for his defensive effort, potentially moving him to first as he ages could help his offensive production. But, there would be little guarantee he could play the position decent enough.
- Yadier Molina – He could play first base against left-handed pitching and it would help to save his legs. However, his true value is behind the plate.
- Allen Craig – This one is probably a stretch but he did clear Waivers, which means he could have been had for just his remaining salary. Maybe the Red Sox give him back for next to nothing? Probably a long shot.
Adams has time to develop and improve his game, but the reality is starting to become a little more clear that he may only be part of the answer at first base.