Berkman Injury Opens Door for Matt Adams

The St. Louis Cardinals’ playoff hunt took a huge hit with the loss of veteran first baseman Lance Berkman to a possible torn ACL. The injury could end his 2012 season – and possibly his career. Most clubs would be left scrambling for a veteran trade replacement – especially after also losing a perennial all-star like Albert Pujols in the off-season – but the Cardinals have one of the Top 3 first base prospects in the game.

Along with the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Houston’s Jonathan Singleton, triple-A first baseman Matt Adams has the potential to be an impact bat at the big league level. Prior to the season I ranked Adams as the organization’s eighth-best prospect in the system but left him off the Top 100 prospects list.

A left-handed hitter, the Cardinals’ prospect was hitting .340 with nine home runs in 37 triple-A games at the time of his promotion. His power output at triple-A (.262 ISO) may have been aided a bit by playing in the potent Pacific Coast League but he’s hit for power throughout his four-year pro career – dipping below .200 ISO rate only once. His wRC+ rate has never been below 137 (league average being 100). During his breakout season in 2011, Adams posted a wOBA rate of .391 at double-A with an ISO rate of .266 (32 homers). He has a very simple, repeatable swing that should continue to provide both average-to-above-average power and a solid batting average.

Adams, 23, had a solid strikeout rate for a power hitter at 17.8 K% but his walk rate was just 5.9 BB%. Along with an impatient approach at the plate Adams struggles against left-handed pitching. This year he was hitting just .237 against southpaws, compared to .379 versus righties. At 6’3” 230 lbs he’s not overly athletic and will likely never be more than average at first base – although he has good hands and a strong arm (He was a college catcher).

A 2009 23rd round draft pick out of Slippery Rock University (NCAA division II), Adams was signed for just $25,000 and has exceeded expectations at each step of the way. His game definitely has some holes in it and first base carries huge offensive expectations but the Pennsylvania native has shown the ability to hit for both power and average. He likely won’t be an immediate middle-of-the-order threat but his contribution should be above replacement level even with limited defensive abilities.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

11 Responses to “Berkman Injury Opens Door for Matt Adams”

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  1. sanderson13 says:

    I picked him up for $5 in a $200 budget FAAB league. Had an open slot after dropping Luebke and putting Reynolds on the DL.

    Seemed like a good buy for the price. Maybe he’ll get off to a hot start and I can deal him. ;-)

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  2. longbeachyo says:

    What are his chances of seeing everyday at-bats when Craig comes back? Looks to me like he could be a platoon player.

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    • chuckb says:

      My guess is that Adams will play 1B against most righties with Craig getting the bulk of the PT against lefties. Craig will then be filling in at RF and LF as well, particularly with Beltran’s balky knee.

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  3. stan says:

    I don’t think there’s much chance that Adams stays up once Craig comes back. Either he’d have to do something really special or there would have to be an other injury. Matt Carpenter’s just been too good to send back down and he’s more versatile.

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  4. baty says:

    He’d have to do something kind of special, but the door is open, and Carlos Beltran is always a health risk.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      No he’s not, his past history and age doesn’t matter, he’s going to continue to produce at the rate he is. The Cardinals offense is the greatest thing ever and they are by far the class of the NL.

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  5. Jarrett says:

    If Berkman’s ACL is torn, and Adams bats close to .300, then I believe the Cardinals will find a way to keep him up and play him. Adams is consider by some to be the future guy at 1B for the Cards. Putting him down, after he does well, might not be want the organization wants. They might want a solid answer to the position. It’s possible.

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  6. sooted72 says:

    rotoworld is reporting now that it’s a torn meniscus and not an ACL so puma should be back in 2 months or so.

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    • nilbog44 says:

      There is no chance Berkman is coming back this year, maybe ever

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    • chuckb says:

      He’s going to have surgery for the meniscus and when they go in they’re going to determine whether or not the ACL needs to be repaired as well. If so, he’s done for the year. So it’s AT LEAST 6-8 weeks and maybe the entire season.

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