As a big guy standing on the left side of the plate who previously hit 36 home runs in a minor league season, it is safe to say that the Matt Adams we have received over his first 1,000 plate appearances is a very different Matt Adams than what we were expecting.
I traded for Adams yesterday in a dynasty league, mainly due to his age and security of role on a top team, but it led me to analyze Adams a bit deeper and figure out what exactly is happening with him. Adams was never much of a plate discipline maven, as he has never recorded a walk rate above 10% at any level, but I did expect more than the sub-5.0% walk rates he has been putting up since becoming a full time regular. While he has pretty massive platoon splits, which I will get to in a bit, the low walk rate is not limited to only the times he is facing same handed pitchers. He is an equal opportunity free
swinger, which does not bode well for Adams owners in on base percentage leagues.
Adams does have quality hand eye skills, which is why his strikeout rate has not gotten out of hand despite a O-Swing% that hovers around 10% more than the average hitter. Adams makes contact in the zone more than most first basemen (90% Z-Cotact) but pitchers this year, intentional or not, have opted to throw him less strikes in general due to his high chase rate. He has seen 40% strikes this year compared to 44% last year. That could be an aberration, or it could be front offices, pitching coaches, and pitchers noticing that Adams is up there to hack so why throw him pitches in the zone.
This creates some worry for Adams and those who own Adams, because he seemingly only has two options here. He can continue to swing away freely and see his power sapped as he swings at an excess of pitches out of the zone, or he can become a patient hitter and start taking some walks to become the three true outcome type hitter everyone expected out of him in the minor leagues.
Going back to Adams’ platoon splits, he is on his way to becoming a full on platoon player and rightfully so. This season he has a 110 wRC+ against righties and a -28 wRC+ against lefties, albeit in 19 plate appearances. Against southpaws this year, he is 2-20 with two singles, one walk, and nine strikeouts. For those with a long term vested interest in Adams such as myself, expect the Cardinals to continue to employ Mark Reynolds types going forward to platoon with Adams. This will limit his plate appearances, but will also likely improve his actual on the field production, ala Ike Davis the past two seasons as a full-time platoon member. To ensure I am not basing this off of only this season, of the 1,000+ plate appearances Adams has had, he has a .304/.345/.498 line against righties and a .189/.220/.307 line against lefties.
There is still hope for Adams as a useful fantasy option, even in standard formats, but the hope lies within him altering his approach at the plate. If the Cardinal coaches want to get as much out of Adams as they can, they need to preach a patient approach with him and for him to be more comfortable with strikeouts than ground outs. From a stats perspective, things are not looking too great for Adams going forward. His numbers as a full-time regular are not too impressive and his projections all have him with a sub-110 wRC+. From a scouting perspective, however, he has the tools to be a well above average hitter but needs to work on his plate discipline and overall approach. If the latter happens, the former will be a much better looking picture.