By most accounts the St. Louis Cardinals have one of the top farm systems in baseball. ESPN’s Keith Law placed six Cardinal farmhands – Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Oscar Taveras, Zack Cox, Tyrell Jenkins, and Jordan Swagerty – among his top 100, and the system as a whole ranked fourth, behind the Padres, Rays, and Blue Jays. John Sickels, the prospect guru for SB Nation’s site, ranked the St. Louis farm system fifth overall, and has six among his top 100 prospects, eight in the top 120. And Baseball America also has six prospects – Miller, Martinez, Taveras, Cox, Wong, and Jenkins – among its top 100 prospects.
It’s a deep system so players tend to get overlooked beyond the franchise’s elite prospects. Case in point: first baseman Matt Adams who was conspicuously left off all three top 100 prospects lists, though he did appear on Sickels’ top 120 list.
Adams isn’t an elite – his walk rates are barely average, and that’s generous, and his BABIPs have been curiously low for the type of production he’s shown the last two seasons – but he does have elite power, to the tune of 36 homeruns last season, tied for fourth highest in the minor leagues.
His walk rate last season, 7.8%, was a career best last season, but was still one percentage point below the Texas League average. Needless to say, those rates will, at the very least, need to hold firm from here on out if he hopes to be a productive big leaguer.
While contact rate isn’t normally a recognized skill, Adams doesn’t swing and miss a lot, especially for a power hitter. His strikeout rate last season, 17.5%, was actually below the league average (18.8%).
Outside of his peripheral skills, there’s one other interesting piece to Adams’ game: his batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Normally, the MLB average hovers around .300 and better hitters like Matt Holliday tend to consistently post higher numbers; Holliday’s career BABIP, by the way, is .346. And in the minors, most top prospects, because the difference between their skillset and the league’s, often post higher BABIPs too. Bryce Harper’s career BABIP is .323. Remember: that’s against much older competition too.
Anyway, Adam’s career BABIP is .299, close to the league average, and for the most part that was age appropriate competition. Obviously, speed can inflate BABIP totals, but it’s still a curiosity that he hasn’t posted higher minor league totals; so it might be worth watching his production a little more closely.
Overall, Matt Adams isn’t an elite prospect, but he is a solid second-tier prospect, something along the lines of a solid B.
Additional prospect analysis can be found here or the Prospect Watch tab at the top of the page.
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