DETROIT, MI - JUNE 20: Gerald Laird #9 of the Detroit Tigers catches the ball at home plate as Matt Adams #53 of the St Louis Cardinals tries to score during a MLB interleague game at Comerica Park on June 20, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
Once Allen Craig came back and continued to hit it was kind of inevitable that the St. Louis Cardinals would send Matt Adams back to Memphis once Matt Carpenter was healthy; Adams isn't just the kind of player who should be playing every day in the minor leagues, he's also the kind of player who's not especially useful as a bench player, since he can't even fake the outfield. Carpenter doesn't have to play every day, since the Cardinals have no plans of opening up a spot for him in the future, and he can play not-every-day at multiple positions; no comparison.
But now that Adams is back in Memphis, we have a line to read too much into--.244/.286/.384, with five walks and 24 strikeouts in 91 plate appearances--and the chance to imagine, again, what Adams would look like as a starting first baseman. So let's do that.
First impression: The Matt Adams in the minor leagues didn't strike out very much for a baseball player--16 or 17%, most of the time. The Matt Adams in the major leagues was just short of the Adam Dunns and Ryan Howards of the world, at 26 percent.
I am not willing to go out on many limbs about Adams, who seems like a difficult prospect to forecast, but I am willing to guess that he will not be an average first baseman striking out in a quarter of his plate appearances, because he just never walks.
In his sub-replacement MLB stint, Adams's BAbip was .317, which seems about right for a line drive hitter of his size. He'll probably hit home runs more often once he's acclimated, which will improve his batting average on balls not in play, but for the most part his only means of having an average on-base percentage involves not striking out like a slugger who can draw walks.
This has always been the problem with Matt Adams: Because of his skill-set and his position at the very end of the defensive spectrum, he has to be functioning exactly right to be worth putting on a major league roster. He didn't show off his high-contact ways in the major leagues, but those 91 plate appearances aren't a warning sign so much as a reminder that he's had less than 700 PA total in the high minors.
He spent his last days in the major leagues talking up a swing adjustment, and maybe there's something to it; maybe he can go back to Memphis and put up an on-base percentage more in keeping with his station as a big, throwback-sized first baseman. I'm hoping he will, because his current act will be a particularly hard one to maintain.