Question of the Day:
Can Matt Adams become the next Chris Davis?
Granted, I’m reaching to connect the dots.
Davis, Baltimore’s first baseman, leads the majors with 26 homers and a .720 slugging percentage. He’s second in the bigs with 66 RBIs. He’s batting .331. He's a wrecking ball.
Since the start of last season only Miguel Cabrera (63) and Edwin Encarnacion (61) have more homers than Davis, who has slammed 59.
The power of “Crush” Davis is paramount in the Orioles’ climb to a 42-31 record that has them lurking within a game and a half of first-place Boston in the AL East.
Other than the fact that they play the same position, why am I linking Davis to Adams?
Like the young Davis, Adams has the imposing, lefthanded power stroke.
Like the young Davis, Adams is raw.
Like the young Davis, Adams doesn’t have an open lane to a full-time starting job.
The Cardinals have RBI machine Allen Craig at first base. They could make Adams their starting first baseman in 2014 but only if (A) Carlos Beltran leaves as a free agent; (B) Craig shifts to right field; (C) buzzworthy prospect Oscar Taveras takes over in center field; (D) center fielder Jon Jay becomes a fourth outfielder.
I suppose all of that is possible.
If Adams’ path is blocked, then what? With no DH in the National League, does he stay in reserve as a part-time stick of pinch-hitting, spot-starting dynamite? Or do the Cardinals eventually decide to trade Adams as part of an initiative to address a need?
That's basically what happened to Chris Davis in Texas.
The Rangers were plenty excited over Davis’ power potential but never gave him a full-time starting opportunity at first base or DH. Davis regressed through inactivity and making shuttle trips to the minors.
The contending Rangers, anxious to secure bullpen help, traded Davis to the O’s at the 2011 trade deadline in a deal for reliever Koji Uehara. Texas also gave the Orioles pitcher Tommy Hunter.
Adams and Davis had similar numbers in the minors:
Davis: 2,007 PA: .318 average ... 375 OBP ... .597 SLG
Adams: 1,581 PA: .318 average ... .364 OBP ... .563 SLG
The Adams-Davis comparison doesn't mesh entirely.
Adams hasn't had a chance to start in St. Louis; Davis received a more significant opportunity in Texas.
Davis had 317 plate appearances for the Rangers at age 22 in 2008, and 419 PA in 2009. Over the two seasons Davis hit 38 homers in 686 at-bats.
Davis also struck out 238 times. With the plate discipline such a mess, the Rangers soured on Davis. He had only 136 plate appearances in 2010, and a mere 81 PA in 2011 before being dealt to Baltimore.
The Rangers’ Jon Daniels is a superb GM, among the best in the biz. At the time Daniels made the trade, Davis was a fringe major-leaguer for Texas. Given the situation at the time I can understand why Daniels made the move when he did.
My confusion stems from what happened before that. Namely, the Rangers’ decision to limit Davis’ at-bats after he showed legitimate power potential in 2008 and 2009. If we’re to second-guess anything, that's it.
It’s not as if the Rangers had a star locked in at first base. In 2010 Texas traded (at the time) hot 1B prospect Justin Smoak to Seattle in the deal for starting pitcher Cliff Lee. In 2010 and 2011 the team’s primary first baseman was Mitch Moreland.
In 516 plate appearances over 2010-2011 Moreland batted .255 with 14 homers, a .329 onbase percentage and a .389 slugging percentage. The numbers don’t seem to add up in a way that justifies the Rangers’ shift away from Davis.
Davis, however, made it a lot easier on Daniels by hitting only four homers in 217 plate appearances in 2010-2011. The Rangers obviously saw a player headed south, in the wrong direction.
"Sometimes, guys need a change of scenery,"Daniels told reporters earlier this season. “There's a level of regret, but, I think, I said at the time there was a chance he'd go off -- and we'd have to live with it.
“He's a really good person. Sometimes it takes a different time, a different place, a different situation for something to click for a player. Sometimes, it's a different role, a different voice. You just never know.”
Davis got his chance in Baltimore, hitting 33 homers in 2012. He’s even more formidable this season, using improved plate discipline as a foundation. Davis still strikes out a lot — but not as much as before. He’s chasing fewer pitches out of the strike zone. His swing-and-miss rate is lower and he’s putting more balls in play.
The Davis walk rate is higher. As a Ranger Davis walked once every 15 plate appearances; this season he’s walking every 9.5 plate appearances. At 27, Davis has evolved into a smarter, more mature hitter.
And Adams? He turns 25 at the end of August. He’s doing a good job in a part-time role, batting .313 with an .833 OPS and four homers and 14 RBIs in 84 plate appearances.
We’re not sure what the Cardinals have planned for Matt Adams long term. Maybe they’ll move the furniture around to make room for him at first base. Maybe not.
Can Adams fully develop without a steady turn of at-bats? Doubtful. And as a Cardinal fan, you’d hate to see the big fella get traded and turn into Chris Davis for a grateful team.
Thanks for reading…