- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams played in 52 games before hitting the disabled list in late May with a calf injury, and in that span, he hit a mere three home runs. Adams was getting many singles, beating defensive shifts, but it was hardly what the Cardinals or fantasy owners expected, and it placed Adams in a precarious spot for his return; if outfield prospect Oscar Taveras really hit well in his absence, Adams certainly risked losing his place in the lineup. Alas, Taveras did not hit, was sent back to Triple-A Memphis, and a new, rejuvenated Adams came back, apparently ready to bash again as he did at times in 2013; in 11 games since returning, he’s hit five home runs, including the two he mashed in the Cardinals' 8-0 win over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on Monday night.
Adams remains a risky dynasty league target, for he’s a one-dimensional slugger with poor plate discipline and an inability to hit left-handed pitching consistently, and he’s not exactly Keith Hernandez with the glove. Adams hit 17 home runs in limited duty last season, and he was certainly capable of improving on that total if opportunity allowed it, but Taveras is the superior prospect and boasts immense upside. Perhaps at some point we’ll see it. For now, we’re seeing Adams achieve what he didn’t do the first two months of the season, changing his approach and providing the power his team (and ours) really demanded. He not only homered twice against the Rockies, but one was off left-handed pitcher Franklin Morales, and combined with a two-run single and homer earlier, it gave Adams an impressive six RBIs; that's 14 in his 11 post-injury contests.
The Cardinals are desperate for power; entering Monday they're tied for last in the majors with the Kansas City Royals with a mere 42 home runs, and unlike last season, when the Cardinals weren’t power-proficient either, they’re not scoring many runs. Last season’s Cardinals were third in baseball in runs scored, benefiting from an unsustainable performance with runners in scoring position -- being clutch, if you will, which is certainly not a practical skill -- and predictably, that changed. But still, they’re not even close to last year’s homer pace, which was 27th in baseball. A healthy and productive Adams, if he keeps hitting, is critical to the lineup and would surely affect when or if Taveras gets his next call to return to the majors.
I’m neither buying low nor selling high here; the lure of Taveras still remains, and Adams isn’t going to be hitting .328 for much longer if he ignores any sense of plate discipline, hacking away to either poke singles the other way or drive fly balls to right. Adams has drawn six walks all season, only one since his return. This is more like a .270 hitter when the BABIP normalizes, and the Cardinals really should sit him all the time against lefties, since he entered the week hitting .156 off them (.363 against right-handers).
He is a platoon first baseman, but like Toronto Blue Jays lefty slugger Adam Lind, who also enjoyed his Monday from a power perspective, there is great value in that. We don’t want these guys facing tough lefties and harming the batting average. In daily leagues we know they’ll hit right-handers, and for standard roto formats we’d like their batting average high.