The situation: With Lance Berkman going down with a knee injury in Saturday's game against the Dodgers, the Cardinals called on their top hitting prospect at Triple-A to replace him. Last year's Texas League MVP, Adams was hitting .340/.375/.603 in 37 games, including a 13-for-28 (.464) mark in his past seven games with three doubles, three home runs and 12 RBIs.
Background: It took some time for Adams to be taken seriously as a prospect. A 23rd-round pick in 2009 out of Slippery Rock University (and now the first player from that school to reach the majors), Adams hit .310/.355/.541 in his full-season debut at Low-A Quad Cities, but barely registered a blip on the prospect radar as he was seen as a bad-bodied, first base-only type with no résumé, beating up on inferior competition. That all changed in 2011, when bumped up two levels to Double-A, as he slugged .300/.357/.566 at Double-A Springfield with 32 home runs in 101 games, leaving scouts saying that despite his background and concerns about his size, Adams' bat is very much for real.
What he can do: While he has plus power and is a good 30 or more pounds more than his listed weight of 230, Adams looks like an all-or-nothing one-dimensional slugger, but he's actually a pure hitter with power. His strikeout rate is surprisingly manageable for a player of his type, as he has excellent hand-eye coordination and a knack for hard contact, while simply letting his size and massive strength work for him as opposed to muscling up his swing. He is an aggressive hitter who could use a more patient approach, as he looks early in the count for fastballs to drive, and big league pitchers could take advantage of that tendency. He'll never win a Gold Glove award, but he's a decent first baseman for his size, and needless to say, a well-below-average runner.
Immediate big league future: Adams will likely become the Cardinals regular first baseman, at least against right-handed pitching, but it's hard to say how long this will last until the results of Berkman's MRI reveal the severity of his injury. Scouts believe he could hit for average and power right away, provided he can avoid expanding his strike zone.
Long-term: Adams is the Cardinals' first baseman of the future, and while he was expected to assume every-day duties in 2013, his timetable may have just gotten accelerated. He has a good chance to to be a middle-of-the-order run producer, and an outside shot at turning into an occasional All-Star.