The year of experience seems to have changed the way Adams approaches his at bats
(KSDK Sports) -- At this point one year ago, Matt Adams was all the rage. He didn't have a starting spot coming out of the Spring Training gate with incumbent Carlos Beltran in right field and Allen Craig at first base, but he was squeezing every drop out of the at-bats he received. He pounded three home runs, two doubles, and two singles in his first ten at-bats. When the smoke cleared at the end of April, the guy they call "Big City" had a video-game batting line: in 24 at bats, Adams carried a .542 batting average, a 1.634 OPS, and 31 total bases.
At that point, Cardinal Nation started to explode on the topic of what to do with Adams. Some were calling for a trade of Jon Jay or even Allen Craig to make room for Adams bat in the lineup. Others were ready to put a "guaranteed" sticker on the big first baseman and start shopping him around and asking for a king's ransom as if he were the National League's Big Papi. Lucky for Cardinal Nation, General Manager John Mozeliak didn't succumb to temptation and held on to Adams. Throughout the rest of 2013, the law of averages came in to play and Adams followed his torrid April with a June in which he batted .179 and an August with a .205 average, finishing the season with a respectable triple-slash line of .284/.335/.839.
Fast forward to now, and you'll see a different player manning first for the Cardinals. The year of experience seems to have changed the way Adams approaches his at bats, and done a lot for his maturity. The biggest issues for Adams in his young career have been hitting left-handed pitching, and taking consistent at-bats, no matter the situation.
So far in 2014, Adams looks like he's rectifying both. Many Cardinal fans were worried that a full year of teams pulling the extreme infield shift on Adams would force his batting average to plummet, but Adams has done a good job of taking the ball the other way so far this season and has plugged a handful of easy singles and doubles to the left side. He's also staying back on breaking balls more than he did in 2013 and the pitch that had been his kryptonite, the slider low and away, is being chased at a lower rate than last season as well.
Many were upset with the "shove" Adams gave to the fan in Cincinnati, but I thought it was good to see a little intensity out of Adams. It's good to stay even keeled, as Adams often is, throughout the 162-game-marathon that is a season, but it's also the mark of a good leader to show some emotion and passion at times too. In a close game where that one out could have made the difference, I felt Adams might have had a right to give the fan a little tap for trying to Steve Bartman the baseball from him. I felt that way even more after I saw the fan shooting him the bird after he turned his back.
If Adams continues to grow as a hitter and develops a little more plate discipline, he could supplant himself as the unquestioned first baseman of this team and be a hot extension candidate at this point next season as he starts to reach arbitration. Once looked at as a stopgap who was keeping first base warm for Allen Craig while Craig bridged the divide between Carlos Beltran's departure and Oscar Taveras' arrival, Adams is now leading the team in virtually every offensive category and is sparking some chatter about trading Taveras.
Adams could be looking at a big weekend with right-handed fastball-heavy pitchers going on three consecutive days for the Cubs.
Stephen Nations is an aspiring sports and Cardinals columnist. He will be contributing his commentary to KSDK.com during the 2014 season. You can follow him on twitter at @Nayshface.