37. Adam Eaton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
36. Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Eaton Vitals: DOB 12/6/1988, 5’8″ 185lbs. Drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 19th round of the 2010 draft and signed for a $35,000 bonus. Currently in MLB.
Adams Vitals: DOB 8/31/1988, listed at 6’3″ and (generously) 230lbs. Drafted by the Cardinals in the 23rd round of the 2009 draft and signed for a $25,000 bonus.
When I found these two landing next to one another on my list, I chuckled. It wasn’t on purpose.
I’d like to see a picture of the two of them next to one another. Adams is a big-bodied first-baseman who scouts have routinely dismissed for being too big-bodied, if you catch my drift. Eaton is a little fella, who makes Dustin Pedroia look like Adam Wainwright. Eaton, like Adams, has been routinely dismissed by scouts because of his size.
Scouts have said Adams isn’t valuable because he’s not athletic and can only play first base, and that he has a ‘bad approach’ because he does not draw a lot of walks. Scouts have said Eaton is too small and can’t have good arm strength in the outfield long-term and that the power he has shown is a fluke.
Matt Adams fucking rakes. He hits the ball to all fields. He hits the ball with authority, making hard loud contact. It’s tough to get Adams to swing and miss, because he has excellent pitch recognition, good hand-eye coordination, and fast, strong hands with a compact line drive swing.
Also, Matt Adams hits monster bombs.
Like Jonathan Singleton earlier on this list, Adams lacks the athleticism to play anywhere but first base. He plays that position well, showing good enough range and displaying soft hands that make him an excellent receiver at first. He’s not fast but he’s intelligent on the bases.
The “approach” knock on Adams drives me nuts. The guys saying that are the same people who praised Pedro Alvarez for his “good approach” when Alvarez was in the minors, neglecting that Alvarez had a remarkably high strikeout rate, which they didn’t consider part of “approach.” The thing about Adams is that he’s much different, and better as a hitter, than Alvarez–he can see and hit almost anything. Approach is getting your pitch and not missing on bad pitches, and Adams gets his pitches. In the majors, once he faces the best competition, Adams’ recognition should lead to him letting more balls go by and walking more. I think that’s a skill he will pick up once he can’t hit everything (though I think he’ll be able to hit most everything at the MLB level) and that the bad approach label is bunk.
Adams won’t do much in the field but play replacement level defense. That’s fine. He’s going to be a mid-800 or better OPS-er for several years. He will be in his age 24 season in 2013, and it should be spent, in full, playing everyday baseball at first base. He has nothing left to learn in the minors, and a first baseman with a 70 hit tool and a 70+ power tool is a top prospect in my book–look at the best hitters of the last 10, 20, 30, 40 years, the guys who top MVP ballots. Pujols, Votto, Giambi, McGwire, Palmeiro, Fielder, Cabrera, etc. What position did they play? Do we bring them down in hindsight because they were not athletic shortstops or toolsy center fielders? Nope, but prospect writers do it all the time, not giving full credit to a particular type of player that is incredibly valuable–the big guy who can mash.
Eaton plays with his engine in the red non-stop. He might be a little guy, but the tools are all there, and ad a player who can more than hold his own defending in center field, hit for average, hit for power, and be an asset on the bases, there’s really no fault to find in him other than the size thing.
Both these guys have been slept on for too long by the national writers. They’re both as good as the guys Moneyball chided for passing on players with “bad bodies.”
35. J.O. Berrios, P, Minnesota Twins
Vitals: DOB 5/27/94, 6’0″ 187lbs. Drafted by the Twins with the 32nd overall pick in the 2012 draft and signed for a $1.55 million bonus. Finished 2012 at rookie-level Elizabethtown of the Appalachian League.
Or Jose Berrios, if you prefer. He’s listed as Jose on Fangraphs and Baseball Reference, JO on Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.
Berrios was drafted out of a Puerto Rican high school and entered the draft without hype. That changed when a boatload of scouts saw Berrios throw a no-hitter against Carlos Correa’s high school team back in the spring. He’s on this list entirely for ceiling.
Berrios is a lot like Carlos Martinez or Chris Archer a year ago. It was easy to see the ceiling of a front-end starter, but also easy to reality-check the future and allow for the fact that Martinez or Archer could end up a reliever.
Berrios has the pitches in his arsenal to be a starter: a fastball that runs up to 96 and sits 92-94, a sharp 12-to-6 curveball, and a changeup that is behind the former two pitches. Mechanically, Doug Thorburn at Baseball Prospectus had this to say last month:
“Berrios has better pitching mechanics than any player selected ahead of him…outstanding balance and nearly ideal posture, traits that are made all the more impressive by the rocket levels of kinetic energy that he generates with relative ease. All of his momentum flows on a straight line toward the target, such that the right-hander takes another step toward the plate during his follow-through. Berrios is a picture of mechanical efficiency, with advanced command of an ultra-aggressive motion, along with the functional strength and mechanical efficiency to repeat the motion. The momentum alone is worthy of the spotlight.”
It’s nice to see in the GIF that last step toward the plate Thorburg mentioned. The kind of straight, repeatable balance and efficiency is the kind of thing that quite often results in a very talented player taking a huge leap forward in the minors. I like the odds that Berrios, like Martinez and Archer this year, can take that big leap in 2013. I think he will be one of the most talked-about minor league pitchers of 2013.
Berrios faced no challenge in two levels of rookie ball this year: 30 2/3 IP, 49 K, 4 BB, 1 HR, 1.17 ERA.