For me, the definition of an impact player is one that keeps fans glued to their seats when he comes to bat. No running to the concession stand.
St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams has the upside of an impact player. A star. He just has to stay healthy.
Adams plays in an organization loaded with talent. He is just one of a long list of outstanding young men waiting their turn to have significant impact upon the parent club -- players like Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong and Michael Wacha, just to name a few. The list is lengthy. After having scouted Adams on several occasions, he is in the "top quarter-inch club" of that list. He's that powerful a hitter -- and power is becoming rare in today's game. Adams has game-changing strength and ability.
If Adams were an airplane, he'd be a jumbo jet. However, he isn't. He's a baseball player, and a darn good one. At 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, Adams is more than an imposing figure at the plate. He's a mountain of a man -- with a bat in his hand. The damage he can inflict with his very short, very measured swing is lethal. I've seen it for myself many times.
Adams is a graduate of Philipsburg-Osceola High School in Philipsburg, Pa. He was an All State catcher his senior year. A three-year letter winner in baseball, Adams attended Slippery Rock State College.
Playing part-time at catcher and part-time at first base, Adams was a true "Rock" star. At Slippery Rock, he hit .487 his freshman year, .438 his sophomore year and .495 his junior year. He hit 27 home runs in his 485 collegiate at-bats. His career .454 batting average and .746 on-base percentage earned him All-American honors three times. He has the highest career batting average in Slippery Rock history.
In the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Adams lasted until the 23rd round, when he was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Showing that his high school and college offensive prowess was not a fluke, Adams has continued hitting since turning professional.
The left-handed power hitter began his career at Johnson City in the Appalachian League. He played 63 games and hit .355 in 270 plate appearances. He finished his rookie season at Class A Batavia, hitting .346 in another 142 trips to the plate. Adams was serving notice that he can hit. He smacked 10 home runs, 17 doubles and struck out only 41 times.
In 2010, Adams advanced to the Class A Quad Cities club in the Midwest League. Again, he hit. His average was .310 with 22 home runs and 88 RBIs.
The following season, at age 22, Adams was promoted again. Playing at Double-A Springfield, he was named the Cardinals' Minor League Player of the Year after hitting .300 with a whopping 32 homers and 101 RBIs.
It was after that season that I first scouted Adams in the Arizona Fall League. I was impressed with his quiet and very disciplined approach at the plate. I was prepared to see a man big enough to block out the sun stand at the plate and hack away, swinging from his heels. It didn't happen.
That fall, I saw an upright stance in the batter's box and outstanding, very mature mechanics. I saw a natural hitter, born to torment pitchers.
Adams was injured by midseason that fall, and while he was chosen for the Rising Stars Game, he wasn't able to play.
Adams finished that fall hitting .250 with four home runs and 19 RBIs. Of significance is the fact that he hit six sacrifice flies.
Playing at Memphis in 2012, Adams didn't miss a beat. He hit .329 and earned a promotion to St. Louis when Lance Berkman was injured. Adams made his Major League debut May 20, 2012, at age 23. He finished his time with the Cardinals hitting .244 in 91 plate appearances. He also hit two homers.
Adams gets natural lift on the ball without even trying. He is so strong and his hands are so quick through the ball, he hits towering drives with very little effort. He is extremely selective at the plate, choosing to swing at those pitches he is confident he can handle. Adams makes good contact for a power hitter. He doesn't give away at-bats. While he knows the strike zone and works pitchers into deep counts, he would rather hit than walk. I can understand that.
Defensively, Adams is much better than expected for such a big man. He moves well, although his footwork is a bit slow. He does, however, have quick hands that allow him to scoop errant throws. He is certainly not a liability at first base and is Major League average at the position.
I recently saw Adams play for the Cardinals in his part-time role. In the game I scouted, he had a couple of big hits and made an impact in the game. It's exactly what I had seen during his time in the Arizona Fall League.
Adams has had injury issues in his career. He had a bone spur in his elbow in 2012. This season, after making the Opening Day roster, Adams was recently placed on the disabled listed with a strained right oblique muscle. It is a situation that will require rest and limited activity.
The presence of quality players provides the Cardinals with options and flexibility moving forward. When healthy once again, Adams will likely take his place as a role player for St. Louis. However, he has the type of powerful bat that will impact the outcome of games.
It would not be surprising if fans put their trips to the concession stand on hold when Adams comes to the plate. He has the type of power that is becoming very rare in today's game.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.