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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Adams’ Number Retired by Slippery Rock

Before reporting to spring training in Jupiter, Florida this week, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams and his new wife Carina attended a ceremony at his college, Slippery Rock University. The occasion was the retiring of Adams’ number 25 jersey, the first such action in school history.

Adams finished his 2007-2009 stint as SRU’s all-time leader in batting average (.454), slugging percentage (.746) and on-base percentage (.525). The catcher-first baseman was a three-time All-America selection and the NCAA Division II Player of the Year in 2009 before being selected by the Cardinals in the 23rd round that June.

Among those in attendance at the February 7th ceremony and dinner were Slippery Rock baseball coach Jeff Messer, school president Cheryl Norton, Cardinals Northeast crosschecker Brian Hopkins, who was instrumental in the Cardinals’ drafting of Adams in 2009, Philipsburg-Osceola high school coach Doug Sankey and Adams’ longtime hitting coach Justin Hazelton, reported the Centre Daily Times.

Speaking of Hazelton, I interviewed the hitting coach about his special relationship with Adams back when the big man was first called up to St. Louis. The free article is here.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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13 Responses to “Adams’ Number Retired by Slippery Rock”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    First major leaguer in the history of Slippery baseball

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Another Slippery catcher drafted by the Birds was Sal Agnostelli, 22nd rounder. After 10 years of minor league ball, Sal became the top international signing scout for the Phillies.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Linked is the draft history for Slippery Rock State University in western Pennsylvania. Matt Adams is the only draftee to reach the majors.
        The Cards drafted two players from the Rock in 1982 and Agostinelli in 1983. Adams is the 4th time we signed a kid out of the Rock.
        The likelihood of unearthing major league hitting ability in round 23 and from a college program is very low. Adams was playing out of his best projectable position by trying to catch. He is from central Pennsylvania, no amateur talent hub for baseball. Also going against him, Slippery Rock is a funny name and a backwater that had never yielded a major leaguer, before Adams.

        We previously unearthed another left swinging first baseman in Keith Hernandez out of a California high school in about round 42. Adams and Hernandez are the lowliest position player draftees of the Cards that I can recall. Any scouting director would be very surprised to hit upon ML talent so far down in the draft.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Good question as to who was the latest round hitter to reach St. Louis. Another variation would be those players who became regulars such as Adams. Another even more exclusive list could be All-Stars like Hernandez. The MVP peak would be very small.

          On the other hand, I’d think a free agent signee (who was draftable but passed up – excluding international players) would have an even greater challenge than a late-round draftee – if any of them made it. On the pitching side in recent years, Brandon Dickson comes to mind.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            Tom Herr and Bernard Gilkey are two unusual examples of undrafted amateurs who defied long odds to enjoy substantial play in MLB. IIRC both signed after high school.
            Keith Hernandez was likely a guy scouts expected to go to college. The Cards ponied up big bucks for the time to persuade him to turn pro. In those days, there was no Baseball America yet, so reporting on amateurs was near non existent.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    Albert Pujols, one of the greats, was an under appreciated Amateur SS, who lasted to round 13. If anyone knew how good Albert was, he would have been at the top of a draft.
    Likewise Matt Carpenter is a terrific hitter to last also to round 13.
    But Matt Adams lasted another 10 rounds. Very unusual.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Obviously the success of Adams resounds most to his efforts.
      We get credit for giving him a try, before any other team did. Then he got playing time in the minors. So the birds deserve some credit too. Apparent luck can be the result of smart gambles.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    Another low round draftee success story of the Cards was the CF Bake McBride, 37th rounder in 1970, 45 years ago. MeBride was fast and swung left, desirable attributes in a CF. He was ranked low in the draft, however, because like Adams, he played way off the beaten track. McBride went to Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri, an NCAA Division III school. Scouts do not frequent such out of the way schools, understandably because they have few good athletes and do not play good quality amateur baseball. The Cards were probably the only team to scout nearby Westminster in 1970.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Though from another team, another low round success is worthy of mention. CF Chad Curtis was a 45th rounder of the Angels out of Grand Canyon College in Phoenix, a Division II program, but a strong one and well scouted.
      Curtis would have gone low in the draft because not a big home run threat and a right swinger. If he had been powerful, like teammate Tim Salmon who went in the 3rd round, Curtis could have been drafted much higher.
      Instead, Curtis must have shown in the minors that he could get on base and swipe bases. Defying long odds, Curtis rose to a substantial ML career, owing to an knack for getting on base and effective base running.
      Some years, another right swinging CF Peter Bourjos has been able to get on base and play well, doing so for the Angels during 2011, though enjoying less success during his first NL season of 2014. Its not easy for right swinging hitters to succeed, given having to face many RHPs. A right swinging CF who can hang in there against RHPs and be an offensive success is hard for scouts to discern.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        The Cards invested 18th and 20th round picks in 2014 in right swinging CFs from backwater colleges: Blake Drake from NAIA Concordia and Colin Radack out of Hendrix, a liberal arts college in Arkansas. The Cards would do this because of an example like Chad Curtis. You never know if some kid from an out of the way college can succeed in the minors, if given a chance to compete. The odds against are long, but only playing the actual games can establish if a long shot kid can claw his way to the top.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          TLR used to talk about putting players into a position to succeed. It was a guiding philosophy of a Hall of Fame manager.
          The same philosophy can be applied to a minor league system, to optimize the development of players. The Cards have three short-season minor league teams, more than most of their competitors. These greater number of team can be used to optimize the readiness of kids for full season Peoria and Palm Beach squads.
          Finding and cultivating a low round hitter like Matt Adams or low round pitchers like Gregerson, Siegrist, Jaime Garcia, and Trevor Rosenthal, involves more than scouting alone. The development system has to be run so as to optimize opportunities for as many promising players as possible.

          The Cards seem to have become better at this. They do not waste A level roster slots on castoffs from other systems, as they once did. A lot of players earn in-season promotions to the next level. We probably are smarter in terms of protecting the arm health of pitchers. We are active in moving players to their best pro roles, just as Adams was moved from catcher to first base, giving him a much better chance to succeed.

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