One of my favorite things about the draft and the subsequent minor league season is finding these sleepers. Players that no one got excited about but who could make a big impact in the system down the road. I think the Astros may have found one of those guys in the former Jacksonville State senior center fielder Dan Adamson.
That's a pretty scary word to be throwing around for a prospect. Senior. That means he's old. Old players aren't prospects, right? I'm sure his age, combined with him playing in short season ball is a big reason why Orem didn't list him in the Prospect Primer. I don't blame him, frankly. I've only started to dig on Adamson recently, and more importantly, after I did a little research on him.
Who is Dan Adamson?
Let's break the 20th round draft pick like those scouting reports we did back in June:
Thanks to the ValleyCats for the excellent action shots of Adamson.
Adamson played four years at Jacksonville State after playing high school ball at Clay-Chalkville High School in Centerpoint, Alabama. He started on the varsity team for four years, winning a state championship in his sophomore season. He also stole 85 bases in 397 at-bats in high school, which was a precursor of things to come in college.
Adamson started 35 games in center field as a true freshman, notching 133 at-bats and hitting .308 with 11 doubles, two triples and two home runs. He also walked 11 times and struck out 47 times. Remember that number, it'll come up again. Adamson only attempted one stolen base and was thrown out on it in his freshman season. That was the only time in college he stole less than 10 bases. Adamson also made two errors in 86 chances as a freshman, including two assists.
Adamson had a nice sophomore season, starting every game in center and chalking up six home runs, nine doubles and a triple in 207 at-bats. He also walked 19 times and struck out 57. He stole 10 bases in 13 attempts and made three errors in 126 chances.
His junior and senior seasons are when his talents really started to shine through. Adamson only made one error in his last two seasons, spanning 286 chances in center. He also stole 26 of 28 bases and hit 22 doubles, eight triples and 23 home runs in 424 at-bats. He walked 51 times and struck out 111. He was also named first-team All-Ohio Valley Conference in 2010 and second-team in 2009.
Once drafted, Adamson was assigned to the Tri-City ValleyCats, where he's gone .281/.390/.458 in 153 at-bats. He's hitting significantly better at home at Joe Bruno Stadium than he is on the road (.325 to .233), but may be able to sustain his high BABiP with his speed. Adamson has stolen eight of 11 bases this season while hitting nine doubles, three triples and four home runs. He's also walked 22 times and struck out 48 times. In 82 chances with Tri City, he's also committed three errors.
Adamson has "light tower power." It's easy to think the power he showed at Jacksonville State could have been due to the aluminum bats. Reading reports like this one in the Albany Times Union or over at 'Cats Corner, Adamson has legitimate power. As in, hit the ball 400-plus feet all day long. He also can use his speed to beat out infield hits or take an extra base on grounder through the infield, which means his high batting average may be sustainable. Adamson went all four years in college without batting under .300.
Oh, and then there's the little manner of his defense. Errors and fielding percentage are a terrible way to judge fielding skill. I use it only to illustrate just how good Adamson appears to have been in college. The Jacksonville State media site calls him the best, fastest defender in school history. He went 244 chances without committing an error over his junior and senior seasons. He's got a pretty good arm, but his real skill is the ground he can cover with his speed.
Did I mention his speed? And his base running acumen? You don't steal bases at the clip he has without knowing a thing or two about it. It's reasonable to assume Adamson could sustain a 70 percent success rate as he progresses through the system with 30 to 40 steals in full season ball.
Overall, his ceiling is like T.J. Steele without the injuries or inconsistency*. Unlike Steele, who never has been able to capitalize on his tools for long periods of time, Adamson has been doing this for four years. He's got all five tools, legitimately, and I could see a situation where he hits .300/.400/.500 with 25-30 home runs and 30-40 steals in the majors with Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field. That's a superstar, boys and girls.
*I can't emphasize enough how much I think of Adamson now as the anti-Steele. He's everything we've heard about T.J., but with actual production on the field.
Now that we've established the upper end of his talent level, let's look at the worst-possible scenario. Adamson strikes out a lot. In the past 577 at-bats over two seasons, he's struck out 159 times. That's not good, but it's not terrible as long as he keeps making contact. If he can't keep getting on base as he does, or if his walk rate drops some from the 73 he had over that same stretch, Adamson is in trouble.
If that's the case, he's a great defender with good base running instincts who profiles as a perfect fifth outfielder in the pros. We'll need to see more from him in full season ball before firming that up, but it definitely seems reasonable, since defense and base running are two things that don't always need honing in the minors.
ETA in the Majors
At 22, Adamson is older than you like from a prospect. He's a little like J.D. Martinez, without the ridiculous numbers. Adamson also strikes out a ton and will need to tighten that up a bit before he advances through the system. I can live with 120 strikeouts a year, if he's hitting for power and average, plus getting on base at a good clip. Right now, it looks like the best-case for Adamson is to follow a Martinez path, which means he could challenge for a big league spot in 2012 or 2013.
That's assuming everything breaks right for him. A better comparison for Adamson may be Chris Johnson, in that his power is very evident, but doesn't always show up on the field. So, Adamson may follow the Johnson path to the big leagues and take till 2014 or 2015.
Where will he go in 2011?
Ideally, Adamson starts out at Lexington next season with the possibility to move up to Corpus by July. Jay Austin will be up there by then, but he could easily be promoted to Round Rock if he's continuing to mature. Plus, Adamson has played some DH and left field this season, so he could move off center for Austin's development.
The thing that's really intriguing about starting him in Lexington is the power that roster could have. With Adamson, Kvasnicka, Tyler Burnett, Telvin Nash and Delino DeShields, Jr., that lineup could be loaded with power hitters. I realize many people don't consider DDJ a power guy, but with his build and that short stroke, he could easily hit 20 bombs a season. Even without DDJ, that's four serious power hitters in the middle of the lineup that could terrorize opposing pitchers. Add in someone like Ben Heath and Lexington may run out of fireworks by midseason.