We all know what happened with Brian Roberts last year. Between a herniated disk and other aches and pains, Roberts only got into 59 games, and missed the last week or so of the season after suffering a self-imposed concussion.
Reports this offseason were that Roberts was feeling better than ever. At Orioles Fanfest, Brian answered questions left and right about his health, and he insisted that the back felt great and he was ready to go. Fast forward to Spring Training, where Roberts showed up a week earlier than necessary to get some swings in. Then what happened less than a month into workouts? Roberts felt some “neck soreness” from the way he slept. Or so he said. While claiming that it had nothing to do with his past back issues, some found it odd that he would assume such a thing when the neck and back certainly do coexist in the body.
Now, Roberts has been out for multiple days with back pain. He had multiple injections just a few days ago to alleviate some soreness, but with continuing troubles, Roberts is scheduled for an MRI today to hopefully find a problem. A fixable problem, at that.
Enter Ryan Adams. Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2006 First Year Players Draft, Adams has taken baby steps in the Orioles organization, playing as high as AA Bowie last year. After a shaky first two years of minor league ball, Adams finally hit the scene in 2008 with a full season at single-A Delmarva where he hit .308 with 26 doubles and 11 homeruns. After a shortened 2009 season, Adams came back last season ready to play.
2010 brought Adams some ups and downs across the charts. In his first season at the AA level, Adams stayed healthy and hammered out 134 games for the Baysox. With an average (.298) and gap to gap abilities (43 doubles, 15 HRs), Adams seemed to have a few aspects of his offensive game that mimicked those of Nick Markakis (.297, 45 doubles, 12 HRs). Where Adams differs is with plate discipline, something that Markakis thrives on. Striking out 121 times in 594 plate appearances, Adams still put up an OBP of .365, though scouts say that he is more of a free swinger and needs to cut down on the strikeouts in order to become a successful major league hitter.
The shakiest part of Ryan Adams’ game may not have anything to do with how he performs in the box. Scouts say that Adams is a huge liability defensively, something that could be a part of not being named to a single position over a full season. Playing mostly 2nd base last season in Bowie, Adams committed 20 errors at the position (25 overall) for a very low fielding percentage of .959. With a .936 career fielding percentage at 2nd base, Adams may be blocked from any future promotions, and even success in general, without finding some consistency with his glove and figuring out where he needs to be on the diamond.
Adams also got some experience and work in the Arizona Fall League, where he was named to the AFL Rising Stars Team and once received the AFL Player of the Week Award as a member of the Scottsdale Scorpions. After hitting .324 with eight homeruns and seventeen doubles in 204 at-bats after the All-Star break last season, Adam’s was also named to the Eastern League’s Post-Season All-Star Team.
This spring, Adams, who was not moved onto the 40 man roster (putting him at risk for the Rule 5 Draft, though he was not selected), has played in eleven games, making two starts and seven appearances at 2nd base. While it may be a small sample size, Adams is hitting .467 (7-15) with two homeruns (one can be found here) and two doubles. Adding on six RBIs, 5 runs scored, a walk, and four strikeouts, Adams has definitely impressed at camp so far.
In a recent article, Dan Connolly quotes Ryan Adams during Spring Training:
“I’ve been working with [minor league infield coordinator] Bobby Dickerson and Mike Bordick daily, before and sometimes after the games,” said Adams, who is listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds. “We’re trying to get the defense to catch up with the bat.
The question comes down to this: Is Ryan Adams ready for the big leagues? Though he has no at bats at the AAA level, Adams’ bat certainly has potential to play up to big league pitching with some coaching and mentoring. They key question is his defense. This whole issue has come up due to Brian Roberts being questionable for Opening Day (and even this season), so the main thought has to be not only if Adams is ready, but if he is a true improvement over guys like Cesar Izturis, Robert Andino, Brendan Harris, and Nick Green. Izturis was brought back as a utility, and many believe that it would be best to keep it that way. Neither Harris or Green provide anything more offensively than Izturis does, and both are definitely lower tier defenders, especially compared to the likes of Izturis. Andino may be the best in house option for the team that has major league experience. Though he is a liability at times defensively, Andino brings a bit more pop in his bat than any of the other three options.
So is Ryan Adams the solution should Roberts start the season on the DL?
Steve Melewski of MASN Sports thinks that the Orioles coaching staff and front office want Adams to get more seasoning in the minor leagues before even looking at such a promotion. In a September 2010 interview with Adams, Melewski asked the 23 year old about his season. “Feel like the season went well. I put a lot of hard work into the off season. I wanted to come in and have a good year and I set my goals high.”
In that same interview, Adams also noted [about being an Eastern League Post Season All-Star in 2010], “It’s a huge honor, the first time I’ve been an All-Star. It feels good but the big picture is to get to the big leagues. It’s nice, but I have a long ways to go.”
Or does he?
Update: Adams went 1-1 today with an infield single, pinch-hitting for Vladimir Guerrero. He is now hitting .500 this spring (8-16).