Editor's note: We've made a change with the PuRPs list this year, deciding to unveil each player individually over the course of a few weeks. To keep track of the rankings, keep checking our PuRPs list StoryStream.
PuRP No. 15: Cristhian Adames (256 points, 16 ballots) | Summer 2014 Ranking: 16 | High Ballot 11, Mode Ballot 15
Adames, a 23-year-old shortstop who split his time this year between Double-A Tulsa, Triple-A Colorado Springs and the big league club, has never been mistaken for a slugger. After all, his career minor league line is .275/.345/.361. There are two big reasons why Adames rates so highly on this list and why I've been consistently beating his prospect drum over the last few years (I placed him 11th on my ballot): his great defense at a premium position -- he's been the primary shortstop at every minor league stop, getting good reviews on his work there -- and the fact that he's always produced relatively well (lowest wRC+ was 90) despite consistently being at least two years younger than the average player at each of his stateside stops.
This year, Adames repeated at Tulsa, hitting a punchless .267/.324/.336 (still a 90 wRC+) before getting a promotion to Triple-A pretty much in lockstep with the ascendance of Trevor Story from High-A. At Colorado Springs, Adames produced the best offensive line in his minor league career: .338/.392/.441 in 138 plate appearances (122 wRC+). This production, combined with his placement on the 40-man roster and a positional need, resulted in Adames getting 15 big league plate appearances in 2014 (though he went 1-for-15). As if that wasn't enough, Adames then went and won the Dominican Winter League batting title with a .353/.426/.473 line.
Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs rated Adames 13th in the system, having this to say:
Adames is a player that I didn't love last year in the Arizona Fall League and scouts keep finding excuses to move down this list, but he is a switch-hitting shortstop that's hitting in Triple-A, so he still belongs in this group. Scouts aren't convinced he's more than an okay utility player as he's a low-energy guy that can pick it but doesn't have elite range or speed and projects to be a below average hitter without much game power.
Not all kind words, but a major league utility player has considerable value. Remember that Baseball America has ranked Adames as being the best defensive infielder in Colorado's system in the past, and if he continues to hold his own at the plate, a major league career as a utility player is a near certainty. It's easy to look at Adames and see Jonathan Herrera. It's also easy to forget that Herrera has been in the league for several years now -- and that Adames is younger with a better batting line than Herrera had at this point in his career. Adames is a (relatively) lower strikeout player (about 15 percent) with an acceptable 8 percent walk rate. I'd like to see him some more against big league pitching in 2015 to see what kind of a player the Rockies have.
Adames was one of the three prospects selected by Baseball Prospectus as "Factors on the Farm" -- prospects who will contribute to the big league roster -- in 2015. Here's Nick Faleris on Adames:
Adames provides steady hands, smooth actions, and adequate range at the six spot, making him a worthy utility option should the need arise at the big-league level next year. The bat likely plays subpar, even considering the position, but the former international signee shows a solid feel for contact from both sides of the plate and could be serviceable as a down-order option if forced into regular action.
Cristhian's high floor makes a substantive major league career very likely...and if that bat develops more, he'll be something more than a utility player for Colorado. Given his 40 man roster slot and defensive utility, Adames might break camp with the Rockies in 2015 or he might start in AAA.
Contract Status: 2007 FA (DR), 40 Man Roster, 1 option remaining
MLB ETA: 2015