Cristhian Adames is a player who has been around as a prospect for what seems like forever. Indeed, he signed with the Rockies before Rocktober -- in the summer of 2007 -- and has been a member of the PuRPs list for every edition since before the 2011 season (10 lists total). It's hard, then, to remember that the switch-hitting shortstop is only 24 years old.
If I were to sum up the prospect status of Adames, a case that has been written many times given his tenure on the list, here's what I would boil it down to:
1. He has an excellent glove at shortstop, at one point being named the best defensive infielder in Colorado's system by Baseball America.
2. He's been at least two years younger than average at every stateside level while moving steadily up the minor league ladder and producing at least a 90 wRC+ at every level, including a wRC+ of over 100 the last two years in Triple-A, in combination with that great defense.
3. The Rockies thought enough of Adames to add him to their 40-man roster after the 2012 season and have kept him there even as dozens of other players have come and gone in that time.
All of this adds up to a prospect package I've been watching closely for years, leading me to place Adames 15th on my ballot, right in line with the electorate.
Of course, a main reason (besides his youth) why Adames has only 73 major league plate appearances to his name is that he's never been mistaken for a slugger. After all, his career minor league line is .281/.348/.375. The good news is that in Triple-A, Adames has produced his best offensive lines of his career, with a 122 wRC+ in 163 plate appearances in 2014 and a .311/.362/.438 (114 wRC+) line in 511 plate appearances this past year. In addition, Adames won the Dominican Winter League batting title after the 2014 season with a .353/.426/.473 line.
Before the 2015 season, Adames was one of the three prospects selected by Baseball Prospectus as "Factors on the Farm" -- prospects who would soon contribute to the big league roster. 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.
Not all kind words, but a major league utility player has considerable value. If Adames continues to hold his own at the plate, a major league career as a utility player is a near certainty, with the possibility for him to turn into an acceptable middle infield starter. It's easy to look at him 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 low strikeout player (about 11 percent in 2015 in Triple-A) with an acceptable (7 percent) walk rate. I'd have liked to see more of Adames against big league pitching in 2015 (he really should have been up in place of Rafael Ynoa, to name one), but because the Rockies decided to keep him stashed in Albuquerque, there isn't much of a sample of Adames hitting major league pitching (.206/.250/.250 in 73 plate appearances).
MLB.com rated Adames as the 19th best player in the system in its mid-year update:
It was Adames' glove that carried him to the big leagues and it's likely what will keep him there. The infielder is very sure-handed, making every routine play and then some. He has a very accurate, above-average arm. In addition to playing a very solid shortstop, he's shown an ability to handle defensive responsibilities at second and third to increase his versatility and value. Adames has made strides offensively. While he's never going to be a force with the bat, he's learned that he can contribute by getting on base and putting the ball in play consistently.
Adames played exceptionally well in the Dominican Winter League, realizing he doesn't have to try to do too much at the plate to succeed. He moved all around the infield there, as well, setting himself up for a career as a super-utility type.
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. With that said, Adames is now out of minor league options and will need to break camp with the big league club if he is going to stay in the organization. With all the time Adames has spent in the system, it would be a shame if he didn't stick with the team as a super-utility player in 2016 and beyond.