News of Alejandro Kirk’s possible hip flexor injury and subsequent move to the 10 day IL has prompted the promotion of Riley Adams, who was destined for AAA Buffalo this week, to the big league roster.
Adams is one of the more interesting development projects in the Toronto system. Termed an athletic and intriguing high school receiving prospect in the 2014 draft, Adams opted to attend San Diego after being selected in the 37th round by the Cubs.
The Blue Jays selected Adams in the 3rd round in 2017 by the Blue Jays. His draft report from Baseball America:
Adams ranked No. 154 on the BA 500 out of high school and was drafted by the Cubs in the 37th round. He instead became a cornerstone player at USD, hitting in the middle of the lineup and starting at catcher since he was a freshman. Adams is a big-league bodied catcher at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds and uses his strength well on both sides of the ball. His raw arm strength grades as plus and earns an occasional 70 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, while at the plate he possesses big power to all fields and enough feel to hit to get to it. He has had swing-and-miss issues to go along with his power production. Defensively Adams’ hands, receiving and blocking are well below-average and need significant work. Some evaluators believe those skills can improve to be adequate in the context of everything else Adams provides, but others think he will eventually have to move positions, either to first base or an outfield corner. Regardless, Adams’ size, power and pedigree will make him one of the top catchers off the board.
Sent to then-Short Season Vancouver, Adams demonstrated a legit bat, and defensive skills in need of work in being named BA’s 17th-ranked Northwest League prospect. BA’s analysis:
Adams immediately sticks out with an extra-large frame for a catcher. He has a plus arm and erased 40 percent of basestealers in the NWL. To remain behind the plate, he has work to do to improve his hands, receiving and blocking skills and avoid a move to either first base or the outfield. He already showed improvements in those areas since signing and looks like he could develop into an adequate defender. Adams has a power-over-hit profile, with average raw power that comes with swing-and-miss because his swing tends to get big. He hit just three home runs in 52 games in pro ball, but he was playing home games in a park that suppresses power and looked fatigued by the end of the season.
Adams skipped Low A the following season, and spent 2018 with Hig A Dunedin. His framing, blocking, and throwing skills were termed as raw by several evaluators, and his pop did not show up as had been expected, but he would not be the first prospect to experience that kind of outage in the Florida State League.
2019 saw Adams moved to AA New Hampshire, and his improved skills behind the plate were evident. There had been thought that he might move off of his position because of his size, but Adams was able to set a better low target, and his game management skills showed strong development. At the plate, Adams was showing an ability to barrel up balls, along with more of a swing-and-miss approach.
Fangraphs named him the Blue Jays’ 20th prospect, and offered this evaluation:
At a chiseled 6-foot-4, Adams has a rare catcher’s build both in terms of sheer size and body composition. This creates some issues for him — the lever length has led to strikeouts, and Adams can be slow out of his crouch when throwing to second — but it bolsters confidence in his durability and athletic longevity. I think it’s possible for Adams to simplify his swing in a way that looks like what Alec Bohm has done, which is a contact-oriented approach that derives power from the hitter’s strength rather than a lot of movement, though Adams doesn’t have that kind of natural bat-to-ball ability (if he did and caught, he’d be a top 25 prospect). I have him projected as a bat-first backup and it sounds like he has generated some trade interest. He’s part of a very crowded catching situation in Toronto.
Despite what some observers have suggested, Adams is not necessarily the Blue Jays Catcher of the Future. He has made tremendous progress, but he’s a bat-first player with some holes in his swing that big league pitchers will likely exploit. Adams has shown the aptitude and ability to make adjustments, but he profiles as a backup at this point in his career.