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Know Your 40: David Adams

It's been a rough road back from an infamous ankle injury in 2010, but is there still hope for David Adams in the Yankees' organization?

David Adams's right ankle narrowly misses an attack by a Pirate bounty hunter.
David Adams's right ankle narrowly misses an attack by a Pirate bounty hunter.

Name: David Adams
Position: Second baseman/Third baseman
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 25 (born 5/15/1987)
Height: 6’1" Weight: 205 lbs.
Remaining Contract: One year, $480,000 (under team control)
2012 statistics: (AA) 86 games, .306/.385/.450, 23 2B, 8 HR, .377 wOBA, 133 wRC+
(AFL) 22 games, .286/.388/.524, 7 2B, 3 HR, .412 wOBA, 137 wRC+

Many people have their entire careers almost exclusively defined by one incident. For Bobby Thomson, it was "The Shot Heard ‘Round the World." For Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten, it was his four-homer, 12-RBI game. David Adams has yet to play above the AA level, but in baseball circles, his career has already been stamped by a disastrous ankle injury in 2010.

Before the infamous fracture, Adams was one of the Yankees’ most promising prospects. Our own Matt Keegan did a very good job going into detail about his collegiate feats at the University of Virginia last year—even as a mere sophomore second baseman, he led the Cavaliers in batting average and was second in OBP, slugging, and total bases.

The Yankees drafted Adams in the third round of the 2008 draft, and it did not take him long to show he had some pop in his bat. He averaged 66 games per level quickly moving up from short-season Staten Island in ’08 to Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa in ’09. His hitting seemed to only improve as he faced better pitching, culminating in a fine .281/.360/.498 triple slash with a 146 wRC+ in Tampa. Minor League Ball’s John Sickels ranked him as the number 12 prospect in the Yankees’ system entering 2010 with AA Trenton. Even though the Yanks had an All-Star caliber second baseman at the major league level in Robinson Cano that wasn’t going anywhere, it sure looked like they were sitting pretty on a pair of valuable commodities with two offensive threats at second base in Adams and fellow minor leaguer Corban Joseph a level below.

Adams’s stock continued to rise when he began the year by hitting .309/.393/.507 in 39 games with the Thunder. His season hit a snag on May 23rd though, when he apparently sprained his right ankle in a slide. Adams went to the shelf, but it was believed it would not take him terribly long to recover and he was thus still certainly a potential trade chip. A couple months later, he was among a trio of Yankee prospects along with top chip Jesus Montero and AAA starter Zach McAllister set to go to Seattle in a trade for lefty ace Cliff Lee. The Yankees and GM Brian Cashman absolutely coveted Lee, and on July 9th, Cashman believed that they "had him."

Unfortunately for the Yanks, the ankle of one Mr. Adams caused some hesitation on the Mariners’ side. Seattle really liked Adams and had only gotten the Yankees to finally include him in the deal that day, but the medical information they received from the Yanks about Adams did not please them. They felt something was amiss and trade talks broke down as the sides haggled over who would adequately replace Adams in the deal (the Yankees suggested Adam Warren and the Mariners countered with either Ivan Nova or Eduardo Nunez). Not long later, Lee ended up in Texas, as the Rangers relented to Seattle’s constant requests for first baseman Justin Smoak. The Yankees did not get Lee, and a few weeks later, it was revealed that Seattle’s trepidations about Adams were justified—the second baseman’s ankle was fractured.

It was a damaging blow for the 23-year-old, whose development was stunted for essentially an entire year and a half. Adams sprained his ankle twice during the ’11 season in attempts to recover from the surgery, and he spent all but 29 rehab games on the disabled list. Even this year, he admitted the ankle injury continued to affect him.

The Yankees took it easy on Adams in 2012 and he played just 86 games (compared to 107 for Joseph, who passed him on the depth chart and moved to the second base position in AAA). Adams did prove that not all hope was lost for him though, as he continued to hit AA pitching as he did in ’10 by batting .306/.385/.450 with 23 doubles and a 133 wRC+. He also showed some versatility as well when the Yankees asked him to try out third base a little to expand his future horizons with the team. If the Yankees do re-sign Cano as they intend to, it’s far more logical that an opportunity would open at the hot corner sooner than second with Alex Rodriguez becoming more of a DH due to his injuries. Adams has always had a strong arm and a decent reputation in the field, so it is certainly possible that he could adapt to third.

Adams will be 26 in May, and even though teams are more forgiving of stunted development when injuries are involved, ’13 will be crucial year for him and his future with the Yankees. He looked good in the Arizona Fall League, as he hit .286/.388/.524 with a 137 wRC+ in 22 games, demonstrating improved patience at the plate through a career-best 14.3% walk rate. The man is no schmuck at the plate; however, he needs to stay healthy and force the Yankees to make room for him at AAA soon, be it at third, a platoon with Joseph, or anything. Further developed versatility could perhaps open a spot in the not-so-distant future at the major league level for Adams as a backup infielder and maybe more should his bat stay strong.

For now though, the goal is simply to get to the next level, ideally out of Spring Training. I’m a believer in Adams, and I fully support the Yankees’ decision to protect him on the 40-man roster. Even with lingering injuries, it is difficult to find infielders with pop, especially second basemen. Here’s hoping Adams can alter what at this point is an ignominious career-defining moment to quirky fun fact in a nice big-league career.