TORONTO – Barely three days into the first stop of his professional baseball career, Riley Adams was already full of appreciation for being assigned to the short-season A-ball Vancouver Canadians.
“I’ve been pretty lucky with where I ended up, that’s for sure,” the catcher selected in the third round and signed for the slot value of $542,400 by the Toronto Blue Jays says in an interview. “It’s been really exciting from getting drafted to flying out to (Dunedin,) Florida to do a little mini-camp out there and then flying out here … just trying to get as accustomed to the pro-ball lifestyle as I can. And there isn’t much better a city than Vancouver.”
Adams, who turns 21 on Monday, knows a thing or two about great cities having attended and starred at the University of San Diego in his hometown. And though Vancouver has made a strong first impression, the goal of all players assigned to the Canadians is to not stay long, and progress as quickly through the system as possible.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound slugger certainly has a chance to do that with his combination of offensive upside and developing glove. Given his size, there are some questions whether he can stay behind the plate long term. But Blue Jays area scout Jim Lentine followed Adams since he moved from shortstop to catcher during his sophomore year in high school, giving the team confidence he’ll stick there.
“It’s really helped me,” Adams says of his experience at shortstop. “For transfer work, throwing down to second, sure it’s a little bit different, but that idea of trying to get it out quick and using those hands like that has helped. It also helps with sticking pitches and things like that because you do have to have soft hands and quick hands and at shortstop you’re dealing with the bad hops.”
His athleticism has helped, too, as his agility behind the plate gives him an edge in getting his body on pitches in the dirt. But a focal point remains his receiving, something he briefly worked on with catching co-ordinator Ken Huckaby at the mini-camp before heading north to Vancouver.
“I’ve made improvements throughout the years, but there’s still a lot more left to work on the soft hands and be able to stick pitches,” he says. “It’s all getting more reps and getting more coaching.”
More reps and more coaching will also help Adams with his game-calling and handling of pitchers, two areas he particularly enjoys and reasons why he doesn’t miss playing in the middle infield.
“I consider myself a pretty smart kid so I like all the mental side of catching and calling pitches and working those relationships with an umpire and a pitcher,” he explains. “All that stuff is super, super fun and that’s what makes catching unique, better than any other position in baseball in my opinion.”
Beyond those elements, Adams makes sure to focus on exercises to maintain flexibility as a way to keep his legs limber. Given how productive he was at the plate during his three years at San Diego, especially during his junior season when he slashed .312/.424/.564 in 202 at-bats with 13 homers and 33 walks, that matters both behind and at the plate.
If his bat plays in pro ball, and the Blue Jays fully expect it to, the way he hits will carry him a long way.
“I try to keep it simple – I look for a pitch I can drive early and depending on situation, whether it’s an off-speed pitch or a fastball, I’m just looking for a good pitch in my zone that I can drive,” Adams says. “I really try to work the ball to the right-centre gap, that’s the area where I have the most power and the area where I can drive the ball best, so I try to look for that ball a little more out, a pitch I can really get to the inside half of it and drive it that way.”
Now Adams gets a chance to test that approach at the pro level, with an organization that’s been on him for a long, long time.
— Riley Adams (@RileyAdams858) June 18, 2017
“They’ve got a long track record of me and they were definitely on that short list of teams that were interested,” says Adams. “I’m glad it worked out that way.”
Triple-A Buffalo Bisons
Notes: Rowdy Tellez hit his fifth homer of the season Thursday night, his first longball since May 19. The hit was just his fifth over his past 17 games (5-for-59), a rough stretch that followed a 26-for-87 hot streak in 24 games from April 29-May 28. … Right-hander Lucas Harrell has impressed in three starts since coming off the disabled list, allowing two runs on 11 hits and five walks over 15 innings. … Dalton Pompey, who suffered a left knee strain in his first game back with the Bisons, has started taking live at-bats as he works his way back to full baseball action. … Pompey’s absence created an opportunity for Ian Parmley, called up to the Blue Jays on Friday. … Keep an eye on Rule 5 reliever Glenn Sparkman, who allowed a run in two innings Friday during his second appearance with Buffalo. His rehab assignment reaches the maximum 30 days next Friday after which the Blue Jays have to either bring him up or offer him back to the Kansas City Royals. With the current flux in the bullpen, there may be an opportunity for him in the coming days.
Rowdy Tellez, 22, 1B/DH
Acquired: 30th round, 2013 draft
Season to date: 240 PA | 5 HR | .195/.271/.319 | 23 BB | 43 K
Double-A New Hampshire Fisher-Cats
Notes: Catcher Danny Jansen hasn’t stopped hitting since his promotion to double-A, posting a .322/.406/.483 slash line in 102 plate appearances over 24 games. What’s going on? “Due to the makeup and work ethic that he has, he’s been able to commit to using more of the field and has made arguably the most significant offensive strides out of anyone in the organization,” says director of player development Gil Kim. … Sean Reid-Foley worked a season-high seven scoreless innings in Friday’s 5-1 win over Binghamton. He allowed four hits and a walk with five strikeouts.
Anthony Alford, 22, OF
Acquired: 3rd round, 2012 draft
Season to date: 141 PA | 3 HR | .325/.411/.455 | 16 BB | 24 K
Danny Jansen, 22, C
Acquired: 16th round, 2013 draft
Season to date: 186 PA | 7 HR | .349/.415/.517 | 19 BB | 27 K
Reese McGuire, 22, C
Acquired: Trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates
Season to date: 63 PA | 2 HR | .216/.311/.373 | 8 BB | 11 K
Harold Ramirez, 22, OF
Acquired: Trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates
Season to date: 230 PA | 4 HR | .262/.304/.371 | 12 BB | 35 K
Richard Urena, 21, SS
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2012
Season to date: 290 PA | 2 HR | .232/.278/.333 | 18 BB | 50 K
Conner Greene, 22, pitcher
Acquired: 7th round, 2013 draft
Season to date: 3.62 ERA | 74.2 IP | 40 BB | 55 K
Jon Harris, 23, pitcher
Acquired: 1st round, 2015 draft
Season to date: 6.38 ERA | 67.2 IP | 23 BB | 51 K
Sean Reid-Foley, 21, pitcher
Acquired: 2nd round, 2014 draft
Season to date: 4.70 ERA | 59.1 IP | 28 BB | 60 K
Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays
Notes: Lourdes Gurriel Jr., returned to action Monday from a hamstring injury he suffered during his season debut April 19. “He hasn’t missed a beat offensively,” says Gil Kim. “He’s putting together consistent, competitive at-bats and finding the barrel. Right now it’s about acclimating to the professional baseball schedule, and he’s getting some good experiences that will help him down the line.” … Right-hander T.J. Zeuch, the Blue Jays’ first-round pick last year, remains on the disabled list but has resumed throwing, with the Blue Jays continuing to be “conservative,” according to Kim.
Lourdes Gourriel Jr., 23, SS
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2016
Season to date: 16 PA | 0 HR | .267/.250/.333 | 0 BB | 2 K
Max Pentecost, 24, C/1B
Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft
Season to date: 204 PA | 9 HR | .291/.355/.495 | 17 BB | 41 K
T.J. Zeuch, 21, pitcher
Acquired: 1st round, 2016 draft
Season to date: 3.23 ERA | 53IP | 14 BB | 42K
Low-A Lansing Lugnuts
Notes: Roughly midway through the minor-league season, Bo Bichette continues to dominate the Midwest League. “It’s a consistent approach to the middle of the field, it’s competing to win on every pitch and it’s making some physical adjustments with his two-strike approach to give him more of a chance to barrel the ball,” says Kim. “He’s been consistent with his mindset at the plate.” … Justin Maese, Patrick Murphy and Mike Ellenbest, the club’s top three in innings pitched, are all on the disabled list.
Bo Bichette, 19, SS
Acquired: 2nd round, 2016 draft
Season to date: 265 PA | 7 HR | .392/.457/.629 | 23 BB | 46 K
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 18, 3B
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2015
Season to date: 268 PA | 4 HR | .316/.407/.461 | 32 BB | 29 K
Justin Maese, 20, pitcher
Acquired: 3rd round, 2015 draft
Season to date: 4.24 ERA | 63.2 IP | 20 BB | 54 K