Love him or hate him, Adam Lind is an interesting story. I say he’s an interesting story, because I’ve had a lot of time to think about baseball lately, and I remembered hearing about players from my Dad, and I thought of what will I say about players to my kids one day. I can say I experienced the dominance and departure of Roy Halladay, I saw the rise and the power of Jose Bautista, the antics and energy of Brett Lawrie, and Adam Lind.
How can you describe his career right now, or better still, how will you describe it to your kids? Disappointing? Unfulfilled? Or Lucky? A fluke season? Or was he simply a victim to injuries? The fact is, like most cases, the answer isn’t so simple.
Adam Lind was first drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the eighth round of the 2002 draft (242 overall), but opted to go to college, and was then drafted in the third round (83rd overall) of the 2004 draft by the Jays. His early career was nothing but success, and he climbed quickly through the minor leagues.
Over his first two professional seasons he hit .312 and .313 with an OPS of .848 and .862 respectively, and in 2006, he climbed three levels beginning in AA and finishing as a September call-up to the bigs, playing in 18 games finishing with a .367 average and an OPS of 1.015. To put that in perspective, Brett Lawrie played in 43 games last season finishing with a .293 average with an OPS of .953. Suffice to say, Adam Lind had a hot start, but despite that hot start, he didn’t start with the team the following season.
2007 wasn’t the year many thought Lind was in line for. He began in the minors, but was very quickly recalled in mid-April when Reed Johnson was injured. Despite his success at the conclusion of 2006, he didn’t make quite as a big a splash in 2007, and was optioned back down to AAA when Reed Johnson returned from injury, but would return to the bigs later in the season finishing with a very pedestrian .238 average and an uninspiring .678 OPS.
2008 was another season of mixed results, as he only played in 88 games in the majors, and 51 in AAA, however, his 2008 was a marked improvement over 2007 and he was awarded the Blue Jays award of “Most Improved Player” as he finished 2008 with an average of .282 and an OPS of .755. At that point, Adam Lind had 22 career home runs in parts of 3 MLB seasons to go along with a career average of .271, and an OPS of .816.
Then 2009 happened and over the course of the 151 games he appeared in that year, he looked like he was going to become the guy the team could rely on to power their offense, and most certainly as a future all-star caliber major-leaguer. Everyone remembers his 2009 season, as he finished in the top 25 rankings for almost every major offensive category in the AL, finishing with a .305 average (15th), 35 home runs (5th), 114 RBIs (3rd), an OPS of .932 (7th), as well as 46 doubles (5th).
It was among the best offensive seasons in the majors that year as Lind was awarded the Silver Slugger award for DHs (beating out guys like David Ortiz, Jim Thome, and Ken Griffey Jr) and finished 15th in AL MVP voting. It was the season that fans were waiting for from Adam Lind, the breakout season that all of his success in the minors predicted he was capable of replicating, but as we all sit here today, we all know things didn’t stay that way.
After the 2009 season, Alex Anthopoulos signed Lind to a contract extension that would keep him under team control until at least 2013, and included options that could keep him here until 2016. In parts of now three seasons since signing the extension, Lind has worked to a .238 average with 52 home runs, 54 doubles, and an OPS of .677. Certainly not the production that fans or AA were hoping for. So what’s the story with Lind?
Many reasons were supplied over the last three seasons about why Lind’s numbers dropped. He battled through various injuries, and even landed on the DL at times, has undergone positions changes (playing LF, DH, and 1B). He also was married and had his first child, and had to adjust to the burden of a big contract extension, which the small-town country boy may not have been so accustomed to.
I like Adam Lind, and I personally, as a fan, believe he has a part to play in the Jays future, but I can’t really decide in what capacity. Is Lind the .320 hitter with a .900 OPS that his minor league career shows, or the .263 hitter with a .773 OPS that his major league history tells?
If his most recent demotion can tell us anything, despite the small sample size, we can see that Adam Lind still has the raw talent that made him a third round draft pick. In 6 games for the Las Vegas 51s (20 at-bats) he has a slash line of .350/.500/.850 with 3 home runs and a double.
Now admittedly, I’m not a scout or a psychologist, I’m just a fan, but for me, it all comes down to the mental game, or most specifically, confidence. It seems to be the most logical explanation for the difference between his overwhelming success in the minors and during his hot streaks, and the difficulty he has coming out of his extended slumps. When he is hot, he is on fire, but when he cools off, he goes ice cold.
So what’s the solution? There is no question Lind’s bat can be a valuable piece of the Blue Jays lineup, and I strongly believe he will be back in Blue Jays blue before the season is done, but I think his role needs to change. I believe his time in the minors will be extremely beneficial as he can hopefully regain the confidence that made him a very feared hitter in 2009, and when he is called up, I believe he should stay near the bottom of the lineup. Batting clean-up certainly didn’t help alleviate the pressure Lind was putting on himself, but batting near the bottom of the order should allow him to focus on his swing and not on cashing in runs.
So what’s the story on Adam Lind? Well, right now, I’d say it’s still be written, and we’re looking at a pretty rough draft. Enough of the analogies? The short of it is Adam Lind is thriving in Vegas almost immediately after being sent down in the midst of a very long slump, and hopefully, this is the one last adjustment Lind needs to get back to that elite level he was previously at, and he can become the feared bat the Jays need to bring them back to postseason glory.