06/04/2002 1:09 pm ET
Blue Jays tab UNC's Adams
Middle infielder a line-drive hitter
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
TORONTO -- Though the organization's acknowledged biggest need is pitching, the Blue Jays went
with the proverbial best player available in Tuesday's First-Year Player Draft.
Toronto selected sweet-swinging middle infielder Russ Adams with the No. 14
pick. Adams, a left-handed batter from Laurinberg, N.C., is the complete package: He can capably field
at three positions, hit for a high average and lead off in any lineup.
"He's a skillful middle infielder. He's got a good arm and good instincts on the
bases," said Tim Wilken, Toronto's Vice President of Baseball Operations. "He
likes to hit the ball in the gap. There's potential there to be more of a power
hitter. He's still got a little more to grow in his frame."
"I can't really describe the excitement I'm feeling right now," Adams said
during a conference call with Toronto media. "I'm just excited to have an
opportunity to play in the big leagues. Toronto is where I want to be in the
next few years, without any reservations."
In the days leading up to the draft, Toronto had talked about adding pitching
depth to the minor-league system. The Jays opted to take care of that later in the
draft because Adams was too good a player to pass up. He played his college ball
at North Carolina, where he was recognized as one of the best players in the
U. North Carolina
Slender build. Lively body, similar to Nomar Garciaparra. Puts ball in play. Gap power, hits occasional long ball. Quick release. Feet and hands work properly.
"He's a breath of fresh air. It's nice to talk to kids when the number one thing
on their list is to play baseball," said JP Ricciardi, Toronto's general
manager. "You can throw all the money out the window. Eventually, all it comes
down to is what your desire is to make yourself a better player. We're trying to get
good kids and good people. I think we got a real good one."
Adams was named First-Team All-ACC after his sophomore season, the first Tar
Heels second baseman to earn that honor since 1979. He backed that up with a
summer session in the wood-bat Cape Cod League, turning some heads while he was
He hit a three-run homer in the league's All-Star Game and was named the best
professional prospect. That's high praise -- the Cape Cod League is packed with
prospects, most of them players with national reputations at Division I schools.
"I had a couple of big games up there, some good times," Adams said. "I went up
there with those intentions. I didn't just go up there to say that I played in
the Cape Cod League. I went up there with a purpose, and that was to make myself
better. Fortunately, I was able to do that."
As a result, before this season, he was selected as a First-Team All-American.
He lived up to that lofty billing, as he hit .370 with seven homers and 55 RBIs.
He also stole 45 bases, showing another impressive offensive element. Some
scouts have compared him to Nomar Garciaparra, in that he has a consistent
line-drive batting stroke with developing power.
In his career, Adams has played third base, shortstop and second base, where he
has spent the most time. However, he probably projects as a shortstop in the
"This guy's a good player. He reminds a lot of Walt Weiss. He's very athletic,"
Ricciardi said. "To get a college kid with this caliber of talent in the middle
of the diamond enhances everything we're doing. It kind of fast-forwards
In high school, Adams was a National Honor Society member, an honor-roll student
and a Pepsi Scholar-Athlete. His brother, Frank, is a member of the Eastern
Carolina golf team. He said that his father, Frank Adams, has been his biggest
"My father definitely has meant a tremendous amount to my development. Ever
since I was a kid, he's been the one that was there," Adams said. "He's
definitely been the most influential person in my athletic career, as well as
any other arena."
Adams said that he tried to keep up with the draft on MLB.com but actually
missed the moment when he got picked.
"Actually, it's kind of funny. My problem was my computer was run down a little
bit, so I had to run to my uncle's house, who lives right around the corner," he
said. "I guess I left around 30 seconds too late because they were on pick 20
when I got the computer turned on."
Spencer Fordin covers the Blue Jays for MLB.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.