It became clear in mid-July, as the start of the 2020 season approached, that Jo Adell, the Angels' top prospect, wasn’t going to make the Opening Day roster. And there were reasonable explanations for why the multi-tooled outfielder was going to begin at the club’s alternate site instead of on the initial 30-man roster.
He was only 21, after all. He’d collected fewer than 1,000 Minor League at-bats. He wasn’t even on the 40-man roster yet. There were things he needed to work on, Angels manager Joe Maddon said.
But anyone who thought Adell wasn’t going to be called upon to contribute this season wasn’t paying attention. The two-time Futures Game participant will be called up prior to the Angels’ contest in Seattle on Tuesday, a source told MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger. It had been stated that when Adell got the call, he was going to play, so assume the No. 6 overall prospect in the game is going to find his way into the outfield rotation with Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Brian Goodwin. If the strained forearm that’s been hampering Shohei Ohtani on the mound keeps him from swinging the bat, then there are more at-bats to be had at DH, with Upton, who’s been struggling thus far, or Goodwin nabbing those and allowing Adell to play a corner outfield spot.
I’ve said all along that the Angels’ lineup would be better with Adell playing right field regularly and Goodwin assuming more of a fourth outfielder spot. Adell would be an upgrade over Taylor Ward, who’s gotten five starts in right field so far this season. With regular at-bats, Adell could provide a very nice boost to an offense hitting a collective .223/.320/.387 over its first 10 games.
Despite having missed time because of injuries, Adell still managed to reach Triple-A at age 20 in 2019, then performed well in the Arizona Fall League and for Team USA last offseason, serving notice that his time would come sooner rather than later. Here’s a closer look at what Adell can add on both sides of the ball, with his grades on the 20-to-80 scouting scale in parentheses (20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average):
Hit (55): It seems like a lifetime ago that Adell was a top Draft prospect, one who went No. 10 overall in 2017, who had holes in his swing. He started answering questions about his ability to make enough contact at the next level when he hit .325/.376/.532 during his pro debut. He’s hit pretty much everywhere, even when getting moved aggressively, bringing a .298/.361/.518 line with him to Los Angeles. Yes, there is still some swing-and-miss to his game, with a strikeout rate of just over 25 percent to show for it. But he’s also drawn walks in 7.6 percent of his plate appearances, a rate that trended up in 2019 (8.8 percent) and continued in the Arizona Fall League (9.9 percent).
Power (65): No one on any current Top 30 list has a higher power grade than Adell’s 65, and while White Sox phenom Luis Robert was a good choice for top power among the Top 100 back in March, an easy argument can be made that Adell is a close second. Adell’s always had it, dating back to his high school days, but again he’s made much more contact than some expected out of the gate, hitting 20 homers in a first full season that saw him reach Double-A as a teenager. He’s slugged over. 500 at almost every stop along the way and there’s going to be much, much more to come as he continues to figure things out at the plate and make adjustments. With premium bat speed and the ability to drive the ball to all fields, seeing him hit 30 homers annually in a normal season could be conservative.
Run (60): Though he’s big and physical, Adell’s plus speed has always been an asset. He stole 15 bases in 18 tries during his first full season, though he didn’t run much in 2019 following his hamstring and ankle injuries. He’s shown enough to speed to play a lot of center field in the Minors.
Arm (60): While he’s played center, his plus arm fits very well in right field, which is a good thing because ...
Field (60): We all know Adell isn’t seeing any time in center with the Angels. He could play there, for sure, but Trout will move him to right, where he should be just fine. There was the talk during Summer Camp that he needed to address some things defensively, but don’t expect that to be a long-term concern. Adell has played twice as many regular-season games in center as he has in right; he’ll settle in as he gets more and more reps at the corner spots.