Inbox: Is it time for Angels to call up Adell?

Beat reporter Rhett Bollinger answers questions from fans

August 26th, 2019

After a rough road trip that saw them lose six of seven on their Texas two-step, the Angels fell to 63-70 and are in danger of finishing with a losing record for a fourth straight season.

It’s been the usual culprits for the Angels this year, as they’ve dealt with countless injuries to go along with a struggling rotation. The Angels will use September as a time to evaluate several of their youngsters before heading into an important offseason in which acquiring pitching will be a priority.

With that in mind, here’s this week’s Angels Inbox:

Jo Adell, ranked as the No. 4 overall prospect and the Angels’ No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, will not be called up once rosters expand in September. Adell, 20, has had a strong year across three levels this season, hitting .278/.353/.473 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs in 69 games. But he's scuffled at Triple-A Salt Lake, batting .225/.289/.303 with no homers and five RBIs in 20 games.

Adell wouldn’t get enough playing time in the Majors to warrant a callup in September, as he’s likely to make his Major League debut early next year. The Angels, though, will have a tough decision on their hands, as they’ll have to decide whether to pick up right fielder Kole Calhoun’s $14 million option.

Calhoun, 31, has hit a career-high 28 homers while playing solid defense in right, but the Angels could decide to use that money to improve their pitching staff. If they decide to move on from Calhoun, Brian Goodwin could be the club’s regular in right field to start next year until Adell is ready to be called up. Fellow outfield prospect Brandon Marsh is also heating up at Double-A Mobile and could debut at some point next season as well.

Addressing the rotation will be the No. 1 priority for the front office this season, as the Angels are in need of frontline starting pitching to join Shohei Ohtani, who remains on track to return to the mound next year. Just like last offseason, the Angels are likely to target at least two starting pitchers.

But last offseason didn’t go according to plan for the Angels, as they stuck to one-year deals for starting pitchers Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill, and neither worked out. Same with closer Cody Allen, first baseman Justin Bour and catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

So it’s clear the Angels need to be more aggressive this offseason in their attempt to build a winner around superstar Mike Trout. Right-hander Gerrit Cole, an Orange County native, should be the club’s top target. But there are other solid starters who will hit the open market, including Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler, Jake Odorizzi, Tanner Roark, Dallas Keuchel, Michael Pineda and Kyle Gibson.

The Angels do have all of those one-year deals coming off the books, totaling roughly $30 million, and possibly Calhoun’s contract as well, so they should have some money to spend.

With the emergence of Tommy La Stella and David Fletcher this year, the Angels have improved their infield depth going forward, building around shortstop Andrelton Simmons. La Stella was an All-Star before suffering a fractured right tibia in early July and remains under contract through next season.

But even with those two, the Angels don’t seem likely to trade rookie second baseman Luis Rengifo. The 22-year-old has shown promise this year, hitting .241/.329/.370 with six homers and 30 RBIs in 92 games. He's a solid defender at second and is a plus-runner, although he has had trouble stealing bases, with just one successful attempt in six tries.

The Angels still believe Rengifo can be a long-term solution at second base, so a trade doesn’t seem likely. They see the benefit in stockpiling depth, as exemplified by the injuries suffered by both La Stella and Simmons this season.

The Angels have become one of the more extreme teams in a few areas when it comes to analytics, especially with their starting rotation, as their starters rarely face a lineup a third time and they stick with their best offspeed pitch instead of fastballs. They’ve also consistently utilized the opener throughout the season, especially when Felix Pena was in the rotation.

The Angels are big believers in the negative impact of facing an order for the third time, and their starting pitchers have faced only 405 batters for a third time in a game this year, which is the fewest in the Majors by a wide margin. The Rays are second-lowest at 446 plate appearances, while the Nationals have the highest total at 812 plate appearances.

Angels pitchers have combined to throw their fastball 47.2 percent of the time, which is the third-lowest in the Majors behind the Astros (45.8 percent) and Mariners (45.7 percent).

So the Angels are trying to do what they can to maximize their talent, but it’s clear that they simply need more and better pitching to make it work.

The Angels' bullpen has been worked hard this year, as their relievers have thrown the second-highest total of innings (612 1/3 innings, just three shy of the MLB-leading Rays). And while there is value in having multi-inning relievers to help bridge that gap, the real value is in developing or acquiring relievers with Minor League options. Being able to option relievers who aren’t available to pitch and calling up fresh arms is a tactic that many teams have been implementing, including the Angels to a large degree this year.