Los Angeles Angels outfielder Jo Adell hit his first and second career home runs this Saturday against the Seattle Mariners. He was the first Angel to slug his first two home runs in a single game since 1981 when Tom Brunansky accomplished this.
Adell’s anticipated call up generated a lot of speculation regarding his contribution to the team. Overall, he has gotten off to a slow start in 2020. Still, for a 21-year old rookie with less than a full season of experience at the Triple-A level, Adell’s performance is on par with other big name athletes in baseball.
Adell’s Performance So Far
One of the biggest concerns for Adell was fielding. Drafted as an 18-year old top prospect, the Angels selected Adell due to his athleticism. He was rated as a high risk, high reward draft pick. During his high school career, Adell played in the outfield but split his time on the pitcher’s mound too. Thus, refining his fielding tool would be a priority as he moved up the Angels pipeline.
So far, Adell has shown signs of growth in the outfield. He provided a key assist to Andrelton Simmons helping preserve Friday’s lead against the Mariners. His throw from the right field corner prevented Jose Marmolejos from advancing to third base getting the second out in the top of the ninth inning. However, he has several key misses this year including a rare four-base error against the Texas Rangers. His -3.3 UZR ranks at the bottom of the Angels roster along with his -4.1 DEF rating.
The biggest interest surrounding Adell centered on his hitting power. In high school, he led his team in home runs and hit for a 1.009 OPS in Class A ball in 2018. The main concern for his offensive performance throughout his career has been his high strikeout rates.
So far, he leads the Angels in K% at 41.2% in 68 PA. This isn’t the first time Adell has had to focus on generating contact. During his time in the minors, he significantly cut his K% highlighting his adaptability to the game. In one year he dropped his K% from 31.0% to 22.5% the following season in Double-A Mobile. Adell’s other offensive numbers this year suggest further development. He is batting with a 0.191 BA and .555 OPS with a -0.8 WAR in 68 PA.
Perspective on Performance
Adell’s performance is not an outlier considering a player with his limited experience. In Mike Trout’s first season, he only hit for five HR in 135 PA with a .672 OPS. Aaron Judge only hit four HR in 95 PA and held a higher K% at 44.2% with a 0.608 OPS. Not every rookie is a Fernando Tatis Jr. or Bryce Harper in their first season. Adell will need more time to adjust to MLB pitching.
Adell’s limited experience
As a 21-year old rookie, Adell lacks the minor league playing time of many prospects. After moving to Double-A Mobile in his first season, injuries prevented Adell from starting the 2019 season as he was sidelined for 12 weeks. Upon his return, he played 43 games with Mobile before moving to Triple-A Salt Lake. His Triple-A experience consists of 27 games in 2019. Thus, as Adell received his first call up to the majors this season, he does so with limited Triple-A experience.
There is a reason he was not on the opening day roster; he is not a fully ready MLB player. However, with the minor league season canceled due to COVID-19, the 2020 MLB format offered Adell the opportunity to gain some playing time outside of the taxi squad training camp without sacrificing MLB service time or options.
Plenty of MLB stars have started off slow. Adell will need to cut his K% and create more contact, which he has shown capable of in the minors. Further, he will need to continue to grow in the outfield and cut down on errors. Playing with a talented outfield corps should provide Adell the environment to develop further.
Adell’s first and second home run hits on Saturday were a great step forward offensively. His athleticism and talent offer Angels fans hope as the team looks to compete beyond 2020.
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