The Jo Adell Problem


Spring Training 2022

Jo Adell made a name for himself in the baseball world with a scorching hot 2022 spring training. Adell clobbered home runs in what seemed like every game, showing flashes of a potential superstar. Adell eventually earned a spot on the Los Angeles Angels opening day roster, but his first game of the season set a grim tone for the rest of the year. On April 7th against the Houston Astros, Jo Adel had three at-bats. In all three at-bats, Adell struck out. Unfortunately, this trend continued throughout 2022, leading to 107 strikeouts in just 88 games.

Unlike his rookie counterpart, Brandon Marsh, Adell’s defense wasn’t good enough to justify a spot in the lineup. Throughout 2022, Adell ranked in the 17th percentile of Outs Above Average for outfielders. His Outfielder Jump numbers were even worse, ranking in the 8th percentile. This is where the Jo Adell problem lies. If an offensive player can’t play offensive: what value does he have to a team?


Jo Adell: The Prospect

It’s impossible to look back and pretend these results were inevitable. Throughout the entirety of his minor league career, Adell was a star.

The former top prospect dominated in every minor league division he played in. He batted .325 in the first 49 rookie ball games he played in, then clubbed 20 homers with a .897 OPS in 2018, and then finally slugged nearly .500 throughout the minors in 2019. Adell saw major league playing time in 2020, just three years after he was drafted in the first round in 2017. For his success throughout the minor leagues, Adell was ranked the 13th-best prospect in the MLB, behind big names like Adley Ruchtsman, Wander Franco, and Julio Rodriguez.

Other than his statistics, Adell’s physical attributes also made him an enticing prospect. Listed at 6’3” 215 pounds, Adell’s physicality and frame invited speculation that there was still room to improve his already exceptional power. Other than his power, Adell’s speed drew the eyes of scouts. In his prospect report, his speed was graded a 60, giving scouts a reason to believe that his defense in the outfield could improve as a result of his above-average speed.


Spring Training 2023

Spring Training 2023 is a chance for Jo Adell to prove that he belongs on a major league roster. Unfortunately it has looked like more of the same from the young prospect. In seventeen spring training games, Adell has batted a lukewarm .233 average with a .748 OPS. While this OPS isn’t horrible, the rate at which Adell strikes out remains a concern. In 43 at bats, Adell has struck out 19 times, only walking twice. This accounts for a strikeout rate of 44%. Seeing Adell’s strikeout numbers stay high should sustain concerns about his plate discipline in the Major Leagues. 

Despite moments of struggle, Adell still shows flashes of huge upside. Adell’s three home runs in spring training are tied for the most on the team. Even his OPS is impressive considering his incredibly low on-base percentage. Not only are we seeing flashes of potential on the field, but much attention has been drawn to Adell’s work ethic off the field. Baseball media was flooded with photos of Jo Adell’s biceps and pecs making his shirt look small on him. This increase in muscle mass sparked optimism that he could further elevate his power and arm strength.

Where does Jo Adell stand now?

In terms of earning a major league roster spot, it’s an uphill battle for Jo Adell. Mickey Moniak, the former Phillies prospect shipped at the deadline, has been dominant for the Angels throughout spring training. In sixteen games, Moniak is batting .405 with an absurd OPS of 1.058, basically guaranteeing him a spot on the major league team. Things only got harder for Adell when the Angels acquired outfielder Hunter Renfoe in the offseason, signaling a full pivot into a win-now mode for the franchise.

With the spots of Moniak, Renfroe, Trout, and Ward all but guaranteed, spring training has turned into a full-fledged foot race between Adell and Brett Phillips for the last backup spot. The only thing keeping Adell up and running, however, is Phillips’ horrible offensive spring training. In 16 games, Phillips has hit a mere .129 with just four hits. Phillips, however, is not an offense-first player like Jo Adell. Even if Brett Phillips suffers at the plate, his exceptional defense at centerfield provides enough value to justify him being in the lineup.

The upside of Jo Adell is undeniable, but it’s only made his lackluster performance in the majors more disappointing to watch.  It’s always important, however, to stay skeptical of these spring training games. With such a low sample size, it’s more important to understand the context around a statistic than the statistic itself. But with continually disappointing results, questions around Jo Adell start to emerge. Did the Angels rush his development? Can a better hitting coach help his discipline? Can Adell even make the major league roster?

With the Angels pushing to make the playoffs, the future of Jo Adell is even more unclear. It won’t be surprising to hear his name float around in trade discussions at the deadline. With the Angels historically plagued by injuries, fans can only wait and see what 2023 will bring for the former big-name prospect.

Photo Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports


Players Mentioned:

Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh, Adley Rutschman, Wander Franco, Julio Rodríguez, Hunter Renfroe, Brett Phillips, Mickey Moniak, Mike Trout, Taylor Ward