When making the playoffs was well out of reach for the Los Angeles Angels, they made the smart call to hand the keys of their outfield over to their two top prospects, Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell. In 2021, both proved that they can absolutely be major factors for the team, even if it wasn’t always a smooth ride.
Adell showed significant strides in his second Angels stint. After a difficult 2020 season, Adell took some time in Triple-A to refine his skills and came back a completely different player. Meanwhile, Marsh had some unexpected strikeout troubles, but overall proved why he was the team’s top prospect for much of his Minor League journey.
As it stands, both appear destined to be on the Angels MLB roster in 2022, but a lot can happen between now and March, so we’ll do our best to project it out.
Days 7-11 of our player review series can be seen below. For days 1-6, go to any of days 7-10.
Day 7: Jose Quintana, Junior Guerra, Kurt Suzuki
Day 8: Taylor Ward, Juan Lagares, Steve Cishek
Day 9: Jaime Barria, Phil Gosselin, Jack Mayfield
Day 10: Griffin Canning, Dylan Bundy, Justin Upton
Day 11: Alex Cobb, Max Stassi, Mike Mayers
Marsh, just shy of 24, made his MLB debut on July 18, and it was a long-awaited moment for the Angels top prospect. With Mike Trout injured, Marsh was immediately thrust into the starting center fielder role, a tough task for any young player. However, he managed a solid opening campaign.
On defense, Marsh is already a bonafide Major League-level center fielder. The true strength of his game, Marsh was 63rd percentile in outs above average and 61st percentile in outfielder jump. While he had a minus-3 defensive runs saved, a .994 fielding percentage tells the story of a really good defensive player.
Where scouts were a little more concerned was at the plate. Yes, Marsh is a phenom on the base paths with a 95th percentile sprint speed. But a lack of power was considered to be his downfall.
In 70 games and 260 plate appearances with the Angels, Marsh held a .254 batting average and a .673 OPS. His wRC+ was just below league average at 86, but a .321 xwOBA suggests some better fortunes may be ahead for the young outfielder. One huge adjustment he needs to make before 2022 is strikeouts, where he suffered from a 35% K rate.
If he can cut down on strikeouts — which should happen naturally as he faces MLB pitching more often — he can easily become a hugely impactful player at the MLB level. With Trout returning to center field in 2022, Marsh could either shift to left or right field full-time, or he could act as the fourth outfielder and play based on matchups.
The only way Marsh doesn’t start 2022 with the Angels is if the team swings a massive trade for an ace on the mound. Jon Morosi of MLB Network has recently suggested that Marsh’s name could be included in a deal for Cincinnati Reds ace Luis Castillo, but that nothing was being discussed significantly.
In 2020, Adell simply did not look ready for the Majors. He struck out at a significant rate, made defensive miscues in right field, and didn’t have the power that defined his game through his Minor League journey. But after spending most of the season in Triple-A, he came back with a new outlook.
In 2021, Adell showed he can be a high-speed, high-power player who has legitimate defensive potential. In 35 games with the Angels, he had a .246 batting average with a .703 OPS. He hit four home runs and batted in 26 runs. He hovered just below league average at the plate, like Marsh, with a 90 wRC+, but the flashes of potential were far greater than in 2020.
Defensively, he played a mix of right and left field while Justin Upton and Juan Lagares platooned based on pitching matchups. In that time, he had two defensive runs saved with a mistake-free 1.000 fielding percentage.
Adell, like Marsh, can and should be a full-time starter alongside Trout in 2022. The only way that realistically doesn’t happen is if his name is thrown around in trade talks for a bonafide ace, which remains unlikely.
Trout in center field, Marsh in left field, and Adell in right has the makings of a great outfield defensively, and a steadily improving outfield at the plate.