By Stu Matthews, Angels Nation managing editor
Angels skipper Joe Maddon has been saying since before spring training that Jo Adell needs seasoning in the minors before joining the Angels’ MLB squad as a regular.
“Absolutely. He doesn’t need to be sitting on anybody’s bench,” Maddon said flatly.
And true to Maddon’s word, the Angels optioned Adell to the minors Sunday — so Adell, in between a “former top prospect” and now minor-league player, will begin the 2021 season at the club’s alternate site.
Adell — the Angels’ most-hyped prospect since Mike Trout — had some very rough times as a rookie in the truncated 2020 rookie campaign — batting just .161 with a 31 OPS+ (that’s not good, for you non statheads) and he struck out 48 more times than he walked.
He turns 22 on April 8 and it’s no surprise that Adell has quite a few things to work on. Last August, he infamously had a routine fly ball pop out of his glove and bounce over the wall for a home run in Texas.
This spring, Adell hasn’t looked great in the outfield either, slipping several times and often taking confused routes. Maddon knows Adell is better than that.
Maddon believes that a lot of games in the minors this summer will get Adell ready better than anything else — Adell only had 385 plate appearances total between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake.
At the plate last year, Adell had trouble recognizing pitches and was fishing for whatever he thought he saw coming.
On the plus side, Adell’s explosive bat speed was still a promising weapon: He had an average exit velocity of 90.6 mph when he made contact last season.
And he’s still fast as a gazelle — according to Statcast, Adell’s spring speed was in the 98th percentile.
Adell looked much better at the plate this spring, punching out a .263/.440/.632 line with a pair of homers in 25 plate appearances.
“I think he’s made a lot of progress, actually,” Maddon said. “At the plate his swing is s0 much shorter, his strides so much more under control.
“Because his foot is getting down sooner, the bat’s not moving around and wrapping as much. He looks better on defense — he’s been working really hard.”
And to his credit, Maddon said he’s confident in Adell’s growth because the young outfielder is a keen listener.
“He’s gaining more information there,” the manager said. “He’s a sponge — he listens really well.”
Adell was one of four cuts the Angels made — infielder Matt Thaiss, left-hander Jose Suarez and right-hander Kyle Keller were all optioned.
But you can expect Adell to be back in an Angels uniform, almost certainly this summer. And he’ll probably be joined — depending upon how the season plays out — by No. 2 prospect Brandon Marsh, the fleet-footed center fielder who is expected to push superstar Trout to a corner outfield spot at some time in the future.