In Mike Trout, the Angels have the best player in baseball. In Shohei Ohtani, they have the most intriguing player in baseball.
And, in Jo Adell, they just might have the most dynamic prospect in baseball.
That could make the 2020 season a special one in Anaheim, and a crucial one. That is Trout’s final season under contract with the Angels, and the return of Ohtani as a two-way star and the emergence of Adell could be significant factors in persuading Trout that he does not need to leave the Angels to play with a perennial contender.
That is a lot to ask of Adell, 19, who is in his first full season of professional baseball. If Trout does not sign an extension and forego free agency, Adell has two years to arrive in Anaheim and guarantee himself the chance to play alongside Trout in the Angels outfield.
“That’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Adell said Sunday, before he represented the Angels in the Futures Game at Nationals Park.
Adell doubled and delivered a sacrifice fly as the United States team beat the World team 10-6.
Double-A outfielder Yusniel Diaz and double-A catcher Keibert Ruiz represented the Dodgers. Diaz hit two of the game’s eight home runs, the first accompanied by a joyous bat flip, the second with a leaping high-five of World team manager David Ortiz. Ruiz left the game after taking a foul ball off his right hand; he said X-rays were negative.
Baseball officials usually dampen expectations for young players, particularly for teenagers whose raw skills might never be refined into major league talent. But Adell’s rapid rise — he was the first high school player from last year’s draft class to reach the advanced Class-A level — reflects that his extraordinary speed, power and arm already have translated into results.
“With what he does day in and day out offensively, he has a good chance to be a superstar,” Angels minor league director Mike LaCassa said.
On Sunday, Adell was the youngest position player on the United States roster. In 2010, when an 18-year-old Trout represented the Angels in the Futures Game, he was the youngest player on the roster.
The Angels’ minor league system has fallen upon hard times since then. Of their nine first-round draft picks between Trout nine years ago and Adell last year, five have not played in the major leagues. The one with the most significant impact: pitcher Sean Newcomb, was used in the trade that landed shortstop Andrelton Simmons from the Atlanta Braves.
In its most recent ranking of the top 100 prospects, Baseball America included five Dodgers and five Angels, with Adell, at No. 13, ranking highest of all. No Angels prospect has ranked so highly since Trout.
One talent evaluator said Sunday that Adell would be a worthy inclusion in the top 10 right now; another said Adell could be a contender for baseball’s No. 1 prospect next year.
Jim Bowden, the former general manager for the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals, projected the 2021 All-Star teams for The Athletic and included Adell, and Trout, among the starters in the American League outfield.
“I haven’t seen that,” Adell said. “That’s pretty exciting to hear.”
Adell would be 22. When Trout started his first All-Star game, he was three weeks shy of his 22nd birthday.
Adell so far has followed Trout’s trajectory, with a promotion to the California League in his first full pro season. In 70 games this year, split between Burlington (Iowa) and Inland Empire, Adell is batting .318 in 70 games, with 17 home runs and 11 stolen bases.
“He’s a pretty complete five-tool-type player,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. “He can run, can field, can throw, can hit, can hit for power, and he swings the bat with intention. He’s really strong for his age. So there’s a lot to like when we see him.”
In spring training, one evaluator said, Adell appeared to focus on showing off his impressive power, to the detriment of his all-around game.
“I’m really focusing on the situations a lot more than I have,” Adell said. “There were times last year when I got into the box — I’m not saying there was no approach, but I was just up there to hit, not really stepping back and saying, how many outs are there, where are the runners, that type of stuff. Having that as part of my game has really helped me be more effective.”
Said Eppler: “He’s able to make his adjustments relatively fast considering age, understanding what pitchers are trying to do. Guys with high degrees of athleticism close gaps fast.”
Adell has yet to play alongside Trout, but the two-time most valuable player has helped Adell with his mental game.
“It was pretty cool to talk to somebody who is that good as a player — the best player, in my opinion, in our game right now — who has such a simple mindset,” Adell said.
“You have to think there have got to be a thousand things running through his mind, but it’s really simple. This game is so hard. We can’t look at every angle. We just have to focus on the ones that make us successful, and that’s what he does.”
Adell unwittingly offered an example, in his answer to the question of how close to the major leagues he might be, compared to the older players he competed against in the Futures Game.
“Everybody is close,” he said. “It’s all about consistency.”