A friendship forged over constant matchups in the Inland Empire last summer was on display Sunday night in the Futures Game when Dodgers shortstop prospect Gavin Lux playfully smacked the helmet of Angels outfielder Jo Adell, ranked the second-best prospect in the game by Baseball America.
Adell, who had just advanced to second base, shooed Lux away but smiled. While with the Angels’ high-A affiliate last year, Adell played multiple times against Lux, who was with the Dodgers’ Rancho Cucamonga team. They bonded over their shared Midwest roots — Adell is from Louisville, Ky., and Lux from Kenosha, Wis. — and their status as first-round picks.
On Sunday at Progressive Field, they faced pitching that didn’t resemble anything they saw in the California League. After their lighthearted moment on the base paths, Adell and Lux discussed the 101.7-mph fastball Toronto’s Nate Pearson threw to strike out Lux in the fifth inning. Adell had reached base by bouncing a 100-mph fastball from Miami Marlins prospect Sixto Sanchez into center field for a single in the bottom of the inning.
“I was like, ‘How do you like starting the day off with 100?’ ” Adell said. “He was like, ‘That ain’t fair.’ ”
The game was dominated by baseball’s top pitching prospects and ended in a 2-2 tie after eight innings. Padres left-hander Mackenzie Gore, ranked the third-best minor league player by Baseball America, issued a leadoff walk to Adell in the second inning but picked off the Angels’ prospect and made it out of the inning unscathed.
Dustin May, the lanky 21-year-old Dodgers pitcher promoted to triple-A Oklahoma City alongside Lux on June 27, fired his fastball at 98 mph during an impeccable eight-pitch third inning.
Yet Adell, whose recent production in double A following his season debut in late May has put him on the cusp of a promotion to the Angels’ top farm team, managed to compose one of the best offensive performances of the evening in his second trip to this exhibition, which for the first time pitted American League prospects against the best National League minor leaguers. He didn’t showcase his prodigious power but he displayed improved patience in drawing two walks. He had 111 strikeouts and 32 walks in 441 plate appearances in 2018; he has struck out 29 times and walked 10 times in 127 plate appearances so far this year. He was the only player to reach base more than once.
“I think that’s been kind of my switch,” said Adell, who has batted .342 with 11 doubles and six home runs in 30 games since recovering from a left hamstring strain and right ankle sprain that sidelined him for 10 weeks. “It’s kind of taking pitches, working the count, always ready to hit the hard stuff obviously but not being afraid to draw a walk early in the game.”
“Honestly I didn’t really plan on diving for it,” Adell said. “I got a decent read on it. It had a little bit of topspin to it, I went after it and it just made the most sense to dive at that play because it would have been that or I’d be catching it at my shoestrings.”
Less than two weeks after being promoted to triple-A Oklahoma City on the same day, Lux and May took another trip together to their first Futures Game.
Lux and May have been tied to each other since being drafted two rounds apart in 2016. They were roommates in the Arizona rookie league that summer, then both made it to low A in April 2017. May beat Lux to both high-A Rancho Cucamonga and double-A Tulsa, but they were never apart for long.
May, a 6-foot-6 right-hander chosen in the third round, said ascending quickly through the Dodgers system has been made easier by Lux’s presence.
“He’s there to push me to make me better,” May said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, I want to beat him to the big leagues,’ and I’m sure he’s like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna beat [May] to the big leagues.’ I mean, it’s one of those things that I feel like it’s a competitive thing to see who’s gonna get there first.”
The Dodgers have made a point this season of promoting upper-level talent, even only for a short period. They’ve utilized six position players and four pitchers who qualify as rookies. An opportunity to join those ranks might emerge when rosters expand in September. But they won’t think about that now.
Instead, Lux will revel in moving in lockstep with May, “the most competitive human being I’ve ever met in my life.”
“We’ve kind of taken every step together so far,” Lux said. “He’s my guy. It’s cool.”