Top Angels prospect Jo Adell was called up Tuesday and immediately inserted in the lineup at right field for the series opener against the Seattle Mariners.
And he is going to play regularly. Manager Joe Maddon said the Angels will move veteran Justin Upton, who is batting .135 with two homers and five RBIs in the third year of his $106-million contract, into a platoon with fellow outfielder Brian Goodwin.
Adell, 21, began the season ranked as the league’s second-best prospect by Baseball America’s and sixth-best by MLB.com Pipeline. The last Angels minor leaguer to receive that much hype before his debut was Mike Trout.
“He’s blank canvas with a lot of ability,” Maddon said. “So I’m really looking forward to this.”
Adell hit .289 with 27 doubles and 10 home runs in 76 minor league games last season. Despite limited action, he was the Angels’ third-most productive minor leaguer in terms of weighted runs created plus, which measures a player’s ability to create offense in a formula that can be used to compare all hitters in all environments, among players with at least 300 plate appearances. He excelled in the Arizona Fall League and stayed hot while playing on the U.S. Olympic qualifying team in November.
Adell’s bat didn’t impress during his second major league spring training. He went seven for 25 and struck out 13 times in nine exhibition games. Adell battled that weakness last season after being promoted to triple A. He had a .676 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 43 strikeouts in 27 games in the Pacific Coast League.
Adell spent the coronavirus shutdown making a change. Batting cages weren’t open in his hometown of Louisville, Ky., for most of the spring, but Adell focused on his mentality in the batter’s box.
“The big difference was my mind-set,” he said in a videoconference call before making his debut at T-Mobile Park. “Wasn’t really anything swing-wise. It was more, what am I trying to do when I get into the box? I realized my strength is [hitting to right-center field], so having that in back of my mind, knowing I can let the ball travel, I think it helped me make better decisions at the plate and allowed me to be more comfortable, not jumpy, and know that part of the field is open and I’m going to be able to hit balls that way.
“I don’t have to go in there and try to pull the ball. Understanding my best hits that way allowed me to take better at-bats. And when you swing at pitches you want to swing at, the results are going to be better. That was the biggest thing for me.”
Adell’s work paid off. General manager Billy Eppler told Adell he looked better in the team’s July training camp than he did during spring training in Arizona.
Angels manager Joe Maddon says Shohei Ohtani, who’s dealing with a right forearm strain, is not projected to pitch again this season.
But defensive lapses in the outfield set Adell back a bit. Maddon attributed some of the gaffes to the dimensions of Angel Stadium’s right-field corner and the glare that enters the stadium during the afternoon.
Eppler urged patience after Adell didn’t make the opening day roster last month. Adell needed to improve his defense.
“I kind of challenged him,” Eppler said. “I said, ‘Force me to make the call.’”
With a plan in place, Adell spent more than 30 minutes a day practicing reads on balls hit to him. He made enough strides at the team’s alternate site at Long Beach State to earn a callup.
Shohei Ohtani, diagnosed with a forearm strain that will keep him from pitching again this season, sat out Tuesday. He is expected to return as the designated hitter in the coming days.
1. David Fletcher — Shortstop
2. Mike Trout — Center field
3. Anthony Rendon — Third base
4. Brian Goodwin — Left field
5. Albert Pujols — First base
6. Tommy La Stella — Designated hitter
7. Jo Adell — Right Field
8. Jason Castro — Catcher
9. Luis Rengifo — Second base
Andrew Heaney — Starting pitcher