Angels’ Jo Adell wants his next MLB call-up to be a keeper
Jo Adell wanted to know what went wrong.
After striking out a couple of times in a triple-A game against the Tacoma Rainiers this week, the Angels’ top prospect went back to review the film of his two at-bats, embarking on a self-evaluation process that has become an almost daily routine as he awaits — and readies himself — for a much-anticipated return to the big leagues.
One of the strikeouts, Adell could live with. It was against a reliever who got ahead with an upper-90s-mph fastball and then executed a perfect wipeout slider, an almost unhittable pitch that not even Adell, who entered Thursday leading minor league baseball in home runs, could do damage against.
“He got me,” Adell said, explaining the process during a video call Thursday from the Angels’ affiliate in Salt Lake City. “There’s nothing I could do.”
The other one, however, became the latest in a long line of little teaching moments for the 22-year-old outfielder. He chased a first-pitch cutter that was too far inside, falling behind with a quick strike. Suddenly backed off the plate, he was helpless against a changeup down and away.
Instead of getting ahead in the count, where he could have waited for a pitch in one of his hot zones over the plate, he put himself into a hole from which he couldn’t recover. One bad swing decision made all the difference.
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“There it is,” Adell thought as he rewatched the video. “It helped me go, ‘OK, this is the reason that was a strikeout.’ No swing adjustment needs to be made. It was just a bad pitch early in the count I took a swing at. That’s the way I’ve been going about it. Not reading too deep into it, but just enough to let myself know why things happen the way they did.”
There was plenty for Adell to dissect after making his MLB debut last year.
In 38 games during the shortened 2020 season, the 10th overall pick from the 2017 draft hit just .161 with 55 strikeouts and seven walks. He committed three errors in the outfield, including a four-base mistake against the Texas Rangers when he accidentally deflected a ball over the wall. And he did plenty of reflection over the offseason, not so much dwelling on the disappointment as much as trying to figure out where things went awry.
“I thought back to some of the things that happened and some of the things that came up,” he said. “That’s why this year, I went into it with more of a game-to-game adjustment, where I look at a game, see what happens and try to see how I can make something better.”
So far, the results have been promising: 15 home runs and 29 RBIs entering Thursday — seven more than anyone else in triple-A West — plus only one error in the outfield.
But there remains more work to do: In 134 plate appearances, Adell has struck out 42 times and walked only six, resulting in a minor league-career low .313 on-base-percentage.
“He’s on the right track, he’s somebody we feel like has a really bright future,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said late last month, praising Adell’s progress while also explaining why he wasn’t yet ready to be recalled. “From my end, the next time we call him up, we want to feel like he’s going to take this job and be here.”
On Thursday, Adell insisted he isn’t thinking about when a call-up could come — “whether it’s this year, whether it’s next year, I’m focused on where I’m at now,” he said — but did agree that he wants his next MLB stint to be a permanent one.
Until then, he is spending his first extended stint in triple A (he played only 27 games with Salt Lake prior to this year) trying to “maximize my game,” starting with the daily debrief routine.
“I’m trying to take some information and go back and see how I can get better, some of the things I can do to improve. It can be a baserunning thing, it could be outfield, it could be whatever,” he said, adding: “It’s not going to go well all the time, whether it’s here or in the big leagues. So having my own system, whether it’s swing stuff or outfield stuff, to make the adjustments faster … that’s more important than anything else.”
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The more those improvements take root, the more fun Adell is having fun with the process too, especially with spectators allowed back in the stands.
The most recent example came during another moment in this past week’s Tacoma series. While Adell was playing in left field, a group of fans on the stadium’s party deck began “running their mouths,” Adell said.
The next inning, Adell crushed a home run into the parking lot, one of three he hit during the six-game set.
“When I went back [to the outfield], there was nothing being said,” Adell recalled, grinning. “I just looked at them, and they all started bursting out laughing. I started laughing too.”
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