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2020 Angels in review: Jo Adell

With no minor league season in 2020, the outfielder took his lumps in the majors at age 21.

San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Jo Adell, one of the top prospects in baseball, made his major league debut in 2020, but it went about as bad as it could possibly go. Adell needed more time in the minor leagues, but there was no minor league season for him to play.

Adell, who was a consensus top-10 prospect before the season began, debuted in Seattle on Aug. 4, and beat out an infield single in his first major league at-bat. But the highlights after that were few and far between.

He hit just .161/.212/.266 in 38 games, with the second-worst strikeout rate (41.7 percent) in baseball. Adell had the second-worst on-base percentage (minimum 100 plate appearances), the seventh-worst slugging percentage and the seventh-worst batting average. Given his batted-ball data, Adell’s expected numbers were similarly bad, including a .175 batting average and .291 slugging percentage, per Baseball Savant.

Of the 912 individual seasons in Angels history with at least 100 plate appearances, Adell’s 31 OPS+ ranks 897th.

Adell also struggled mightily in right field, rating well below average in Ultimate Zone Rating (-3.5), Total Zone Rating (-6), and Defensive Runs Saved (-4). He botched two fly balls into home runs, or “home run” in one case, as Nick Solak’s ball in Texas on August 9 was ruled a four-base error.

Adell struggled at times in the minors as well, though he managed to acclimate to each level and improve his performance as he climbed the ladder.

“It seems like at each level he’s made those adjustments and shown the things he needs to continue to do to improve,” Class-A Burlington manager Jack Howell said of Adell in March. “The best thing I can say is that it’s no surprise he’s moving like he is.”

Adell’s strikeout rate in Triple-A Salt Lake in 2019 was 32.8 percent, but that was only through 27 games. He’ll very likely get many more reps next year to build back up.

This year, Adell had to take his lumps at the majors, rather than take part in simulated games at the alternate training site at Long Beach State, the only alternative since there was no minor league season. Those sim games don’t exactly replicate real, live game action.

“There’s only one way to learn to play this game, and that’s by playing nine innings. He needs a bunch more nine innings. That’s the best way I can describe it,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said in September. “He’s really smart. He’s got a good feel, and he listens well. He’s already made some great adjustments from the time he showed up here until now. He’s the kind of guy you just have to be patient with.”

2020 particulars

Age: 21

Stats: .161/.212/.266, 3 HR, 31 wRC+, -1.5 WAR

Salary: $563,500

Game of the year

Adell’s first extra-base hit came in his 13th game, a double in Oakland. Three days later he hit another in Houston. But his best game of the year came on Aug. 29 at home, in his 18th game, against the Mariners, the team he debuted against 25 days earlier.

Adell hit his first major league home run in the first inning, over the bullpens in left field against Mariners lefty Justus Sheffield. In the fifth, Adell went out to the right center field gap off reliever Aaron Fletcher, one of seven multi-hit games for Adell this season.

Roster status

Adell has 153 days of major league service time (after adjusting for the truncated season), 19 days shy of a full year. Under the old rules, with 28 actual days of service time before September, Adell would have maintained his rookie status into 2021, as Anthony Castrovince explained at MLB.com. But with an adjustment to account for the odd season this year, Adell has exhausted his rookie status.