Billed as not only an Angels top prospect, but one of the best MLB prospects, a lot was riding on the shoulders of Jo Adell before he made his MLB debut in 2020. The Angels’ 2017 first round, 10th overall pick largely struggled during the shortened season both at the plate and with the glove. Luckily, he found much more success during the 2021 season.
Admittedly, it felt like Adell’s floor had been lowered after his 2020 performance. In 124 at-bats, he 20 hits, three home runs, seven RBIs and walks, no stolen bases, a .161 batting average and a very poor .478 OPS.
His fielding was similarly dreadful, as he committed three errors in shared time between center and right field. Misplayed balls, strange routes and some notoriety regarding wacky home runs eventually helped label Adell as a defensive liability. His struggles led him to begin the 2021 season in the minors. It was clear he needed more time to develop.
The move paid off.
Adell made his 2021 debut on Aug. 3 at Texas and immediately made a positive impact. In that game he went 3-4 with two doubles, three RBIs, a walk and his first career stolen base.
The rest of August saw the 22-year-old have some ups and downs statistically, as he finished the month with 21 hits, one home run, a .216 batting average, .269 OBP and .320 SLG. On the outside, the numbers don’t quite pop but he was clearly making solid progress, cutting down his strikeout rate and simply looking more comfortable at the plate. During the season, both he and Joe Maddon touched on his improved plate discipline and how he was more selective in the pitches he offered at. Adell’s defense also improved and he looked like an everyday outfielder. The tools to be successful were there and finally we got to see glimpses of Adell’s skillset and electric personality coming together.
Angels outfielder Jo Adell threw a ball up in our section the previous inning and knocked a kids drink out of his hands. Next inning comes out with a bat for the kid. Classy guy @Angels @MLB pic.twitter.com/Yt7mdIwKug— Seth McLaughlin (@SethhMclaughlin) August 25, 2021
September was a weird month for Adell. He raised his batting average to .246 after hovering around .250 for about a week and raised his OBP and SLG to .295 and .408, respectively. However, his season was cut short after an ugly collision with a wall in Houston on Sept. 11.
Adell found himself on the 15-day IL with an abdominal strain on Sept. 15 and eventually made his way to the 60-day IL on Oct. 1. He finished the season with 32 hits, four home runs, 26 RBIs and two stolen bases. In the outfield, Adell had a perfect fielding percentage with 82 putouts and two assists. He committed no errors.
When judging Adell’s season, it requires a deeper look into his trends rather than glancing over the what would otherwise appear as average numbers over the course of a little over a month. He improved in every single category in 2021 versus 2020.
Adell demonstrated his speed with the steals and two triples, run production with 19 more RBIs in 2021 than he had in 2020, and he considerably cut down on his strikeout rate, striking out 23 less times in almost the same amount of at-bats as 2020.
With his athleticism on display and a newfound comfort at the Major League level, Adell proved he could belong and why experts were so high on him early on. Playing the game with a visible joy and exuberance, his passion was infectious. In a season with a lot riding on the line for Adell, his potential shone through and he gave us a glimmer of what a star-studded outfield could look like in the near future.
35 Games / 130 AB / 17 R / 32 H / 53 TB / 5 2B / 2 3B / 4 HR / 26 RBI / 8 BB / 2 SB / .246 AVG / .295 OBP / .408 SLG / .703 OPS
BEST OFFENSIVE PERFORMANCE
Overall, Adell’s most consistent games were the first one against Texas, on Aug. 24 at Baltimore and on Sept. 5 against Texas. In that Sept. 5 matchup, he posted a multi-homer game with two home runs and produced all three of the Angels’ runs in their 7-3 loss. In Baltimore, he went 2 for 5 but drove in four runs and collected a triple. The four RBIs matched his season from what was actually his most memorable performance:
On Aug. 17 in Detroit, Adell went 1 for 5, but oh boy was that a big hit. Tied at 2 in the top of the ninth with two outs, Adell hit a grand slam to take the lead and the Angels ended up winning 8-2. His passion was felt all the way back home and it felt like an official arrival for the youngster.
BEST DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE
On Aug. 14 against Houston, Adell put that athleticism and enthusiasm mentioned earlier on display with this spectacular catch in left field:
Great play by Adell to rob Castro (and happy birthday Mark Gubicza) pic.twitter.com/98L69sEQ1I— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) August 15, 2021
This throw on Aug. 28 against San Diego also showcased his range:
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2022
Assuming the Angels don’t dangle Adell in trade talks and move him, he should be considered an everyday outfielder for the Halos in 2022. Adell showed improvement in every area of his game and, as he continues to develop in the Majors, big things should continue to be expected from him.
He needs to continue the good work he did on fixing plate discipline issues as well as shoring up his defense. However, he has already made significant improvements so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he tinkers with his deficiencies to the point that they become non-talking points.
The tools are in place for Adell to become a star. He can mash, he’s got plenty of speed and his glove has significantly improved over a short timespan. Still in his early-twenties, it’s likely he does experience some growing pains next season at some point, but with hopefully a full, healthy season under his belt, we will continue to see him break out and become the huge piece this franchise expected him to be.
Adell was activated earlier this month and is expected to be ready for Spring Training. With a backlogged outfield of Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Adell and Brandon Marsh, he will need to maintain some consistency and stay healthy (as is always the case) to guarantee playing time. However, riding in Adell’s favor is the notion that the Angels can no longer afford to let this star-in-waiting miss out on Major League experience. 2022 may finally be the year Adell starts a season with the big league club.