Angels: 3 potential breakout candidates for 2021
By Justin Gideon
Jo Adell’s rookie season didn’t go according to plan. Since being called up and making his debut on Aug 4th, he recorded a slash line of .161/.212/.266 with 3 home runs and a horrid K% of 41.1% over 124 at-bats. While still just a small sample size in a drastically shortened season, his stats leave much to be desired. There was also this infamous 4-base error he surrendered to Nick Solak of the Rangers.
There’s no denying that he had a rough season, and it has prompted some Angels fan to demand they trade him for pitching. Angels fans would be wise to be patient with the young slugger. In the not so distant past, a 19-year-old Mike Trout made his first stint in the majors, recording numbers not far off from the 21-year-old Adell. He recorded a slash line of .220/.281/.390 with 5 home runs and a K% of 23.39%. Now I’m not saying Adell bound to repeat Trout’s career, although it would be nice, I’m just saying let’s be patient here and give the kid a chance.
It’s true that Adell would be a fantastic bargaining chip, and would more than likely haul an ace-caliber pitcher. However, there is a reason why former Angels’ GM Billy Eppler refused to move him. Adell is going to be a star, and it may seem far-fetched after looking at his 2020 numbers, but Adell breaking-out may not be that far away, it may even happen in 2021.
Adell was considered a top prospect and was even as high as #2 on some lists, just behind highly-touted Rays SS Wander Franco. Adell was 5th on MLB’s prospect chart and had impressive scouting grades across the board. on the 20-80 scale, Adell’s grades were as follows: hit: 55, power: 60, run: 65, arm: 60, field: 60, overall: 60. The raw power and athleticism are well-documented, with scouts marveling at the shows he puts on during batting practice.
At the same time, while scouts praise his power, there is always a consistent caveat. His contact ability, or lack thereof, has also been a constant narrative surrounding Adell through his pro career. Over 904 minor league at-bats, he struck out 254 times, which has his K% at 28.09%. In almost every report, they say Adell will develop into a star if he improves his contact rate.
That may come as soon as next year. Yes, Adell had an atrocious year, and I don’t like to make excuses, but outlining these factors is the key to improving in the future. You may be able to chalk up it up to the first year jitters, which many players go through. Perhaps with the spring-training-less shortened season, he was never able to find a groove. Toward the end of the season, his playing time was also siphoned, as Taylor Ward received the bulk of playing time in right field as the Angels vied for a wild card berth. Irregular playing time can always be detrimental to one’s success, and Adell’s potential breakout relies heavily upon his performance in spring training and early in the season.
Looking at Adell’s batted ball profile is another reason why he might have a breakout season. Despite his poor numbers, he ranked in the 78th percentile with an average exit velocity of 90.6 mph. With his tremendous bat speed, when he makes contact he crushes balls. One issue that stands out is Adell’s discipline, as he chases 34% of balls out of the zone. If he can force pitchers into the strike zone, with his bat speed, his contact rates, and on-base percentage will drastically improve. This past season, his maximum exit velocity was 115.5mph, which puts him at 15th in the league, just behind Marcell Ozuna and in front of George Springer (and even Trout). Pretty good company eh?
If Adell can reach his potential, he is a legitimate 5-tool threat. While the bat is well-documented, scouts also marvel at his athleticism. His base-stealing is not yet elite, however, he has a sprint speed of 29.3 ft/s, which puts him in the top 2% of the league, that dude is fast. It remains to be seen whether or not the Angels attempt to develop his base-stealing ability. If Mike Trout’s sharp decline in stolen bases and increase in power numbers over his career is any indication, it’s likely that they encourage Adell to also focus on the bat. As someone who loves stolen bases, it would be disappointing to see. However, if it means Adell will reach his 35+ home run potential, I would be OK with it.
Regardless of whether or not Adell becomes an elite base-stealer, that speed will definitely be useful on defense. That speed is on full display on this incredible catch off a hard-hit Fernando Tatis Jr. ball:
His athleticism will also play well in the low-fence in right field at Angel Stadium. In fact, this season he robbed Springer of a home run.
The hype surrounding Adell has slightly soured, but as a plea to Angels fans I say: Please give him a chance, the man has drawn comparisons to Mookie Betts and Ronald Acuna, Jr. Perry Minasian would be a fool to trade this budding superstar. I expect Adell’s 2021 breakout to reignite his hype, and Angels’ fans will want to hold on to this guy for dear life.