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Adell still confident after rough debut season with Angels

GREG BEACHAM
·4-min read
FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Angels' Jo Adell strikes out for the fourth time in a baseball game during the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas. Adell does not see his first season in the majors as a disappointment, even after the Angels' top prospect stumbled to a .161 average in 2020. (AP Photo/Ray Carlin, File)

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Jo Adell tore through the Los Angeles Angels' minor league system with runaway momentum, and he cracked the big league roster last season just a few months after his 21st birthday.

All that momentum faded during a debut campaign that turned out worse than almost anybody expected for the Halos' most prized prospect: a .161 average with just three homers, seven RBIs, a whopping 55 strikeouts, a .478 OPS and several fielding misadventures in 38 games.

Although Adell is back in spring training with the Angels in Arizona, he knows he might not be headed back to Anaheim when it's over.

With Triple-A baseball back in business, Adell could be headed to the minors to pick up the seasoning he probably needed before his rushed 2020 debut. Los Angeles already acquired veteran outfielder Dexter Fowler to fill Adell's everyday spot in right field.

The prospect of a step back doesn't appear to bother Adell, however. After an offseason of hard work on his physical conditioning and fundamentals, he says he's ready to be wherever the Angels want him.

“I love this game, and I don’t care if I play in the sandlot,” Adell said Friday. “That's something I told myself I would do this year, is come out with some pep in my step and be ready to go. If that's in (Triple A) Salt Lake, if that's in Anaheim, it doesn't matter to me. I'm here to bring it full force.”

When Adell is asked if he was ready for the majors last season, the outfielder makes it clear he doesn't see his career in those terms. He realizes baseball is a game of frequent failure, particularly for hitters, and every at-bat is an opportunity to acquire the skills to minimize those failures in the future.

“It was good for me to get out there and face that type of adversity,” Adell said. “That made me better, going out there and having to face that and screw up. That's what allowed me to improve so much during the offseason. If I had to do it all over again, I would go out there and fail all over again, because every single time, I've bounced back and said, ‘Hey, I’m not going to let this happen again.'”

Adell made his big league debut last Aug. 4, and the Angels installed him as their regular right fielder. Although he quickly demonstrated the dangerous swing and elite speed that got him to the majors, his woes at the plate and in the field steadily worsened, culminating in a 2-for-31 slump to end the Halos' fifth consecutive losing season.

Adell admits he struggled with pitch recognition, particularly on major league-caliber sinkers. Opponents also challenged him on the inside of the plate more frequently, and he didn't adjust.

In December, manager Joe Maddon said the Angels felt Adell would benefit from more time in the minors. Earlier this month, Los Angeles acquired Fowler from St. Louis with the express intent of playing him in right field.

Maddon is quick to point out the Angels haven't decided where Adell will begin 2021, saying spring is “just time to observe.” They're working on flattening Adell's swing to cut down on strikeouts, but his mechanical approach is linked to his mental game, according to Maddon.

“I think we have a tendency to microwave everything, and don't give things an opportunity to really, fully cook," Maddon said. "There's no need for an in-depth conversation regarding where he's going to play this year yet. Go have a great camp. Let's see what we look like after that. There's no better pupil. This guy is so accountable, so wide-open."

Adell and Fowler are getting along well despite their theoretical competition, with Fowler complimenting Adell’s attitude and Adell expressing appreciation for Fowler’s jokes and leadership in the clubhouse.

Maddon also believes Adell will benefit greatly from another spring around Mike Trout and Justin Upton. Both veteran sluggers made it to the majors at 19 years old, but started slowly and didn't cement their place for several months.

“For me, going up and having immediate success right off the bat would be great, absolutely,” Adell said. “But this was the best thing for me, to be able to have that type of struggle, to take a step back and go, ‘Hey, Jo, you’ve got some stuff you've got to figure out.' For me, man, it just lit the fire under my butt.”

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