MLB trends: Three reasons why Jo Adell may be breaking out, and two ways Angels

There’s no sugarcoating it: 2024 has been disastrous for the Los Angeles Angels. They opened the season with four wins in six games. Since then they are 11-26, and they’ve lost 19 of their last 25 games. Mike Trout is out for the foreseeable futurerecent first round picks Zach Neto and Nolan Schanuel haven’t impressed, and the roster is heavy on journeymen. Nothing resembling a plan is in place.

“Things are OK. It’s not great,” a hopelessly optimistic and possibly delusional Matt Moore said after allowing four runs and getting one out Monday (via MLB.com). “But it’s early, and as a group I feel like we’re starting to click a little bit. Hopefully we can get a nice roll going and get on a little streak.”

As bad as the season has been to date, there are some positives for the Angels. Logan O’Hoppe looks like a building block behind the plate. Reliever-turned-starter José Soriano has been impressive. Veteran lefty Tyler Anderson is having a nice bounceback year and may be pitching his way into trade value. Squint your eyes and there are some good things happening in Anaheim.

There’s also Jo Adell, the erstwhile tippy top prospect who gave off serious Quad-A vibes prior to 2024. Adell was a consensus top-10 prospect in the game from 2019-20, though his various big-league stints did not go well the last few years.

2020-23 in Triple-A

849

.273/.353/.589

42.4

9.7%

28.5%

2020-23 in MLB

619

.214/.259/.366

17.4

4.8%

35.4%

Adell ran out of minor-league options this year, meaning the Angels would have to put him on waivers to send him back to Triple-A, and obviously they don’t want to risk losing him for nothing. Besides, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything left for Adell to learn in Triple-A. He’s done all he needs to do at that level. He needs to face MLB competition to continue his development.

“He’s a different guy right now,” manager Ron Washington said about Adell in spring training (via MLB.com). “And because he’s going through this process, once the season starts, I think we might have the Jo Adell everybody wanted because now he has to be engaged … He’s feeling good about himself. He’s working hard every day. So let’s just wait and see where it goes.”

Still only 25, Adell has been the Angels’ best non-Trout hitter in 2024, slashing .248/.304/.505 with seven home runs in 113 plate appearances. He platooned with Aaron Hicks and Mickey Moniak early on, but Hicks got released on May 1 and Moniak hasn’t hit. Adell has taken over as the everyday right fielder and he’s run with the opportunity.

Is this for real? Is Adell finally realizing the immense potential he showed as a prospect? Or is it an early-season mirage that will fade during the summer? Let’s dig into Adell and see what about his game has stood out, and what should give you pause.

Reasons to believe

1. He’s improved his contact ability

This was Adell’s single biggest issue prior to 2024. As well as he performed in Triple-A, Adell could not consistently get the bat on the ball against big-league pitching. His contact rates were among the worst in the game. Step 1 in becoming a productive player was always going to be making more contact, and Adell is doing that early in 2024.

Addell 2020-23

35.4%

66.9%

74.0%

35.1%

Addell 2024

24.8%

74.4%

81.7%

24.8%

MLB average

22.4%

76.9%

85.1%

20.1%

To be clear, Adell has not turned into Luis Arraez. His contact rates have gone from ghastly to merely a bit below average. In his case, a bit below average represents a massive improvement. The man used to miss with 35.1% of his swings against fastballs! That is pretty much unplayable. If you can’t get the bat on a fastball, you’re going to have a hard time in this league.

“It’s just being ready for my pitch in my location, and I think that ends up kind of shortening the swing just on a mindset,” Adell told the Orange Country Register about his improved contact rates last week. “I’m definitely shorter to the ball and getting those pitches a little bit better. I’m definitely more so in the mindset of what I’m looking for and then being ready to get the barrel there.”

One thing Adell has never lacked is power. His top end exit velocities were always very strong. Those improved contact rates do not come with a decline in exit velocity. If anything, Adell is hitting the ball even harder this season than in the past. Oftentimes hitters with sacrifice power to get a little more contact. Adell hasn’t. He hitting the ball harder and more often.

2. His swing decisions are better

This goes hand in hand with the improved contact rates. Adell is getting the bat on the ball more frequently in part because he is swinging at better pitches. He’s no longer chasing out of the zone excessively. He has not become passive — Adell is still swinging at pitches in the zone at the same rate — but he’s not swinging at pitchers’ pitches as much.

Addell 2020-23

33.7%

38.1%

70.3%

Addell 2024

29.8%

34.1%

70.5%

MLB average

27.8%

30.3%

65.3%

Adell’s cut down on his chases while maintaining his aggressiveness within the zone and. Again, this is a case where he’s gone from terrible to merely below average. His chase rate, both overall and against breaking balls, is higher than the league average. They are down considerably from 2020-23, however, so below average represents progress.

“I’ve kind of found out what’s worked for me and getting those pitches to drive,” Adell told the Orange County Register. “And I’ve done a good job of not missing those mistakes.”

SEAGER is a great swing-decision metric cooked up by Rob Orr at Baseball Prospectus. It goes beyond chase rate vs. in-zone swing rate. It quantifies a hitter’s aggressiveness against hittable pitches — not every pitch in the zone is hittable! — and also his ability to lay off anything the can’t drive. (It’s named after Corey Seager because he’s the master at swinging at the right pitch.)

From 2020-23, Adell’s SEAGER put him alongside late career Yuli Gurriel and fringe big leaguers like Bobby Dalbec and Pablo Reyes. His swing decisions were awful. This year though, Adell’s SEAGER is among the best in the game. He’s in the same range as Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani, Kyle Tucker, and several other of the game’s top hitters. That’s good company.

“I think it all goes back to my decisions in the box and what I’m choosing to swing at,” Adell told MLB.com this past weekend. “In early May, I didn’t do the best job of getting pitches that I can handle. And we went back and looked at that and refocused on getting those pitches to handle early in the count, and being ready to swing and being on the attack.”

3. He’s using the entire field

During the infield shift days, pulling the ball had something of a stigma attached to it, and I feel like that still lingers to some extent. Regardless, pulling the ball is the best way to generate power, and now pulled grounders and line drives don’t get eaten up by the shift as often. Adell, prior to 2024, pulled the ball plenty. In 2024, he’s spraying the ball all around.

Addell 2020-23

44.2%

34.0%

21.8%

Addell 2024

36.0%

40.0%

24.0%

MLB average for RHB

39.6%

35.5%

24.9%

Already this season, Adell has two opposite field home runs, equaling his season high from 2020-23. He is almost 20% of the way to his opposite field hits total from 2020-23. Adell still pulls the ball when the opportunity presents itself, otherwise he is using the rest of the field more often, and that’s opened things up for him a bit. The big part of the field is available to him now.

“I think before this year, he was all pull. We challenged him in =spring training to use the right side of the field,” Washington told the Orange County Register last month. “Hit some balls between first and second. Hit some balls in the right-center field alley, and he’s taken to it. It’s sort of opened up his offensive game. He’s not just one dimensional. The results are starting to pay off.”

Reasons to be skeptical

1. He still has a hole up and away

Two things are true. One, Adell has significantly improved his contact rates this season, even if they are still worse than the league average. And two, Adell has a giant hole up and on the outer half of the plate. The contact he’s making is coming in one specific part of the strike zone. The 2024 heat maps are telling:

Jo Adell has a hole up and on the outer third of the plate.

TruMedia

Up and away has been a career-long issue for Adell. He offers at pitches in that zone frequently but doesn’t get the bat on the ball all that consistently. Anything middle-in, forget it. Adell will put a charge into it. Pitch him up and away though, and you’ll get a swing and miss, especially with velocity. The pitch locations of Adell’s seven home runs tell the story:

All seven of Jo Adell’s home runs have come on pitches middle-in.

Baseball Savant

Make a mistake down and in, and you’re going to pay. That is Adell’s nitro zone. He has a giant — and exploitable — hole up and away though, and this league is unforgiving. Pretty soon opponents will shove up and away pitches down Adell’s throat until he shows he can hit them, or at least be competitive and foul them away.

2. He’s doing most of his damage against lefties

Adell has done the majority of his damage against left-handed pitchers this season. He’s a right-handed hitter, so he’s supposed to mash lefties, but his platoon split is extreme:

vs. RHP

86

.227/.294/.413

102

3

5.8%

26.7%

vs. LHP

27

.308/.333/.769

203

4

3.7%

18.5%

Adell hasn’t been bad against righties. It’s a power-heavy league average OPS, more or less. Being average against same-side pitchers and bludgeoning opposite-side pitchers is a path to playing a real long time in this game. It is not unreasonable to think Adell’s numbers against lefties will come back to Earth at some point though. Will he pick it up against righties to compensate?


All told, the good outweighs the bad with Adell. The hole up and away still exists and I’d like to see him do more damage against righties, but the contact rate and swing-decision improvements are very encouraging. Those were Adell’s single biggest issues prior to his year and he looks to be making good progress there. Using the entire field is an added bonus. It wasn’t imperative, but it can only help.

This is probably a make or break year for Adell, at least with the Angels. If he fails to establish himself this season, with the Angels being so bad and having so much outfield playing time available, it’s hard to see how they stick with him in 2025. And so far, so good. Adell’s improving the things he needs to improve. There are still holes in game, though not as many as there once were.

“For me, it’s just getting there and looking for a pitch to hit and not looking to do too much. Just simplifying what I’m trying to do,” Adell told the Orange County Register last month. “If they make a mistake, I’ll be able to put one in the seats, but that’s not the primary goal. I think that’s shrunk the zone for me, and I’ve made better decisions. It’s been more consistent, so I’m going to stay the course with that.”

Leave a Comment