An Angel With a High Ceiling, Jo Adell Is a Lower-Half Hitter

© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jo Adell remains a work-in-progress. Drafted 10th overall out of a Louisville high school in 2017, the outfielder was rated the No. 1 prospect in the Los Angeles Angels system following his first full professional season, and he was just 21 years old when he made his major league debut in 2020 (he entered that season ranked fourth overall). The fast track hasn’t gone as smoothly as the Halos had hoped.

Adell scuffled during an extended COVID-year cameo, and last season he slashed a barely-scratching-the-surface-of-his-potential .246/.295/.408 following an August promotion. The current campaign has already featured a demotion. Unable to establish himself in a crowded Angels outfield, Adell — with a 95 wRC+ accompanying a ceiling that remains tantalizingly high — was sent down to Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday, with regular playing time a primary goal.

In the latest installment of our Talks Hitting series, Adell discussed the art and science of his mechanics and approach.

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David Laurila: Let’s start with a question I’ve begun some of my previous interviews with. Do you view hitting as more of an art, or more of a science?

Jo Adell: “A little of both. It’s an art in that everyone has their own way of doing it, their own style. There’s a little bit of science in the mix, with trying to figure out the best ways to attack certain guys. The approaches. So, I’d say art, physically — how you produce your swing, whether you’re a leg kick guy, a toe tap guy, or step forward guy — and then your game approach is the science.”

Laurila: Some might say the opposite, that the physical aspect of hitting is the science. A hitter needs to move his body in a bio-mechanically efficient way to execute a good swing.

Adell: “In a sense, yeah. You could probably say that both work together. But it depends on how you want to break it down, how simple you want to be. Do you want to make it more of a physical thing, or more of a… I mean, you can break it down to frame-by-frame movements if you want. I like to keep it more on the simpler side.”

Laurila: Hitting analytics aren’t your thing?

Adell: “I mean, I’ve done all that. I do [find value], but only to certain things. I’m not trying to over-diagnose every swing, because sometimes you can pull off a swing that’s not as good as the one before but have better results, just based on how baseball is. I do have a couple of things I’ll focus on, but I don’t get too deep.”

Laurila: A hitter recently told me that there is a huge difference between hitting in the controlled environment of a cage, and facing live pitching. He said you need an adaptable swing, as opposed to a grooved swing, when you’re in the batter’s box.

Adell: “Definitely. I think if you focus on certain things in the cage, analytically, and then you get into the box… they’re not always going to match up. In the box, you’ve got to be more in the competitive mode than in the analytical mode. It’s good looking at numbers and understanding how your body works — how the numbers relate to how good of a swing you put off — but at the same time, you have to watch how far you go down that rabbit hole. You have to get out there and just be an athlete, and compete.

“The pitcher is in control, whereas there are a lot of controllable variables in a cage. You can go in the cage and say you want a bunch of flips. They could be right down the middle. In the game, you’re going to get cutters, you’re going to get balls moving in, moving this way, moving that way. You have to be able to adjust to that. So, I definitely would say that I agree with him.”

Laurila: You said that every hitter has his own art, his own style. What is yours?

Adell: “It’s kind of a mix between… I’m a lower-half hitter. I’d say my lower half is my strength, hitting-wise. That’s what starts the swing for me — my lower half, on time — and my hands follow with everything else behind that to the point where I rotate. My hands are fast, but I’d say that I’m a lower-half hitter.”

Laurila: I’ve never heard a hitter describe himself that way.

Adell: “The reason I say that is because it’s the part I utilize the most throughout my swing. I try to focus on that being the point in which I create my power and direction. When I go forward, my hands are just there to follow. I’d say that’s probably where I land.”

Laurila: To what extent do you “use the ground”? When I talked hitting with Justin Turner a few years ago, he said that he needed to be “less in [his] legs.”

Adell: “I think it might be a little bit of a mindset, person-to-person type thing. I definitely think about grounding in my right leg — the leg that is my back foot, my turn foot. I think it’s important for me to be grounded there. That’s where I create a lot of my force. I want to move forward when I’m deciding to turn. It all kind of lines up together.”

Laurila: Have you used a K-Vest, and if so, what did you learn about how your body works?

Adell: “I’ve used it before, and I think it’s a good thing, because it told me in which sequence my body was moving. Basically, it should be a system 1-2-3. It should be lower half — for me. Lower half is the first to go — chest and pelvis rotate after, and then your hands follow. That’s the best way for me to think about it.”

Laurila: Did you see anything that wasn’t to your liking?

Adell: “Probably a little bit of hand leakage early. But again, I’ve got to be an athlete and not get overly technical with it. I’ve played baseball all my life. I’ve had coaches, and there are guys I’ve spitballed with throughout the years, but I’ve kind of collectively created my own way of doing it. I’ve cleaned some things up since getting to pro ball, and I’m going forward from there.”

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Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, Joey Gallo, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Robert Hassell III, Rhys Hoskins, Tim Hyers, Josh Jung, Jimmy Kerr, Trevor Larnach, Doug Latta, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Brent Rooker,, Drew Saylor, Fernando Tatis Jr., Justin Turner, Mark Trumbo, Robert Van Scoyoc, Zac Veen, Mark Vientos, Luke Voit, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Nick Yorke.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Fletchiro
6 months ago

It’s interesting that nobody else calls themselves a “lower-half hitter” the way Adell does, as in a lot of other sports you often hear the refrain of “power comes from the hips”.

Adell seems like a smart, self-aware guy. He’s got a bat that’ll play at the big leagues, and could be something special one day, but I can only hope that he’ll eventually apply the same mentality he has with his hitting towards his fielding, because it’s been brutal watching him make errors in left.

Jim Lahey
6 months ago
Reply to  Fletchiro

Yeah, it sounds like he’s been watching a lot of golf videos for long drive!