Jo Adell Is Finally Putting It Together

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Angels haven’t had a whole lot to cheer about this season aside from Mike Trout’s power outburst before he suffered his knee injury. They’re 15-26, last in the AL West, and given both their lackluster offense and dreadful run prevention, they appear on track for their ninth consecutive sub-.500 season. Amid that, one positive development worth noting is the progress of Jo Adell, who looks as though he’s finally carved out a spot in the majors.

The 25-year-old Adell recently homered three times in a four-game span, and none of them were cheapies. Last Wednesday against the Pirates, he hit a Martín Pérez cutter 407 feet to center field, a third-inning solo homer that kicked off the scoring in a 5-4 win. On Friday against the Royals, he crushed an Alec Marsh sinker, sending it 436 feet into the Angel Stadium rockpile; alas, that was the Halos’ only run in a 2-1 loss. On Saturday he destroyed a Cole Ragans slider for a 419-foot three-run homer that led to a 9-3 win.

Adell is now hitting .255/.314/.532 (134 wRC+) with seven homers and seven steals in 105 plate appearances. While those slash stats aren’t as eye-catching as the .316/.365/.614 (171 wRC+) that he posted in April, his recent outburst has followed an 0-for-16 skid that could have sent him into a deeper slide or worse, the bench or Triple-A. What’s more, Adell now has enough plate appearances and batted ball events for several of his key stats to have stabilized, which should hopefully make this check-in more illuminating.

Adell has spent parts of the past five seasons trying to stick with the Angels, running out of options in the process. A 2017 first-round pick out of a Louisville high school, he cracked our Top 100 Prospects list in each of the next three seasons, ranking as high as no. 4 in 2020, and he was similarly regarded by other outlets thanks to his combination of plus-plus raw power and plus speed. But since debuting early in the 2020 season, he has generally struggled to make good contact, or any contact at all for that matter, with his lack of refinement limiting his opportunity to show off the tools that so tantalized talent evaluators. In a total of 178 major league games from 2020–23, he hit a meager .214/.259/.366 with 18 homers in 619 plate appearances en route to a grim 70 wRC+. After appearing in 88 games with the Angels but managing just a 77 wRC+ and -0.2 WAR in 2022, he played only 17 games in the majors last season (12 in September) while returning to Triple-A Salt Lake for the fourth year out of five. If he’d spent just a bit more time in my hometown, my parents would have been obligated to invite him over for dinner; I never did ask whether they felt the earth move following his Statcast-record 514-foot bomb from last year.

Adell entered the spring vying for playing time in a crowded outfield, with Trout entrenched in center, Taylor Ward in left, and lefty Mickey Moniak and switch-hitting Aaron Hicks the top candidates to share time in right. A former no. 1 pick, Moniak finally broke out last year, his age-25 season, which had the dual effect of offering a positive example for Adell and the Angels but delaying Adell’s own opportunity. Hicks, who was released by the Yankees last May with about $30 million still owed on his seven-year, $70 million deal, signed as a free agent with the Angels during the offseason after rebounding with the Orioles, who picked him up after the Yankees cut him. But as Hicks struggled in the early going this year, manager Ron Washington began giving more opportunities to Adell, who made the most of them, heating up in the second half of April. Amid the team’s 1-5 skid against the Orioles and Twins toward the end of last month, he hit three homers.

Hicks never got going, hitting just .140/.222/.193 in 63 plate appearances before being designated for assignment on April 29, the day before Trout was discovered to need surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Moniak took over in center field, creating a lane for Adell to play every day; through Sunday, Adell has started 19 straight games.

As his history of low on-base percentages suggests, Adell’s control of the strike zone has been shaky at best. Coming into this season, he had walked in just 4.8% of his plate appearances, while striking out in 35.4% of them; among players with at least 600 PA from 2020–23, that strikeout rate not only ranked as the eighth highest, but both his accompanying 70 wRC+ and -1.3 WAR were the worst marks among the 20 players with the highest strikeout rates. Translation: Despite ample opportunity, he had done the least of the bunch to justify so much swinging and missing.

This year, Adell is walking just 5.7% of the time, but he’s shaved over 10 percentage points off that strikeout rate, to 24.8%. While he’s still chasing pitches outside the zone at a similar clip as before, he’s swinging less often overall, and making contact with greater frequency:

Jo Adell Plate Discipline
Season O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% Z-Contact% SwStr%
2020-2023 37.5% 72.5% 52.2% 73.7% 17.4%
2024 36.2% 69.5% 49.1% 81.6% 12.5%

That’s a big step forward for Adell, and it’s the result of a new approach. As the Los Angeles Daily News’ Kyle Glaser reported:

During spring training, he focused on hunting for pitches in specific zones rather than trying to cover the entire plate. The result has been a naturally shorter swing and better pitch selection…

“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 said. “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.”

Looking at Adell’s heatmaps, the biggest change is that he’s no longer going after pitches up and away, in Gameday zones 3 (strikes) and 11 (balls). Meanwhile, he’s more focused on pitches on the inner third of the strike zone, where he may not always be able to get full extension and hit the ball as hard as consistently, but the numbers show that he’s finding a way to be productive there anyway. Here’s how the data play out when dividing the Gameday zones horizontally, grouping the out-of-zone areas with the inner or outer thirds of the strike zone:

Jo Adell Zone Comparison
Area Season PA AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA Whiff% EV Barrel% HH%
Inner + In 2022–23 111 .216 .200 .361 .329 .304 .288 26.8 80.7 8.1 25.8
Inner + In 2024 45 .237 .288 .421 .557 .335 .401 26.5 80.6 16.7 26.7
Middle 2022–23 76 .289 .228 .539 .438 .350 .282 32.7 93.4 13.2 56.6
Middle 2024 28 .333 .367 .963 .925 .529 .535 20.0 99.9 25.0 75.0
Outer+ Out 2022–23 159 .191 .174 .329 .250 .235 .204 45.7 88.6 8.9 35.4
Outer+ Out 2024 32 .207 .264 .276 .322 .255 .296 32.9 91.2 5.0 50.0
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
Inner + In = Gameday zones 1, 4, 7, 11, 13. Middle = zones 2, 5, 8. Outer + Out = zones 3, 6, 9, 12, 14.

What we see is that on pitches on the inner third and further inside, Adell isn’t hitting the ball that much harder overall, and his whiff rate is similar, but his barrel rate has more than doubled and both his actual and expected stats have improved, the latter dramatically. On pitches in the middle — all strikes, as I bucketed the pitches outside the zone with the ones on the edges — he’s hitting the ball much harder, with his barrel rate doubling and his SLG, xSLG, and xwOBA more or less doing so as well; meanwhile, his whiff rate has dropped dramatically. On outer-third pitches or ones farther outside, Adell has cut his whiff rate and is hitting the ball harder, though his overall numbers are still unremarkable. The key is that the outer group, the weakest of the bunch, represented 46% of his outcomes before, where now that’s down to 30%, with the middle group increasing from 22% to 27%, and the inner group increasing from 32% to 43%.

Similarly, Adell has improved the share of his outcomes that come from the bottom third of the zone and below it, lowering his whiff rate and doing far more damage:

Jo Adell Zone Comparison, Vertical
Area Season PA AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA Whiff% EV HH% Barrel%
Lower + Low 2022–23 179 .247 .211 .440 .349 .322 .274 34.2 86 10.2 35.2
Lower + Low 2024 62 .293 .340 .724 .753 .438 .464 28.8 92.7 22.2 55.6
Middle 2022–23 93 .239 .210 .391 .326 .269 .231 31.2 88.4 6.7 38.3
Middle 2024 16 .188 .265 .188 .349 .168 .265 15.6 88.1 8.3 41.7
Upper + Up 2022–23 74 .134 .132 .254 .227 .205 .207 49.4 90.6 15.4 50.0
Upper + Up 2024 27 .200 .231 .250 .322 .305 .354 34.2 78.7 0.0 23.1
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
Lower + Low = Gameday zones 7, 8, 9, 13, 14. Middle = zones 4, 5, 6. Upper + Up = zones 1, 2, 3, 11, 12.

Adell’s share of outcomes in and below the lower third of the strike zone has increased from 52% to 59%, and he’s hammering those pitches, more than doubling his 2022–23 barrel rate while trimming his whiff rate. His share of outcomes in the middle (all strikes) has declined from 27% to 15%; he hasn’t done much damage there but he’s at least cut his whiff rate in half. His share of outcomes in the upper third and higher has increased from 21% to 26%; he’s cut his whiff rate by 15 points but his results there otherwise are unimpressive so far. Both that group and the middle one are particularly limited by sample size.

In all, Adell and the Angels have come up with a solid plan, and we’ll see if the actual numbers catch up to his even better expected ones as the samples increase. For what it’s worth, Adell attributed his 0-fer slide to his deviating from that plan, as he said after Saturday’s game, via MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger:

“I think it all goes back to my decisions in the box and what I’m choosing to swing at,” Adell said. “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.”

Adell’s overall quality of contact has improved substantially:

Jo Adell Statcast Profile
Season BBE EV Barrel% HH% AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA
2022–23 196 87.4 9.7% 37.8% .221 .194 .387 .317 .282 .248
2024 70 89.4 15.7% 47.1% .255 .303 .532 .590 .363 .405

With 70 batted balls, Adell is past the point where exit velocity and barrel rates stabilize (40 and 50 BBE, respectively, according to Baseball Prospectus’ Russell Carlton), though he’s still a bit short of the point where hard-hit rate stabilizes (80 BBE). He’s pulling the ball 38.6% of the time, down from 45.4% in 2022–23; even so, pulled fly balls now account for 10% of his BBE, up from 6.1% in 2022–23. Accordingly, he’s in the 93rd percentile or above in his expected stats.

When it comes to his performance against specific pitch types, we’re still dealing with some particularly small samples, but it’s worth noting that Adell is again scuffling against four-seam fastballs, just not as much as before. Over his two previous seasons, he hit just .180 and slugged .311 against four-seamers while whiffing on 39.4% of his swings against them, though he did manage a 7.9% barrel rate and 47.6% hard-hit rate on contact. Currently he’s hitting .214 and slugging .357 against four-seamers, with a 28.8% whiff rate, 10.5% barrel rate and 31.6% hard-hit rate; his actual stats lag substantially behind his expected ones (.270 xBA, .460 xSLG), so this is particularly worth following beyond his current 32 plate appearances’ worth of results. Just 29 of his plate appearances have ended on breaking balls so far this year, but he has improved from .228 AVG/.406 SLG with a 37.7% whiff rate over 106 PA in 2022–23 to .259 AVG/.593 SLG with a 32.4% whiff rate this season. Stay tuned.

One thing that caught my eye this weekend is that Adell’s name shows up among the leaders in Statcast’s brand new bat speed measure, which Ben Clemens dug into here:

That’s some good company, but a closer look at the data shows that Adell only squares up 19.2% of his swings, which is to say that he rarely comes close to maximizing his exit velocity based on the speeds of the pitch (which he doesn’t control) and his swing (which he does). That rate places him in just the seventh percentile. However, Adell places in the 65th percentile when it comes to his 12.6% blast rate, the rate of his squared up batted balls on fast swings (75 mph or faster).

All told, it’s clear that Adell remains a work in progress. But after four seasons of teasing us with his flashy tools, he and the Angels are finally seeing results that hint at what scouts have long been expecting. While the Angels continue to take their lumps, he’s given them something to get excited about.





Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky @jayjaffe.bsky.social.

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Keith Hernandez' catmember
17 days ago

Since Adell said he’s hunting pitches in zones, you’ve opted to drill down zone-by-zone to check on progress. The Barrels vs. Blast Rate comparison is especially enlightening. Thanks for the heavy lifting!

kevo8member
15 days ago

Agree – this was a fantastic article, Jay!