Reviewing the Salt Lake Bees debut of Los Angeles Angels prospect Jo Adell, and the homers that never happened

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Jo Adell’s best game of the 2019 baseball season never happened.

Playing for the Salt Lake Bees in August, the outfielder experienced an adventurous month in his first Triple-A stint. His most memorable performance is recorded only in video highlights. Adell’s two home runs Aug. 21 at Tacoma officially were washed away in a rainout, because the game had reached only the fifth inning.

The Bees’ Twitter account offered the consolation that the homers “happened in our hearts, and that’s the most important thing.”

That’s how Adell views the night.

“Obviously, that was kind of tough,” he said. But “I got out what I needed to get out of that game, and that’s all I can do.”

Although he hasn’t officially homered during the Bees’ season that ends with home games Sunday night and Monday afternoon vs. Reno, those two swings in Tacoma showed more evidence of why Adell is the No. 4-ranked prospect in Major League Baseball. When he connects, the ball comes off his bat sharply. At age 20, he’s a big part of the Los Angeles Angels’ future.

Adell’s August was not quite like Mike Trout’s April in Salt Lake City in 2012. Trout batted .403 in 20 games for the Bees, never to return as he rejoined the Angels and immediately thrived. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Adell batted .263 in 25 games in August, while displaying the baserunning speed that evoked images of Trout at Smith’s Ballpark.

The natural question is how soon he will reach Anaheim, Calif. As of September, Angels executives still have Adell in the developmental stage. He’s scheduled to play in the Arizona Fall League, making up for the at-bats he missed after severely injuring his ankle and hamstring in spring training with the Angels in March.

Adell’s third pro season began only in late May, but he did everything he could to maximize it in Double-A Mobile and Salt Lake City. “Everything I was going to do, if I started the season healthy, I feel like I’ve done,” Adell said. “So I’m pretty proud of that.”

Notable developments in the Salt Lake Bees’ 25-year anniversary season that ends Monday afternoon:
-Jared Walsh tied Mark Trumbo’s franchise season record with his 36th home run Friday and also has pitched for the Bees and Los Angeles Angels.
-Jose Rojas needed one extra-base hit to tie Todd Walker’s season record of 78, including 31 homers.
-Through Saturday, the Bees stood 59-78; 60 wins is the fewest in franchise history (2014), although that team lost 84 games before the PCL schedule was shortened.
-Outfielder Brennon Lund, from Bingham High School and BYU, has hit .287 in his first Triple-A season, while missing about a month due to injury.
-The Bees have averaged 6,647 fans to rank ninth in the 16-team PCL in attendance.

Batting averages often become volatile numbers with a small sample size, as Adell’s August illustrates. He went 30 for 114 (.263) at the plate, as his average went from .308 on Aug. 5 (after a brief Bees homestand) to .196 on Aug. 15 (after an 0-for-5, three-strikeout game in El Paso) to .276 as of Wednesday (after a third three-hit game in a row).

“He struggled at first, but he’s made some good adjustments,” said Bees manager Lou Marson, who worked with Adell at Mobile in the same time frame last summer. “He’s only 20 years old; he’s got a lot to learn and a lot to improve on. I know the organization’s very high on him, so it’s exciting to watch his development, for sure.”

That includes some frustrating moments, with Adell having struck out 38 times and swinging and missing a surprising number of fastballs in the strike zone. Sitting in the dugout of Smith’s Ballpark, Marson was asked about Adell’s demeanor.

“He’s been great,” the manager said. “I kind of watch him come in here after at-bats and see if he throws stuff … but he doesn’t. He sets his helmet down. This is a game of failure, and you’re not going to get a hit every time. He’s handled himself very well and he’s a very mature kid.”

Adell’s older teammates had fun with him in Tacoma. They followed baseball tradition by ignoring him when he returned to the dugout after his first Triple-A homer. Adell played along, high-fiving the air. The players then responded enthusiastically when he homered again, only to have those hits become unofficial in the rainout.

“It’s been a lot of fun, a good learning experience,” Adell said of being in a clubhouse with former big-leaguers.

He’ll have that status soon enough. Adell could start next season with the Bees or be judged ready for the Angels.

As for himself, Marson is not sure about the Angels’ plans, following his first season as Salt Lake’s manager. The Bees stood 59-78 with two games remaining; the modern franchise low is 60 wins. A Triple-A manager’s record, whether good or bad, is not necessarily an accurate gauge of his work, with players continually coming and going.

“Oh, it’s been crazy,” Marson said, summarizing the season. “Just so many transactions, which is a good thing, right? I learned a lot this year. It’s been a good experience.”

And he again played a role in Adell’s continuing development, in a phase of the prospect’s career that may or may not be repeated in April 2020.