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Should Pirates Consider Betting on Jo Adell to Bolster Outfield Mix?

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Jo Adell, Pittsburgh Pirates

Even though they’ve already acquired Edward Olivares, the Pittsburgh Pirates have still been linked to outfield additions this winter.

The Pirates landed Olivares from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for minor-league infielder Deivis Nadal earlier in the offseason.

With him in the fold, the current outfield mix includes Olivares, Bryan Reynolds, Jack Suwinski and Joshua Palacios. Other players such as Andrew McCutchen, Connor Joe and Ji Hwan Bae could see time out there, but an outfield spot is not their primary position.

Canaan Smith-Njigba, who would have been included in the list of options, was designated for assignment on Wednesday.

If Ben Cherington still wishes to make a further addition to the outfield mix, taking a gamble on the Los Angeles Angels’ Jo Adell makes at least some level of sense.

As Sam Blum of The Athletic recently pointed out, Adell is out of options and is one of a heavy mix of outfielders currently on the Angels’ 40-man roster.

Of course, three-time Most Valuable Player Mike Trout will have center field locked up. In addition to their superstar, the Angels have Jo Adell, Taylor Ward, Mickey Moniak and the recently-signed Aaron Hicks as other outfield options.

Since he cannot be optioned back to the minor leagues, the Angels would have to risk losing him on waivers if he does not crack the club’s initial 26-man roster. Because of this, it’s entirely possible the Angels could seek a trade to net something back in return for his services.

Adell’s career has not yet gone the way anyone would have thought. As a prospect, he came with plenty of pedigree after the Angels picked him 10th overall in the 2017 draft. Entering the 2020 season, he was ranked a top-10 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.

Adell, who turns 25 in April, looked destined for stardom, but hasn’t panned out yet.

He’s spent parts of the last four seasons with the Angels for a total of 178 games. In his career, he’s slashed .214/.259/.366 with 24 doubles, five triples, 18 home runs and 66 RBIs.

He has shown some flashes at times, but there are clear concerns during his time spent in the big leagues.

For starters, Adell has struck out a whopping 35.4% of his big league appearances. Among players with at least 600 plate appearances since the start of 2020, that’s the eight-highest rate in baseball.

To make matters worse, he’s offset the high strikeout numbers with a lowly 4.9% walk rate while wearing an Angels’ uniform.

In his minor league career, strikeout have been an issue, but not at the same levels we’ve seen in the majors. Maybe the Pirates feel there will be room for improvement in regards to putting the ball in play more.

In the minor leagues, he’s demonstrated the ability to draw more walks. Last season in Triple-A, Adell reached on a free pass in over 12% of his plate appearances.

His right-handed swing is capable of generating power. In 17 games with the Angels this past season, Adell recorded seven extra-base hits — three doubles, a triple and three home runs. At Triple-A, he slugged 24 round-trippers and drove in 57 runs in 74 games.

Defensively, Adell has plenty of experience at all three outfield spots. He is probably suited best for one of the corners and possess a plus arm and excellent speed.

So while there are concerns with Jo Adell, there are also some things to like. It wouldn’t cost the Pirates an arm and a leg, or the moon and the stars, or any other metaphor to describe a big trade. But a deal could pay dividends if they are able to help him realize his potential.

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