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AL West update: Angels call up Jo Adell, among flurry of star news

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One star out, two or three more back in, plus some MLB history approaching

Los Angeles Angels v Seattle Mariners
The next Angels superstar?
Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Angels are 4-7 to begin the 2020 season, but they still represent one of the Oakland A’s top rivals in their quest for the AL West division crown. The Halos made a flurry of news over the last couple days, encompassing nearly every star name on their roster.

The A’s will play the Angels again next Monday, for three games on the road, so let’s keep an eye on what’s going on in Anaheim.

Perhaps the biggest headline is their callup of outfielder Jo Adell on Tuesday. The 21-year-old, whom the A’s passed up in the 1st-round of the 2017 draft, opened the season as a consensus national Top 10 prospect, and as high as No. 2 via both Baseball Prospectus and Keith Law. In terms of excitement level, this is the Angels equivalent of Oakland bringing up Jesús Luzardo.

Adell made his MLB debut on Tuesday, starting in right field against the Seattle Mariners and batting seventh. His first career at-bat came against Justin Dunn, and he hit a dribbler to the left side of the infield but beat it out with his excellent speed for his first big league hit.

He finished the game 1-for-4 with a strikeout, but one of his groundouts had a 100.1 mph exit velocity.

Adell’s monster prospect stock comes from his plus grades in every tool. MLB Pipeline gives him a 60-grade for his speed, fielding, and arm, and a 65 for his power, with his worst being a merely above-average 55 for his Hit tool. He blasted through the minors, reaching Double-A in his first full season at age 19 and then Triple-A last year at age 20, though he struggled in that brief stint at the highest level of the farm.

As an extra vote of confidence, some of Adell’s everyday playing time will come at the expense of Justin Upton, a four-time All-Star with two years and $51 million remaining on his contract after this year. Upton missed most of 2019 to injury and is off to a rough start this summer, but he’s still a huge name and it’s significant that the Halos have reached a point where they’re reducing his at-bats, especially in favor of a rookie. He’ll now platoon with Brian Goodwin.

The Angels waited just long enough to call up Adell that they earned an extra year of team control over him in 2026. Considering that Opening Day was just two weeks ago, and that he hadn’t played in a game since then, it seems clear that this was pure service-time manipulation. This seems like a good moment to mention that the small-budget A’s never do that with their own top prospects — case in point, they had the perfect excuse to hold back Luzardo this summer after his positive coronavirus test during preseason intake screening (much less last September when he made his debut despite a year full of injuries), but he was still on their Opening Day roster even though it’ll cost them down the road.

Ohtani out, halfway

Shohei Ohtani made his return this year from Tommy John surgery, but it lasted only two starts and less than two full innings.

The Angels announced on Monday that Ohtani has a Grade 1-2 strain of his flexor pronator mass, aka forearm. He likely won’t begin throwing again for at least a month, and he definitely won’t pitch again in 2020, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

This unfortunate update should come as no surprise to A’s fans, who saw first-hand that Ohtani wasn’t his usual self when Oakland faced him in the season’s opening series. He didn’t record a single out among six batters he faced in that start, including three walks, and his velocity was drastically reduced from his pre-surgery upper-90s. He regained a couple of those lost mph in his next outing, but still walked five of the 10 batters he faced before being pulled in the 2nd inning.

The Angels do have a few other quality starters in their rotation, but the return of the Ohtani was one of their higher-upside hopes entering the year. Fortunately for them, as a two-way player he can still contribute as a hitter, and the 26-year-old will continue to serve as the team’s DH while he’s out of the pitching equation. The Angels still think he can do both moving forward, so we could see him back on the mound in 2021 or beyond.

Teheran returns

While Ohtani is out, another rotation arm is back in the mix. Julio Teheran is officially listed as the Angels starter for Wednesday’s game against the Mariners, which will mark his debut with the club.

The Halos signed Teheran last winter to a one-year, $9 million contract. The right-hander enjoyed a durable, above-average career for seven full seasons with the Braves, making 30+ starts each year and earning two All-Star berths. However, his 2020 campaign was delayed by a positive coronavirus test, including at least some symptoms. The 29-year-old has since recovered and been cleared to return to action.

Between these two developments, the Angels rotation now features Teheran along with Andrew Heaney, Dylan Bundy, and Griffin Canning, with the fifth spot up for grabs among candidates such as swingman Matt Andriese.

Papa Trout pops a homer

Adell may be the Angels’ next superstar outfielder, but in the meantime they already have the best in the world lining up next to him in CF.

Mike Trout missed four games while attending the birth of his first child, a son named Beckham Aaron Trout — the middle name is a tribute to the late brother of Mike’s wife and Beckham’s mother, Jessica. Now Mike is back in action.

Trout returned to the lineup on Tuesday, and he did so in customarily spectacular fashion. In his very first at-bat, he hit a homer.

I know it’s the Angels, and their success is inherently gross, but c’mooon. That’s pretty cool.

Rendon arrives

This one isn’t really news, but it’s relevant. We didn’t see Anthony Rendon when the A’s played the Halos last month, as the new $245 million man was out with a minor injury. He’s since joined the lineup, and has played seven games in garish LAA red. He hasn’t hit much yet, going just 4-for-24 with a homer and a double, but he’s already drawn 10 walks for a .412 OBP. They may not have needed a new star righty hitter, but they got one, and the 30-year-old almost-MVP will be one more problem for Oakland’s pitchers to deal with next week.

Pujols nearing Mays

In one final note before we go wash our eyeballs after reading a thousand words about the Angels, Albert Pujols is nearing a milestone in his march up the career homer list.

The 40-year-old future Hall of Famer hit his third dinger of the season on Tuesday, giving him 659 for his career. His next long ball will tie Willie Mays for fifth on the all-time list. That’s a rare enough feat that it still feels weird thinking of Mays as being only fifth, after spending my childhood with him firmly entrenched in third place. Here’s the current Top 10:

  1. Barry Bonds, 762
  2. Hank Aaron, 755
  3. Babe Ruth, 714
  4. Alex Rodriguez, 696
  5. Willie Mays, 660
  6. Albert Pujols, 659 (still active)
  7. Ken Griffey Jr, 630
  8. Jim Thome, 612
  9. Sammy Sosa, 609
  10. Frank Robinson, 586

... with Mark McGwire next at 583.