An ear-piercing crack of the bat sent another Jo Adell drive deep into the Las Vegas night and left Russ Langer, the longtime radio voice of the triple-A Aviators, a bit confused.
“There is the 10th home run of the year by Jo Adell,” Langer said as Monday’s blast cleared the left-field wall at Las Vegas Ballpark and landed on the roof of the Golden Knights’ practice facility, “and what he’s still doing playing for the Salt Lake Bees, I don’t have any idea.”
Nor do plenty of Angels fans who wonder why the hot-hitting outfield prospect remains at triple A while star center fielder Mike Trout is sidelined by a right-calf strain for two months and the team is stuck in last place.
Adell, 22, entered Tuesday with a .270 average, 1.063 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 10 homers — six in the last week — and 19 RBIs in 17 games.
But there are other numbers causing the Angels to proceed with caution: Adell had 27 strikeouts and six walks in 81 plate appearances through Monday, a reflection of his tendency to chase pitches outside the strike zone.
And though he made a diving catch Sunday, Adell got turned around on a fly ball and fell down as it dropped for a double on Saturday.
“He’s making some strides, but he’s not there yet defensively,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said before Tuesday night’s 11-5 victory over the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium.
“It’s been great watching him do damage over the last four or five days. The quality of the at-bat has improved. The strikeout rate is coming down.
“The roller coaster is definitely clicking up and we’re excited to see what he does. … But from my end, the next time we call him up we want to feel like he’s gonna take this job and be here, and it’s not gonna be a back-and-forth type of shuttle between triple A and the big leagues.”
Adell, the 10th overall pick in the 2017 draft, had only 27 games of triple-A experience when the Angels recalled him from the alternate training site last August.
He batted .161 with a .478 OPS, three homers, seven RBIs, 55 strikeouts and seven walks in 38 games and made several gaffes in the field.
Manager Joe Maddon said last winter that Adell would benefit from more time at triple A, and though Adell’s early strikeout rate is high, Maddon is seeing better at-bat quality from the right-handed hitter.
“When he hits it, man, it’s properly struck,” Maddon said. “I saw the video [of Adell’s last three homers], and I absolutely love it.
“The shorter moves [to the ball], I like the way his front leg is working, there’s no wasted movement, he’s direct to the ball, lots of good stuff.
“But it’s not just about hitting. It’s about the entire game, defense, baserunning. … You don’t want to force somebody into a role here because you feel there’s a need.
“And I think you could stifle somebody’s development if that player rises too quickly without all the necessary ingredients to make them successful here.”
The Angels didn’t need Adell’s bat Tuesday night. Justin Upton led off the first inning with a homer to left, and Jared Walsh hit a two-run shot to right in the third.
Walsh’s blast gave him 11 homers and 36 RBIs on the season.
Shohei Ohtani then capped a six-run fourth with a three-run laser to right.
Ohtani’s 15th homer, one fewer than major league-leader Vladimir Guerrero Jr., traveled only 380 feet but left his bat at 117 mph.
Asked how hard it is for a left-handed hitter to crush a ball so hard down the line and keep it fair, Walsh said, “I assume for us mortals, it’s basically impossible, but Shohei plays by his own rules. So nothing he does surprises me at this point. Every day, it’s something new.”
Ohtani leads the major leagues with a 14.4 barrel rate, according to Baseball Savant, meaning 14.4% of his plate appearances have ended with a barreled ball. He has the hardest-hit ball this season, a 119-mph double off Kansas City pitcher Scott Barlow on April 12. His 92.4-mph average exit velocity ranks 16th in baseball.
“Every swing he takes right now, it looks like he can do that, like the ball is going to be hit with an exit velocity of 100 mph or more,” Maddon said. “He’s just in that moment, in that zone. … It’s really fascinating. He’s that strong. He’s that focused. And it’s not surprising us from the bench.”
Highlights from the Angels’ win over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday.
Upton set the tone when he crushed an 0-and-2 slider from Texas left-hander Hyeon-Jong Yang for a 430-foot homer in the first, the ball leaving his bat at 109.8 mph and landing in the second bullpen behind the left-field fence.
Walsh followed a walk to Jose Iglesias in the second by golfing an 82-mph 0-and-2 changeup from Yang over the right-field wall for a 3-0 lead.
“It was one of those two-strike emergency hacks, and it flew out of the yard,” Walsh said. “That was not what I was thinking in that situation.”
It was the second homer this season that the left-handed-hitting Walsh has hit against a left-hander.
“I want to be an every-day player for as long as possible, and you have to be able to hit lefties and righties,” Walsh said. “So any time I can do damage against a left-handed pitcher, it gives me a boost of confidence.”
Walsh added an RBI single in the fourth, an inning that featured Taylor Ward’s safety squeeze that went for an RBI bunt single, an RBI single by Upton and Ohtani’s three-run smash.
Left-hander Andrew Heaney gave up three runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking four to earn his first victory since April 9. Iglesias departed in the fifth inning after suffering a left-hamstring cramp on an RBI double, but the injury is not believed to be serious.
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