Mike Trout hasn’t played since May 18 on account of a right calf strain, as his recovery has been frustratingly slow. With just over three weeks remaining in the regular season — and with the team set to miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year — it looks increasingly unlikely we’ll see Trout again in 2021.
Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged that Trout likely won’t make it back, telling reporters (including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register and Jack Harris of the L.A. Times) he’d be “very surprised” if the three-time MVP returned this year. However, the Anaheim skipper added that the team hasn’t made any official decision about shutting Trout down as of yet, as the 30-year-old continues to work out with the team in hopes of getting back onto the field.
There’s little reason for the Angels to push Trout unless he’s fully healthy. The team has had another lost season despite his best efforts and an MVP-caliber year from Shohei Ohtani. Over 146 plate appearances, Trout was hitting .333/.466/.624 with eight home runs. That’s not only the best offensive production of any player in the league with 100+ trips to the dish, it was on pace to be the best season of Trout’s illustrious career. His 191 wRC+ suggests he was ninety-one percentage points better than the league average hitter on a rate basis. Had he carried that over a full season, that’d have narrowly edged out his 2018 output (.312/.460/.628) for his best ever offensive work.
When healthy, Trout is arguably still the game’s best overall player. The Angels plan to make another run at contending in 2022, and having him at full strength next Opening Day will be the top priority. The nine-time All-Star would love to make it back for at least a couple games in order to kick off a normal offseason, but the team surely won’t take any chances with an injury that has already proven extremely troublesome.
Jo Adell will likely be penciled in alongside Trout in next year’s season-opening outfield. The Angels placed the former top prospect on the 10-day injured list due to a left abdominal strain, though, and Maddon suggested he’s probably not going to return this year (via Fletcher). The 22-year-old mashed at a .289/.342/.592 clip in Triple-A this season, although his big league output (.246/.295/.408 over 140 plate appearances) has been a bit below average.
Adell hasn’t yet produced much in the majors, but he’s taken steps to put his disastrous rookie season behind him. Adell made his MLB debut last year but hit only .161/.212/.266 while striking out in 41.7% of his first 132 plate appearances. His bottom line numbers in 2021 represent a significant improvement, and that’s come with some encouraging process developments. Adell has cut his strikeout rate from that untenable 2020 mark to a 22.9% figure that’s right in line with the league average. He’s improved his contact rate by nearly thirteen percentage points in the process.
There’s still more to iron out, to be certain. Adell continues to be highly aggressive at the dish, chasing pitches outside the strike zone at an alarming rate. That has contributed to a very low 5.7% walk percentage that’ll need to be improved upon if he’s to reach his full potential. But Adell has made demonstrable strides this season, and he’s not much older than many of the top college prospects from this summer’s draft class. (First overall pick Henry Davis, for instance, was born in September 1999, while Adell was born in April of the same year).
Fellow top prospect Brandon Marsh should continue to get everyday reps over this season’s final couple weeks in hopes of locking down a big league job in 2022. Juan Lagares, Taylor Ward and utility men Phil Gosselin, Jose Rojas and Kean Wong are among the other options to see time on the grass through the end of the year.