One of the most pressing questions about Major League Baseball's upcoming season is how young players will develop after last year's unusual and potentially disruptive campaign. The lack of a minor-league season because of COVID-19 concerns left prospects in an awkward position: most had to train on their own, while those who were able to attend their teams' alternate sites were exposed to a different kind of training regiment (a few were even permitted to play in the majors before they would have otherwise, seemingly in an attempt to get them valuable reps against actual opponents).
The rank-and-file prospects weren't the only ones impacted. Some of the biggest names in the scouting world, Jo Adell and Casey Mize included, had (understandably) poor or otherwise disappointing rookie seasons. Still, while we have empathy for any player who found it hard to perform at their best last year, the world of baseball writing and analysis demands that we dissect their lackluster seasons and divine What It Means for them heading forward. Below, you'll find said analysis for four notable youngsters who struggled in 2020. (Note: the players are presented in alphabetical order.)
1. Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels
What was supposed to happen: Adell gives the Angels another dynamic talent, and wins the Rookie of the Year Award en route to a playoff berth.
What did happen: Adell hit .161/.212/.266 with 48 more strikeouts than walks in 38 games. (He didn't win any hardware and the Angels didn't make the postseason.)
What's next: Adell seems certain to open the year in the minors. The Angels have spent the winter restocking their outfield depth chart by trading for Dexter Fowler and signing non-roster types like Juan Lagares, Scott Schebler, and Jon Jay. Those players are bandaids, not long-term solutions, but they should enable the Angels to play it slower with Adell than they had to last season.
Between now and that indeterminable date, Adell has a lot to work on. He struggled with pitch recognition, fishing after too many pitches below the zone and even looking uncomfortable on takes. He didn't show good bat-to-ball skills, either, and his 64.6 in-zone contact rate ranked 467th out of 475 players with at least 25 trips to the plate. Predictably, Adell tinkered with his swing in an attempt to find something that worked; nothing took: his .505 OPS in August was superior to his .437 OPS in September.