Leading up to Day 1 of the MLB Draft on June 12, we will be conducting Q&A interviews with many prospects who are projected to be first-rounders. For a complete listing of these interviews, click here.
Next is outfielder Jordon Adell from Ballard HS in Louisville, Kentucky. Adell had a monster season for Ballard, hitting .562 with 25 home runs and being named Gatorade’s player of the year in Kentucky. The 6-foot-3, 205 lb. former pitcher is committed to Louisville.
Adell is will go in the first half of the first round, with Baseball America (14th-Royals), ESPN (9th-Brewers), and MLB.com (9th-Brewers or 13th-Marlins) all having him off the in the top 15. Be sure to check out Adell’s full scouting report over at SB Nation’s Minor League Ball.
At what point did you start playing baseball and realize you loved the game?
“When I first moved to Louisville about 11 years ago, I was one of those kids that played every sport.I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Then baseball season rolled around and, this is around the age of 7, I was really excited to play and be on the field. Whatever it was, practice, games, any of that. That was just really exciting to me. I had some natural abilities on the field. I could have really good hand speed and a really good arm. It was more than that, it was that I just loved being out there and being on the dirt.
Growing up, which team was your favorite? Any favorite players?
“I didn’t really have a favorite team. Jeter was one of my favorites, just because he was one of those guys who you knew would always impact the game in some type of way, no matter how it was. Offensively or defensively, that’s just fun to watch. You love watching the clutch players at that age. He was my guy for sure.”
For you, was there a turning point moment when you realized you could potentially be a first-round pick?
“Towards the middle of my 16U season, I was playing with the Evoshield Canes and was hanging with a lot of the guys on the national stage. At that point, I just realized that if I continued to work and continued to put my head down and grind it out, this was a possibility for me. Pro baseball was possible for me if I just put the work in. Obviously now, it’s here so it’s very humbling.”
You’re committed to your hometown school at Louisville? What led to that decision?
“For me, it honestly wasn’t even the distance. Obviously, I’m 10 minutes away from campus but for me, it was more the coaching staff and the feel that I got when I was there. Coach [Dan] McDonnell has unbelievable character with the way he goes about coaching the players and running the program. You can see what they’re doing. [Pitching coach] Roger Williams as well, when I committed I was more of a two-way player than just an outfielder, so him being the pitching coach there had a lot of draw for me just because of all the great pitchers he has come through and his knowledge of how to work with guys and how to develop pitches. Definitely both of those reasons were reasons I committed and my parents were excited to potentially come watch me play.”
A big part of your game is power, as you had 25 homers this season. Where does that power come from?
“It was when I was younger, my dad would always tell me, ‘whatever you do, swing hard.’ Just moving my hands through the zone as fast as I can. Obviously, that took while to really polish and tame that hand speed, but I was glad that every time I picked up the bat, I wasn’t trying to baby-tap the ball. I was trying to move my hands through the zone violently with great intent. I’ve done that my whole life and that’s kind of how I’ve trained my brain. That’s where it all started.”
Big-time power guys often struggle with swing-miss potential. What is your plan moving forward to not be one of those boom or bust types in the pros?
“I think the big thing for me is just pitch selection. I’ve done a tremendous job of that the past couple years, and that all comes with at-bats. Being a two-way player on the national team, sometimes you don’t get all the at-bats that you want. Once I really committed to playing just outfield only and doing that for close to a year and a half, my comfort at the plate and the discipline of knowing where the zone is has just gone through the roof. I can really control this hand speed that I have. I’m swinging with great intent really fast through the zone but I’m also able to control it. I also know where the zone is. That’s really just the big part, to put your best swing behind it. Trusting in that I know the zone and not getting too excited at the plate. I’ve really felt comfortable in having done that. That’s really the two things, really controlling the hand speed and knowing the zone.”
A few guys in this draft are big-time two-way players, with Brendan McKay and Hunter Greene at the top of the board. What went into your decision to focus on outfield and in the future, is there any possibility that you get back to pitching?
“I feel like I can bring more to the table as an outfielder. I can cover a lot of ground and have really good foot speed, plus talent at the plate and arm strength. If I need to get back on the mound, I could definitely do that. I’ve done that my whole life, ever since kid-pitch started. For me, that would be my last resort. I love being part of the game every day. I love getting up, getting in the cage and getting my work in. Getting my tee work in, outfield drills... I love all of that. If I have to get back on the mound, I can do it, but I definitely want to focus on hitting and running the outfield.”
Your dad played football at N.C. State and your sister was a collegiate softball and track star. What advice have they given you throughout this process?
“Just knowing that I’m in a win-win situation. My dad always tells me that. My mom, dad and sister are all college-educated, so they understand the college experience and how important that is, but they also understand that it’s such a good fallback plan for me. If things don’t go the way we intend for them to go, that college route is something they’ve all experienced and know that I can do and be successful with. Their thing is to relax and enjoy, just to soak it in. I’m definitely gonna do that.”
What factors will play into your decision to either go pro or end up at Louisville?
“It’s situational. Obviously I have a family number that I’d want to meet, but it’s gonna be more about if I feel comfortable with the team I’m with and comfortable with the situation I’m about to get in. If that’s the case, I’m definitely gonna go for it. I’d love to play ball, to wake up every morning and have that be my job. It’s definitely gonna be based on situation and whichever team I feel is the right fit for me, when that decision comes.”
I read a Sporting News article about you over the weekend, and a huge part of that was your goal to help Major League Baseball with its diversity efforts. In the future, how do you think MLB should attempt to reach more people in the African-American community?
“I think it’s just the education part of it more than anything. I don’t think it’s necessarily forcing a whole bunch of leagues or people to be forced into playing baseball or anything. I think you just have to educate the families on the opportunities that the game has for all minorities and everyone. Everyone who wants to play should feel like they have the opportunity to be successful in this. Honestly, for most of the African-American population, as I see it, it’s basketball or football. Those are the two that they see. When they turn the channel and watch Major League Baseball, they don’t see a lot of people that look like them. They don’t see that as being an opportunity. They take what they see as, ‘nah, they don’t look like me so I can’t make it.’ That’s where we just have to educate those families, and really everyone, that you can make it in this game and be successful. It doesn’t matter what you look like, the color of your skin, any of that. I go and talk to my mom’s school. She’s a principal at a middle school downtown. I go talk to those guys, whether football players, basketball players or baseball players... all of them. I just explain, ‘look at me. I’m 6-foot-3, 205 lbs. You think I should be a wide receiver or running up and down the court, but I’m not. I play baseball just because I love the game. I’m educated enough to know that if things go the way they should for me and I work hard enough, I can be successful in this. You can’t be close-minded when it comes to sports and what you think the only opportunity is for you. You have to look out and do what you want. Be confident in yourself. That’s really the big thing that I’m interested in promoting, just that you have to do what you want to do and know that in baseball, you can be successful no matter what you look like.”
This year was a monster season for you, with a .562 average and 25 homers. What was that ride like for you?
“Unfortunately, it ended early. We lost first round of districts. It was pretty awesome. I went to every game this high school season knowing I would probably get a pitch or two to do something with. I was able to do it. If I got a pitch in the zone that I was able to handle, I made great contact with it pretty much every single time. That just kind of shows the work that I’ve put in myself with just making it a point that I’m gonna square these pitches up. If I get a pitch in the zone I can handle, I’m not gonna get beat by it. I did get my share of walks, too, though. I walked 35 or so times. The big thing for me going into the season was to not worry about who was watching the games and just controlling what I could control. At the plate, I wasn’t gonna get beat. Just having the best at-bats I could have, looking for pitches I could square up and squaring them up. If I didn’t, try to get a walk and then steal second.”
What’s your biggest strength as a player?
“I’d definitely say a mix between my power at the plate and my speed. Really more my ability to cover ground. It’s definitely a tie between those two.”
What’s the part of your game you want to improve upon the most at the next level?
“Base-stealing. That’s one that I want to be able to focus on. You can always get better with that. ZYou can always get better jumps. That’s something I want to key in on.”
Who’s your comp in the major leagues?
“I would say a mix between Adam Jones and Byron Buxton. I don’t think I have an exact comp, I think that those two really resemble what I want to do on the field.”
What are your expectations going into Monday? Any goals as to where you want to fall?
“No, it’s more of a fit thing for me. I want to be in a situation where a team has me as their guy. Like they want Jordan to be their guy. That’s really want you want out of this. I don’t want to just be a haircut, or next on the board. I want to see someone with Jo on the top of their board who is excited to get him. That’s really the only thing. Obviously that doesn’t happen all the time, but that would be a pretty cool experience to be no. 1 on someone’s board and have them jump up and celebrate because they got the player they wanted all along. We’ll see. I’m excited to be there in New York and we’ll see what happens.”