Nicky Delmonico’s journey from the time he entered professional baseball until he joined the White Sox is interesting enough to warrant the bullet point recap:
- Drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles, given a $1.525M signing bonus, which is particularly high for a player drafted in that round.
- Traded by Baltimore to Milwaukee on July 23, 2013 for closer Francisco Rodriguez.
- On July 28, 2014, it was announced that Delmonico was suspended 50 games for testing positive for amphetamine.
- Released by the Brewers on Feb. 6, 2015 after the organization had apparently lost contact with him. “We couldn’t contact him,” Brewers farm director Reid Nichols told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time. “He wouldn’t return calls. We couldn’t find him.”
- Signed by the White Sox shortly thereafter.
In the span of about five years, Delmonico has gone from someone who many were high on to an afterthought and borderline non-prospect.
Then-Baseball Prospectus prospect writer Kevin Goldstein ranked him as the fourth best prospect in Baltimore’s system prior to the 2012 season, behind Dylan Bundy, Manny Machado, and Jonathan Schoop. From Goldstein:
Delmonico certainly looks the part. He has size and plenty of associated power, showcasing easy plus power in high school. His arm is excellent, leading some to consider trying him as a catcher. He comes from a baseball family, with his father a legendary college coach, and comes into the game with outstanding makeup and baseball intelligence.
A year later he had fallen a bit, but was still ranked sixth in Baltimore’s system by BP. From Jason Parks:
Solid athlete; good present strength; projectable hitting ability; potential for 5/5 hit/power; mature approach for age; tracks well; has a plan at the plate; solid arm; gamer type.
Things, of course, came apart at the seams for Delmonico, so much so that he’s not among the Top 30 players in the White Sox system as ranked by MLBPipeline.com, and his name doesn’t appear once in BP’s write-up of their system this season.
This is not surprising, given where he’s been and how he’s performed during most of his first five years as a pro. Even if you set aside the questions surrounding his departure from Milwaukee — he explains what happened somewhat vaguely in this interview with our friends at FutureSox — he never rose above High-A in any stop with Baltimore or Milwaukee while not exactly tearing the cover off the ball.
Delmonico has gotten something of a second chance with the White Sox. After two years in the system, and enough improvement in 2016 to warrant promotion to Triple-A, he’s in major league camp as a non-roster invitee. And, for what it’s worth, he says this is the best he’s felt at any point in his career.
“This offseason I worked a lot with our hitting rover Mike Gellinger. He’s got me where I want to be and I’m feeling comfortable right now,” said Delmonico, who is 8-for-24 with a homer thus far this spring. “I’ve just grown up as a hitter. I feel like I’ve found my routine here.”
Hitting coach Todd Steverson said he’s liked what he’s seen out of Delmonico this spring, and believes his work ethic, strength, and development will help him succeed.
“There’s a point in your career where you start to get it,” Steverson said. “You start to understand the information that’s being given and how it correlates and how you can apply it to your game, and that’s starting to get to where he’s at. He’s heard enough information in his career to where he’s starting to apply the information.
“He’s looking good this spring, making a good impression, and the sky’s the limit in terms of what he can do.”
But in order for Delmonico to re-legitimize himself as a prospect and not just another NRI guy who had a hot spring, he’ll need to continue to show progress as a hitter, as well as find a position. There has been some questions about where he’d fit best, but he said he has found a comfort zone playing the corners, and manager Rick Renteria said he likes the flexibility he could potentially provide.
“Nicky’s been really impressive,” Renteria said. “You see him work inside the clubhouse with the guys. Obviously we feel that there’s a possibility of him playing some third, some first. I know last year he played a few games in the outfield, so we’re going to try to get him in the outfield also. But he’s done a nice job of coming in and showing a little taste of what he’s capable of.”
What he’s capable of is the question, of course. Right now, Delmonico remains a bit of an enigma. But while he’s off the radar for now in terms of his status as a prospect, he’s definitely on the White Sox radar.
Lead Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports