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White Sox Season in Review: Adam Engel, Nicky Delmonico

Over the next few weeks, BP South Side will be reviewing the performance of all 51 players who suited up for the 2017 White Sox. Players whose seasons were particularly noteworthy will get their own standalone article, while smaller contributors or those who were traded/cut will be grouped together. We’ll do our best to summarize and analyze what each player brought to this year’s club, what we learned, didn’t learn, and what it all means for his future with the team.

Adam Engel and Nicky Delmonico mirror each other in many ways — long shots (Engel a 19th rounder, Delmonico on his second organization after a trip to rehab) whose performances outshone their pedigree, hoping that their one obvious strength (Engel’s athleticism, Delmonico’s hitting ability) played up enough to mask their clear drawbacks (Engel’s bat, Delmonico’s glove).

In other words, the sorts of guys you don’t mind giving some playing time to in a rebuilding year.

It went pretty well for Delmonico. At a high level, he graded out at about a win above replacement in 166 plate appearances according to the various metrics, which is pretty good! He achieved his .295 tAV in a fairly promising manner, with a 13.9 percent walk rate and 18.7 percent strikeout rate, each on the good side of league average, and a .277 BABIP, while not embarrassing himself in left field (FRAA even has him above average in the field). Even assuming some regression, that start ought to be enough to get him an extended look in left field in 2018. Not bad, for a guy who didn’t make the BP Annual last year.

Looking at the details, though, it was a lot better than “not bad.” It’s a mistake to presume we know players, especially young ones, but it’s hard to be anything other than excited for a guy who beat addiction having one of the best starts to a career of any player in franchise history; it’s even harder given Delmonico’s friendly, telegenic air and clear excitement to be in the bigs. It remains to be seen if he can really stick in left, or if the bat is for real, but he’ll always have this second half. Given where he started, he might have done better relative to expectations than anyone in the organization this year.

It didn’t go so well for Engel, however. The metrics liked the defense less than the eye test did, as he was below average by DRS, UZR, and FRAA (though above average according to MLBAM’s new catch probability/outs above average stats). There wasn’t any dispute about the quality of his offense; a tAV of .199 and a nearly 35 percent K rate tends to remove all doubt.

The all-in-one metrics had him slightly below replacement, and that seems about right. It’s not a guarantee that he’ll improve with the bat, but it’s not unlikely, either — he doesn’t have the profile of a guy who’d be locked in immediately, and you’d expect a BABIP uptick (.247 isn’t sustainable for anyone, much less a burner like Engel). He probably needs to figure it out quickly, or he risks losing a step on defense (a real concern for a guy turning 26 whose carrying tool is his speed), getting overtaken by a different White Sox project, or both.

If he can fend off Leury Garcia et al. for playing time, and more plate appearances help him improve as they have at other levels, and those improvements give him a little boost on offense, then he’s probably a decent, glove-heavy fourth outfielder for the next few years. That’s not a sexy outcome, and he will have to improve to get there, but it’s still pretty good for a 19th rounder. And hey, 336 PA would have been DeWayne Wise’s career high.

Lead Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

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