How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Adam Engel

I know that you don’t want to talk about this player, I can’t believe I’m even having thoughts in this man’s defense. We all wanted so desperately to only hear his name while talking about the terrible players that started during the rebuild years, but he’s still here. His name … is Adam Engel.

I’m talking about him because Nomar Mazara has been placed on the 10-day IL and we’re trying to figure out who will start in right field on opening day. Consider yourself lucky; of all the players that we could be missing when the season starts Mazara was never your superstar or X-factor. He was just the best option in a place where the White Sox weren’t completely lacking depth. He may not be one of those hard-to-watch defenders in the outfield, but he’s yet to put up a positive dWAR in a season and his offense has always been more enticing based on his upside and handedness than his actual production.

Without him we are left with three choices: Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, and Nicky Delmonico.

Nicky Delmonico sounds nice: his swing looks sexy on highlight videos, he’s left-handed, and he looks like a ballplayer. Examine your biases though- would you give him a second thought if he swung from the other side of the plate? Aren’t you more interested in him because he has that classic smiley kid-having-fun baseball face? I know Chuck Garfien has been going on about how his down years may have been plagued by injury, but it has now been three years since Delmonico being at the plate was exciting. The home run against the Brewers was thrilling, but it came against opposite handed pitching. If you are taking summer camp home runs as evidence how is that better than Engel’s home run against Hendricks- a same-sided pitcher with a better history than Grimm- that nearly hit Waveland? It’s not- it just looked awesome. That’s Nicky- looks so great when he succeeds that it seems right even though the results disagree.

Leury Garcia feels like he’s earned it. Among all the rebuild-era players he was never one of the embarrassing ones. The batting average was there when he was healthy and he got to be the example of skills an outfielder had when Outfielder Jump was revealed as a statistic by baseball savant. His versatility is also valuable to an organization, he fills a lot of holes when it comes to outfield or infield depth. But like Adam Engel, his career rWAR is mostly made up from his 2019 season. He may be a switch hitter, but his platoon splits are very much like those of a typical right-handed batter.

  • Career: .243/.283/.350 against RHP, .285/.311/.372 against LHP
  • 2019: .264/.294/.348 against RHP, .311/.344/.443 against LHP

For a while, this offense was enough to best Adam Engel offensively, but it’s gotten harder and harder. Adam Engel, while not exciting against right-handed pitching by any means, has made steady improvement each year that he’s been in the bigs.

  • 2017: .166/.235/.282 OPS+ 40
  • 2018: .235/.279/.336 OPS+ 69
  • 2019: .242/.304/.383 OPS+ 83

Obviously it wasn’t hard to best his disastrous 2017 offensive output, but a glove-first center fielder can hold his own with last year’s offensive production. Probably not as a starter, but as your fourth outfielder? I’m actually very OK with it. It’s hard to say even now for me, I dreaded those Engel at-bats the past few years. I just have more faith in a player who’s made steady improvement as opposed to ones with random flashes of potential. I know he’s going to see more right-handed starters against Minnesota and Cleveland these first 10 days, but the production against lefties has actually been worth watching

  • Career vs LHP: .252/.298/.381
  • 2019 vs LHP: .313./.360/.482

Even if I can’t convince you that Adam Engel is the best offensive choice among the three, you can’t say that there’s one that stands clearly atop the rest. And while offense is the most valuable aspect of the game, defense and baserunning are still important. I don’t need any numbers here, even if they all tell the same story. If you think that Leury or Nicky are more valuable in those categories, then your Engel fatigue is just too strong for rationale.

It’s only a 10-day IL stint, a sample size so small that we’ll never fully have the results to justify what the best choice for playing time should have been.

What I can tell you is this: as much as you hate or hated Adam Engel, he’s actually a decent fourth outfielder to have. That’s the guy you want giving your regulars days off and being first off the bench when there’s an injury gap to fill.

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
As Cirensica

Excellent article. I don’t hate Engel. I think he is valuable off the bench as he can come in the late innings, replace one of the starters and make your team better at something (defense, base-running)…something that might not be true for the other two.

shaggy65

I’ve felt for the last two years that Engel is unappreciated and I still do. His defense is unquestioned and he’s even worked to improve the strength of his throws. His bat has always had some upside–he has an AFL MVP award, his bat speed looks good, and his home runs have never felt like cheapies.

It looks to me like the org would rank these players 1) Leury 2) Nicky 3) Adam and I think that is a mistake. I like them all for different reasons, but I think Engel has both the highest floor and the highest ceiling. He should absolutely play any time we face a left-hander, even after Mazara comes back.