If Adam Engel only won the Arizona Fall League's batting title (full name: the EyePromise vizual EDGE PRO Batting Title Award), we could receive the news with a shrug. After all, Brent Morel joined the AFL as an emergency substitution and ended up winning the batting title.
But Engel won the league's MVP (full name: the Joe Black Most Valuable Player Award, which is better), as well, which means ... it's still indicative of small sample vagaries more than anything. However, the company is actually pretty stout, at least as of late:
2015: Engel, White Sox
- 2014: Greg Bird, Yankees
- 2013: Kris Bryant, Cubs
- 2012: Chris McGuiness, Rangers
- 2011: Nolan Arenado, Rockies
- 2010: Dustin Ackley, Mariners
- 2009: Grant Desme, Athletics
- 2008: Tommy Hanson, Braves
- 2007: Sam Fuld, Cubs
- 2006: Chip Cannon, Blue Jays
- 2005: Eric Duncan, Yankees
- 2004: Chris Shelton, Tigers
- 2003: Jason Dubois, Cubs
- 2002: Ken Harvey, Royals
Engel isn't Bryant or Arenado, but the floor of this group is fairly elevated. All but three players on that list have reached the majors, or two if you don't count Desme, who left baseball before the start of the following season to join the priesthood. Eric Duncan and Chip Cannon are the others, and I'm not convinced the latter is the name of a nonfictional human.
Engel might have more of an uphill climb than the others, as only Shelton and Hanson were taken later in the draft than the 19th-rounder. He hasn't yet reached Double-A because his hit tool lags behind the rest of his game. He has shown an ability to take a walk, and that might've helped tilt the AFL competition in his favor, as the pitchers tend to be more project than prospect.
Larry gave his assessment of Engel's progress last week:
In addition to the obvious ridiculously small sample size (71 PA), the pitching is weak in the AFL because pitchers who are actual prospects - barring special circumstances like injury - reached their innings cap for the year during the minor league season.
That said, you still don't slash .418/.535/.655 if you're Slapdick McSucky. And, to be even fairer to Engel, he is showing a broader skill set than Morel did. Engel plays a very good center field, in large measure because of his double-plus speed. The soon-to-be 24-year-old has used that speed on the basepaths to decent effect, too, swiping 8 bases in 12 tries. And while his .469 BABIP is quite silly, he is a guy who can leg out infield singles with ease. And take extra bases, too, as 11 of his 23 hits were for extra bases (9 doubles, 2 triples).
You probably noticed that all of those are essentially related to his elite speed. That is pretty much his only truly developed skill. He does have plus arm strength but the accuracy isn't always there. People allege that he has average raw power but I can't ever see him translating that into game power. Despite what .418 tries to tell you, he really can't hit.
Engel maintained that production through the rest of the season, hitting .403/.523/.642 line, with 16 walks to 11 strikeouts, which is damned good. It just doesn't jibe with the rest of his minor-league track record, and so caution must be exercised, if you're one to pay attention to these kinds of things.
He's been interesting since the Sox drafted him due to his wheels, as well as a sophomore season that hinted at a better hitter than the one the Sox drafted a year later. The AFL performance serves as a reminder for the latter, and all such reminders are welcome.
- SB Nation MLB Awards: Hitter of the Year voting
- SB Nation MLB Awards: Pitcher of the Year voting
- SB Nation MLB Awards: White Sox Defensive Play of the Year voting
- SB Nation MLB Awards: White Sox Celebration of the Year voting
- SB Nation MLB Awards: Unwritten Rule Violation of the Year voting
I'm going to close the polls for the SB Nation MLB Awards at the end of the day. Place your picks.
Tim Dierkes predicts that Jeff Samardzija's poor year with the White Sox won't cost him all that much money. A five-year, $80 million contract would be less than the extension he was reportedly offered by both Chicago clubs, but close enough that the extra, last-arb-year salary makes up some of the difference.
The Dodgers hired Dave Roberts as their choice to replace Don Mattingly. They cast a wide net in their search, and it came down to Roberts and Gabe Kapler. The latter would've made for great copy, although Ken Rosenthal said he thought it might not be for the best reasons:
I was worried about Kapler, with whom I worked at FS1 before he became the Dodgers’ farm director. Worried that players would perceive him as a puppet of the front office due to his close relationship with Andrew Friedman, the club’s president of baseball operations. Worried that he would fail to command the respect of veterans such as Clayton Kershaw and Adrian Gonzalez.
Roberts, too, will need to earn the players’ respect, but at least he’s coming from the outside. He is just as energetic as Kapler, just as positive, but somewhat of a more traditional choice and perhaps a better communicator. Kapler has strong opinions on everything from sabermetrics to diets. Roberts, to be sure, is his own man, but figures to be more restrained in his beliefs.
I don't know if Rosenthal's worst-case scenario for Kapler is entirely valid, in the sense that it's hard to be a puppet and possess potentially idiosyncratic core values.
David Robertson isn't mentioned in Nick Cafardo's column about potentially available closers, but if the Craig Kimbrel trade is a sign of things to come, the three years and $36 million left on his contract might be harder to qualify as a risk.