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Tyler Saladino hits DL; Adam Engel gets a shot

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Speedy center fielder overcomes slow start for first crack at majors

Adam Engel

Tyler Saladino’s back had limited him to just two games over the last 10 days, and even then, he couldn’t get halfway through Friday night’s game against Detroit. With a doubleheader today, the White Sox decided against the short bench and placed Saladino on the disabled list with back spasms.

Under other circumstances, this could have been a potential Wally Pipping with Yoan Moncada. But with Moncada just coming of the DL at Charlotte and still dealing with a sore thumb, the Sox had cover to look elsewhere, and so they tapped Adam Engel for his first exposure to the majors.

Judging Engel from his season line — .221/.313/.448, 26.7 percent strikeout rate — one might question his worthiness. However, he hasn’t really looked like that kind of hitter at any point over the first month and a half at Charlotte. His season can be divided into two chunks:

  • First 12 games: .068/.176/.068, 30.8% K over 52 PA
  • Last 30 games: .286/.370/.629, 24.8% K over 121 PA

He has a whopping eight homers, which is surprising for his history, and it’s not entirely aided by BB&T Ballpark. He has five of those dingers at home, but his road OPS is three points higher (.776 to .773). At the same time, he’s just 3-for-6 in basestealing after swiping as many as 64 bags a couple years ago, so he has turned his whole offensive profile on its head.

The strikeout rate — partially due to a decent batting eye that gets him into deep counts — might be exploited in the majors, but a few starts could give everybody an idea of what he’s going to need to do to finish developing. In the meantime, while he’s not a direct replacement for Saladino on the depth chart, he’s now the Sox’ best defensive center fielder, which frees up Leury Garcia for reps at second base if Yolmer Sanchez doesn’t take them all.

That Engel deserves this cup of coffee is another point for the White Sox’ development staff. The White Sox selected him out of Louisville in the 19th round of the 2013 draft, where he was considered a speed-and-defense player whose lack of a hit tool might be a fatal flaw. The swing-and-miss in his game still might be what keeps him from being anything more than a fourth or fifth outfielder, but this news still should chip away at the “don’t draft athletes” stigma a little, even if the failures loom larger.