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Deep Dive: left field edition, part 3

Nicky Delmonico: his past, present and future with the White Sox

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins
Last Dance: Nicky Delmonico’s willing to throw his hat in the ring for a starting role in 2019’s Opening Day lineup.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the White Sox organization. Each position will be a four-part series:

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the White Sox organization. Each position will be a four-part series:

  1. Depth in the lower levels (Dominican through Kannapolis)
  2. Depth in the higher levels (Winston-Salem through Charlotte)
  3. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  4. Free-agent options at that position, plus sneak peeks into available players in the upcoming 2019 MLB Draft.

This article delves into the career of Nicky Delmonico through 2017, his most recent season with the White Sox, and what his future looks like in the Sox organization.

Nicky Delmonico — how did he get here?

Delmonico, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., was the 64th-ranked prep prospect in the 2011 MLB draft as a catcher/first baseman. The Baltimore Orioles subsequently grabbed him in the sixth round of that year’s MLB draft and, to lure him away from his verbal commitment to the Georgia Bulldogs, offered him a $1.525 million signing bonus that Delmonico couldn’t refuse.

Delmonico remained in the Orioles organization until July 23, 2013, when he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for closer Francisco Rodriguez. At the time of the trade, Delmonico was in High-A Frederick, hitting .243/.350/.469 for the Keys with 13 homers, 30 RBIs, 36 walks and 59 strikeouts in 226 at-bats. Delmonico struggled with his new team, A+ Brevard County, hitting .194/.333/.278 with no homers and 10 RBIs to finish the 2013 season.

To go back a bit, Delmonico had taken the prescription drug Adderall, which he had taken since high school days via prescription in order to combat ADHD. Adderall is an amphetamine, and as part of baseball’s drug-testing protocol, players are tested for amphetamines. Adderall is an accepted substance, as long as players make the league office aware they are taking it and provide the specific dosage.

Shortly after the 2013 season ended, Delmonico notified MLB that he would no longer be taking Adderall; however, he wasn’t aware of the side effects from withdrawal, and suffered horribly as a result (depression, fatigue, nausea). Thus, he resumed taking Adderall (but failed to notify MLB) during the 2014 season. Unsurprisingly, Delmonico was suspended from baseball for 50 games in July of that year, and didn’t return. He asked for, and was granted, his release by the Brewers so that he could seek treatment for his addiction.

Delmonico’s best minor league season came the following year, 2016, with hitting-unfriendly Birmingham, as he slashed an incredible .338/.397/.676 with 14 doubles, two triples, 13 homers and 31 RBIs in just 142 at-bats. As a result of his great start, Delmonico earned a promotion to Charlotte, where he slid a bit to .246/.320/.388 with seven homers and 30 RBIs.

In 2017, Delmonico played well enough at Charlotte to earn a promotion to the majors by slashing .262/.347/.421, with 12 homers, 45 RBIs, 46 walks (10.72%) and 73 strikeouts (17.02%). From August 1 to season’s end, Delmonico surprised the White sox by slashing .262/.373/.482 with nine homers, 23 RBIs, 23 walks (13.86%) and 31 strikeouts (16.87%) in 141 at-bats.

Delmonico with the White Sox in 2018

As good a season as 2017 was for Delmonico, it was just the opposite in 2018. His results fell off to begin the season, and to add injury to insult, he was placed on the DL on May 19 due to a fractured third metatarsal in his right hand. Delmonico returned to the White Sox on July 20 and played significantly better; however, his entire season overall was a major disappointment. For the season, Delmonico slashed just .215/.296/.373 with 11 doubles, five triples eight homers, 25 RBIs, 27 walks (8.49%) and 80 strikeouts (25.16%) in 284 at-bats.

Delmonico’s bWAR for 2018 was -0.7; factoring the FanGraphs estimate of $7.7MM for each point and his $555,000 salary for the year, his actual net value for the White Sox in 2018 was $-6 million.

Any WAR point Delmonico receives will be with the bat, as he simply doesn’t have the glove or range to be adequate on defense. While he played the vast majority of games in the minors at third base, he’s primarily played the corner outfield spots or first base in the majors. For the year, his offensive bWAR was -0.1 and his defensive bWAR was -0.6.

At bat in 2018, Delmonico’s performance versus fastballs was actually eerily similar (.259/.333/.418 slash line, 9.8 BB%, 14.9 K%) with to his standout season the year before (.250/.394/.400 slash, with 19.0 BB% and 14.0 K%), with the biggest difference in 2018 being a reduction in walks.

However, his performance against curveballs and other off-speed pitches tell a different story. In 2017, against those pitches, he slashed .262/.304/.600, with a 6.2 BB% and 24.6 K%; in 2018, he slipped to .149/.198/.307, with a 5.7 BB% and whopping 44.7%.

What does the future have in store for Delmonico in a White Sox uniform?

Delmonico could well be the starting left fielder to begin the season — at least until Eloy Jimenez earns his long-awaited promotion. The rest of the outfield corps, barring any trades, will be Adam Engel, Avi Garcia, Leury Garcia and Daniel Palka.

It’s difficult to envision Delmonico remaining on the White Sox’s active roster after Eloy’s call-up, unless the White Sox unexpectedly drop from a 13-man to 12-man pitching staff. If the Sox do indeed keep a 13-man staff, that obviously leaves just 12 position players. Assuming two catchers and five infielders (Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Yolmer Sanchez and Jose Rondon), that leaves five outfielders. Since Palka appears to be next year’s full-time DH, that leaves four other outfielders. Barring any non-tender surprises regarding both Garcías, Delmonico may be the odd man out, as the others (aside from Palka) are better defensively. Because he does have three options left, Delmonico could be demoted to Charlotte without having to clear waivers. Of course, a trade may occur during the offseason as well, which would give Delmonico an opportunity for more playing time going forward.