It's not the most interesting offseason in White Sox prospectdom, given that there aren't any big-time prospects playing fall/winter ball. But here's a recap of all you need to know about the Arizona Fall League.
The AFL is heading into its final week. Unfortunately, with the Glendale Desert Dogs 3.5 games back in their division, it looks like we're not going to get the chance to see them on TV. However, the baseball public did get a chance to see a couple White Sox prospects in the AFL Fall Stars Game. If you missed it, that's okay! I watched it so you didn't have to.
CF Adam Engel is getting attention because he's leading the AFL in batting average with a .418/.535/.655 line and a 9.9% strikeout rate against a 18.3% walk rate. Before you get all excited, just remember that Brent Morel won the AFL batting title at the same stage in his development as Engel is at now. 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.
With that lengthy preamble, what Adam Engel is was on display in the Fall Stars Game. He went 2-3 with a couple walks, a strikeout and a stolen base. It sounds impressive but it largely wasn't. He led off the game striking out to Sean Manaea, who is a very legit starting pitcher prospect. The two walks were against guys whose best hope is probably to be LOOGYs in the majors and, regardless, they didn't really appear to want much to do with pitching to the right-handed Engel.
The two hits were groundballs up the middle that weren't hit particularly hard and didn't leave the infield. A better defensive pitcher would've gotten one of them. Once they got through, though, there was no doubt that Engel would reach base. He's basically four seconds flat from home to first base, which is superb from a righty. It was nice to see him hit the ball up the middle, as he can get pull-happy but, as we know a hitter largely can't control exactly where a ball is hit, a few feet either way and those would just be groundball outs.
The part that was impressive was after he reached on the first of those infield singles. Engel then stole second easily and, on a passed ball, showed good baserunning acumen to take third. He later scored on a sacrifice fly.
While that was a one game sample size, I didn't see much of anything that suggested a change in approach is happening. More saliently, the scouting reports out of the AFL aren't lauding any change in approach, either. Engel says he's trying to be less aggressive and more selective. That's a pretty pat line, though, that's more often heard to explain results rather than cause them. Still looks like a guy who has an outside chance as a 4th outfielder.
The other prospect who played in the game was Robin Leyer, who faced the final batter of the game. The righty threw three pitches, all of them fastballs around 97 MPH, inducing a pop out with the last one. The 22-year-old could've faced more batters but, most likely, he would've thrown them all fastballs around 97 MPH. That's pretty much what he does. Overall in the AFL: 7 G, 7 IP, 10 H, 15.2% K rate, 6.1% BB rate.
Other White Sox in the AFL:
- RHP Brandon Brennan: 5 G, 4 GS, 15 IP, 17 H, 15.7% K rate, 9.7% BB rate.
- RHP Peter Tago: 8 G, 7.2 IP, 5 H, 22.2% K rate, 12.5% BB rate.
- LHP Andre Wheeler: 4 G, 5 IP, 7 H, 21.9% K rate, 10.0% BB rate.
- RHP J.B. Wendelken: 4 G, 2.2 IP, 8 H, 23.5% K rate, 5.9% BB rate. Has since moved on to playing for Team USA in the Premier 12 Tournament.
- 3B Trey Michalczewski: In 32 PA, .233/.281/.300 with a 37.5% K rate, 6.3% BB rate.
- 2B Jake Peter: In 45 PA, .289/.400/.342 with a 15.6% K rate, 13.3% BB rate.
- 3B Nicky Delmonico: In 55 PA, .130/.186/.241 with a 25.4% K rate, 5.1% BB rate.