White Sox

White Sox: Everything starting to click for outfielder Adam Engel

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White Sox: Everything starting to click for outfielder Adam Engel

In this year’s Arizona Fall League, White Sox prospect Adam Engel has been doing his best Daniel Murphy impression.  

The 23-year old outfielder has watched everything suddenly click for him at the plate, hitting a league-best .403 with a home run, nine doubles, a triple and nine RBI. He’s also swiped 10 bases in 14 attempts. 

Engel has been known for his defensive play and tremendous speed (65 SB in Single-A in 2015), but the right-hander has finally discovered a game day routine that has helped his approach at the plate.

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“I’ve found something that I really like as far as a pregame routine to prepare for the game everyday,” Engel said. “It’s been nice to get my work in and have a consistent feel everyday and be confident in the way my swing is working so when I go into the game I can really lock into an approach rather than worry about how I’m swinging the bat.”

Drafted in the 19th round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the White Sox, the Louisville product hit just .251 in 136 games at Winston-Salem this year with seven home runs and 43 RBI. 

White Sox director of player development Nick Capra confirmed on a conference call on Tuesday that Engel, who was named the Arizona Fall League’s player of the week, would start 2016 with the Birmingham Barons in Double-A. For Engel, the promotion is one that is important in his path to the majors, beyond obvious reasons, and he hopes to draw from his success in the past few weeks when he heads to Birmingham.

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“I've heard multiple people say that if you can hit at Double-A, you have a good chance to hit anywhere," Engel said. "Me, coming from High-A, I've never been to Double-A, so I don't know exactly what the pitching looks like up there. Coming up here and being able to see these guys and see their stuff, having the ability to compete and have quality at-bats, it's definitely been a big confidence boost.”

Capra has watched the White Sox organization load up on young talented arms, so it’s refreshing for him to see a position player succeed. One of the keys to the progress of some of the hitters has been strike recognition. Capra believes some of the young hitters in the organization, like Engel, are starting to turn the corner and fully embrace the aggressive mindset at the plate. 

“It seems like we give a lot of at-bats away,” Capra said. “We give in to the pitchers by swinging at a lot of pitches we shouldn’t be swinging at. We’re offering at too many pitchers’ pitches. We’ve got to change that culture. We’re starting to do it. People are starting to buy in.”

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sunday marked the first surprise of White Sox spring training, courtesy of first baseman Jose Abreu.

“This year, I’m going to try to steal more bases,” Abreu said through a translator.

This might have sounded like a joke, but Abreu was completely serious.

On paper, he’s not exactly Rickey Henderson. In 614 career games, Abreu has only six stolen bases. However, the slimmed-down first baseman does have some sneaky speed. His six triples last season ranked third in the American League. So there are some wheels to work with.

“I like the challenge. I think that’s a good challenge for me. I’m ready for it,” Abreu said.

How many steals are we talking about? A reporter asked sarcastically if a 30-30 season is in the offing? Abreu didn’t exactly shoot down the possibility.

“Who knows? When you fill your mind with positive things, maybe you can accomplish them,” Abreu said. “The mind of a human being works in a lot of different ways. If you fill your mind with good things, good things are going to happen.”

The morning began with Abreu walking to the hitting cages with his Cuban compadres Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, who the White Sox signed last summer. He held his first workout on Sunday. At the White Sox hitters camp last month, Moncada took Robert under his wing, showing him the ropes, even telling Ricky Renteria, “I got him.”

But Sunday, Abreu was in charge, holding court with the three of them in the cage. Abreu watched closely as Robert hit off a tee, giving him pointers about his swing.

“I just like to help people,” Abreu said. “When I started to play at 16 in Cuba, I had a lot people who hounded me to get better. At the same point, I want to give back things that I’ve learned and pass that along to other people. That’s what I’m doing. I’m not expecting anything else. I’m just glad to help them and get them better.”

What kind of advice has he passed along to Robert?

“Since I came to this country, I learned quickly three keys to be a success: Be disciplined, work hard and always be on time. If you apply those three keys, I think you’re going to be good. Those are the three keys I’m trying to teach the new kids, the young guys,” Abreu said.

Abreu lost about 10 pounds during the offseason. He said he hopes to learn more English in 2018. He also arrived at spring training sporting a scruffy beard which he grew while he was in Cuba so he “could be incongnito.”

Abreu likes his new look. Moncada thinks he should shave it off.

“If the organization doesn’t say anything, I’m just going to keep it,” Abreu said.

Well, so much for that.

Moments after Abreu spoke with the media, Renteria told reporters that Abreu will have to “clean it up a bit.”

The two will find a compromise. Come to think of it, maybe Abreu and the White Sox should do the same about a contract extension in the near future.

Yes, he’ll be 33 when his contract expires in two years, but there have been no signs of a decline with his performance. Instead, Abreu is only getting better both offensively and defensively.

Heck, now he wants to steal bases, too.

After Renteria, Abreu is the leader of this team. He commands ultimate respect inside the clubhouse. He’s become another coach to Moncada, Robert and others. He’s a huge brick in the present and too big of an influence and cornerstone to not have around in the future.

“I hope to play my entire career in the majors with the White Sox,” Abreu said Sunday. “But I can’t control that.”

At some point, a decision will have to be made whether to keep Abreu or trade him. In the meantime, ask yourself this question: What will bring more value to the White Sox, getting a high-end prospect or two in return not knowing if they’ll ever succeed in the majors? Or keeping your best player, the heart and soul of your team, allowing him to show your future stars the way while they’re developing in the major leagues?

Seems like an easy decision to me.