KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There are few questions about the glove or his ability to run the bases. But whether or not Adam Engel’s role in the White Sox future is a big one or as a reserve will boil down to hitting.
Engel continued one of his best offensive stretches of the season on Wednesday with a two-run double early in a 5-3 White Sox win over the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Over his last six games, Engel is batting .375/.400/.667 in 25 plate appearances.
It’s a nice respite for the center fielder after a lengthy slump that began in mid-August. But no matter the difficulties he’s facing, Engel — whose overall OPS is .585 this season — said he tries to separate the different aspects of the game and works to stay upbeat when it comes to hitting.
“I’ve had stretches where I hit really well and stretches where I haven’t,” Engel said. “I know every day I come to the yard the consistencies are going to be defense and base running. And then offensively, just get to work every day. Every day is a new day. Try not to let yesterday’s failures or successes dictate what’s going on today. I think that’s been a big part of trying to get back on track is just separating. Just because you have a tough day the day before, it’s not the end of the world.”
Engel has had plenty of success with his glove. He’s viewed as a plus-defender and can handle center field. Whether it’s robbing home runs or snagging hard liners on the run, Engel’s routes are superb.
But he hasn’t been nearly as consistent offensively. Prior to this stretch, Engel produced a .360 OPS over 82 plate appearances with 35 strikeouts. He struck out twice more on Wednesday, which brought his K-rate to 34.6 percent. Among all hitters with more than 200 plate appearances, Engel’s K-rate is the 11th-highest in baseball.
Manager Rick Renteria would love to give Engel a day to rest and work with hitting coach Todd Steverson, but the club doesn’t have that luxury with Leury Garcia and Willy Garcia on the disabled list. That has left Engel in a position to fend for himself on a daily basis and attempt to get positive results. With that in mind, Steverson said his focus with Engel has been simplified.
“The number one key is timing and pitch selection,” Steverson said. “When you’re struggling, that tends to be most of the issue. It’s at the highest level. Guys have good stuff. At the end of the day it comes down to pitch selection. Being on time and swinging at a good pitch. Physically, mechanically, that is what it is. I just want him to be ready for the opportunity of a mistake or something you can handle.”
Engel’s ability to defend has without question kept him in the lineup. Renteria also said he likes how Engel has worked as he tries to establish himself as a big-league hitter.
"He’s just trying to get comfortable with who he is,” Renteria said. “We still see him work extremely hard in trying to maintain an approach and a mechanical balance. As long as he’s here we’re going to give him every opportunity to give him as many at bats as possible.”
Engel has soaked up as much advice as possible from the coaching staff. His biggest takeaway is that everything revolves around confidence. Even though he’s struggled, Engel knew that by separating he has made an impact on the field and base paths. He also continues to believe he can hit and offer the White Sox another dimension that could lead to a larger role in the club’s future plans.
“It’s just staying confident throughout the whole thing,” Engel said. “Believing in yourself is huge, especially if you’re struggling.
“Any time you hit a tough stretch the biggest thing to be able to bounce back is to believe it’s coming around. If you’ve got to make adjustments here and there — but I think the biggest thing is not to lose confidence and keep pushing forward and eventually things will catch up.”