Considering the hand they have been dealt with injuries and inclement weather to begin this season, the White Sox have more than held their own. Especially as of late, the bats and pitching came together at the right time during the Texas and Detroit series. Keeping the lineup afloat without stud hitter Eloy Jimenez has been no small feat, but at least reinforcements will be coming shortly.
Adam Engel has yet to make his 2021 season debut following a hamstring injury in Spring Training. His return to the roster will be greatly welcomed following a much improved 2020 season at the plate. Engel wasn’t much of a threat at the plate in his 2017-2019 seasons on the South Side, but last season he amassed three homers, 12 RBIs, and an OPS of .811 across 93 plate appearances. He even hit a clutch home run in the first game of last season’s Wild Card series against the A’s. Even when his bat is cold, he is valuable due to his Gold Glove-caliber defense.
Even with Yermin Mercedes bursting onto the scene and Andrew Vaughn proving to be a capable left fielder, there will still be room in the lineup for Engel, who will presumably replace Jake Lamb or Billy Hamilton on the 26-man roster.
In games where he doesn’t start, he can serve as a late-inning defensive substitute for Andrew Vaughn in left field. Engel displays similar speed and arguably better fielding than Billy Hamilton, who is currently serving in this role. And there’s no need to mention who has the upper hand with hitting, as the advantage is clearly with Engel. Engel checks all of the boxes over Hamilton.
Engel will also have plenty of opportunities to start. He is capable of spelling Luis Robert in centerfield and Vaughn in left field when either need a breather or doubleheaders arise. With Robert likely to spend time on the shelf after suffering a right hip flexor injury on Sunday, Engel will immediately have a chance to start in center. The biggest opportunity for him to crack Tony La Russa’s starting nine long-term, however, will be in right field when the Sox face a left-handed starting pitcher.
Adam Eaton has provided a much-needed spark to the lineup as a newcomer this season. As of Friday, he owned a solid 117 OPS+. However, his numbers vary significantly on the handedness of the opponent’s pitcher. He’s been exceptional against righties to the tune of a .284/.368/.507 slash line with all three of his home runs. But lefties have gotten the best of Eaton so far this season, as he has a .067/.125/.067 slash line against southpaws. Woof.
Conversely, Engel’s numbers against lefties from last season were .303/.343/.424. An Adam/Adam platoon in right field could be an intriguing option for La Russa.
However he makes his way on the diamond, Engel will certainly make an impact on a White Sox team struggling to find quality depth. He figures to be a shot in the arm for a White Sox team with World Series aspirations.