Over the next couple of months, I’m going to take a stab at projecting some outcomes for White Sox players likely to be on the 2021 roster this spring. This will include the franchise cornerstones, players on the 40-man roster that had a cup of coffee in 2020 or are expected to contribute in ’21, and eventually new additions to the roster as we make our way through the rest of the winter.
You can expect to see a new player featured roughly once every other (unless the news cycle warrants a greater delay) day from now until spring training, which is tentatively slated to kick off in mid-February when pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch.
Each edition of this project will feature a snapshot of the player’s 2020 season, compiled projections from sources such as ZiPS and FanGraphs’ Steamer projections, and conclude with some of my own thoughts and projections on the player.
We’ll continue things today with Adam Engel. You can check out previous entries in this project at the bottom of this story.
Adam Engel has been a regular on the major league roster for much of the past four seasons, a role that hasn’t always suited him well. Engel played 97 games in 2017, 143 in 2018, and 89 games in 2019 before finally settling into a reserve role behind Nomar Mazara in 2020.
To largely no part of his own, Engel’s limited abilities being forced into starting/platoon roles in his first three seasons in Chicago has always resulted in a limited player being over-exposed to opposing pitching and ending with fans being borderline enraged with his output.
In 2020 he was able to be deployed as a starter only when facing left-handed pitching, and a late-innings defensive replacement and pinch-runner, and as you’ll see in the table below, he saw success in that role.
Engel posted an OPS of .810 and compiled a 122 wRC+ over the course of 93 plate appearances, and was a pleasant change of pace whenever he got the nod over Nomar Mazara, if for no other reason that Mazara’s putrid offensive output every other day.
Compiled 2021 Projections
In both Dan Szymborski’s Zips model and FanGraphs’ Steamer model, Engel is seen as a player that plays a significant amount of time that is more on par with his 2017-19 role with the White Sox.
This would be an event that came as a result of the White Sox punting on filling the right field void with a legitimate everyday player in 2021, and one that wouldn’t suit Engel well, once again.
Both projections have Engel moving back towards his career numbers in OPS (.619), BABIP (.303), wRC+ (68), and fWAR (0.2-0.8), which makes perfect sense if the club decides to over-expose Engel again in 2021 in lieu of acquiring a full-time right fielder.
ZiPS 2021 Projections
FanGraphs 2021 Projections (Steamer)
Simply put, if the White Sox plan on using Engel as an everyday player, he’s going to regress towards his career offensive numbers, and White Sox fans won’t feel so warm and fuzzy about him as they did this past summer when he was a refreshing drink of cold water that saved us from Nomar Mazara.
2020 wasn’t a preview of things to come for Adam Engel the everyday player, but more of a reminder of what they were doing wrong with their lineup construction over the previous three years.
Engel is a fine defensive outfielder, and he can hit when he’s deployed in the right situations, but he’s just simply not an everyday guy.
If the plan is to acquire a true everyday right fielder for the 2021 roster, Engel will serve just fine as the roving fourth outfielder for the White Sox, spelling at various outfield positions, serving as a late-game defensive replacement, and handling pinch-running duties.
That, in my opinion, is the best use of Adam Engel for the 2021 edition of this team. But, that’s not the only path to success for Engel next season.
The second — and possibly more likely — scenario for Engel would be to use him in the exact fashion in which he was used in 2020, as a platoon player against left-handed pitching.
Check out Adam Engel’s career wOBA versus both left-handed and right-handed pitchers below:
The wOBA drops from significantly .297 to .258 when facing right-handed pitching throughout his career, and his strikeout rate spikes from 23.7 percent to 32.7 percent as well. In 342 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, Engel has 82 hits versus just 150 hits in nearly 800 plate appearances against right-handers.
If the White Sox enlisted the services of a hitter that’s competent against right-handed pitching this winter, they’ll see the best results from Adam Engel being limited to starts against southpaw starters and pinch-hit appearances against left-handed relievers later in ballgames.
For Adam Engel, it’s simple — don’t overexpose him.
Previous 2021 Projections