BOZICH | Next former Louisville player to Major Leagues? Adam Engel
Who will be the next former University of Louisville baseball player to grind his way to the major leagues? Former Cards' outfielder Adam Engel is making his case with the White Sox.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WDRB) – Five former University of Louisville baseball players have performed in the major leagues this season.
The floor is open to nominate the next guy who will make it to The Show.
Here’s my pick: Adam Engel, center fielder from the Cardinals’ 2013 College World Series team.
Check Friday’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet. Engel ranked fifth in all the minor leagues.
Check the statistics in the Class AA Southern League: Engel ranks first in triples (nine), third in runs scored (56) and fourth in stolen bases (31 of 40) – and that’s after missing nearly three weeks during a demotion to A ball in May.
Check how Engel, 24, has performed in the Birmingham Barons’ last dozen games. On Saturday Engel extended his hitting streak to 12, batting ..393 while scoring 15 runs with seven doubles and three triples.
Not bad for a former high school defensive back/quarterback who took a scholarship from Dan McDonnell and Louisville over a football offer from Bret Bielema and Wisconsin because the Cardinals offered first.
“Adam is going to be something special to watch in the coming years,” said Ryan Newman, the Barons’ manager.
“He can play at the major league level on defense. He’s got to fine-tool a couple things offensively.”
If it happens in 2016 – and the White Sox could certainly promote him in September – Engel would join Adam Duvall (Reds’ outfielder), Dean Kiekhefer (Cardinals’ relief pitcher), Chad Green (Yankees’ starter), Cody Ege (Marlins’ reliever) and Tony Zych (Mariners’ reliever) as former Cards who have played in the major leagues this season.
(For the record, the Marlins have returned Ege to Class AAA and the Mariners placed Zych on the 60-day disabled list).
But Engel said he is not thinking about which player the White Sox will settle on as their next center fielder if the franchise decides that Austin Jackson won’t return.
“When you start thinking about promotions, you put pressure on you where there shouldn’t be pressure or things of that nature,” Engel said. “For me personally, I just try to come to the park every day and just maximize my time here and work to get better.
“If the call happens from here, that’s what everybody wants. Everybody’s goal is to be a big-league player. You just try to get yourself ready for whatever’s next.”
That’s not an answer that will grab a headline, but it’s the correct answer.
Engel has more improvements to complete to follow Duvall’s path. His glove and arm are major league ready. Most scouts agree on that. His stolen base numbers, both the total and the success rate of better than 80 percent, project as big-league tools.
The question about Engel remains the same question scouts asked when he was a junior at Louisville:
Will he hit and get on base with enough frequency to take advantage of his speed and become an everyday player instead of a fourth or fifth outfielder?
Remember: Engel hit only .236 as a junior at U of L before the White Sox drafted him in the 19th round in 2013.
The vital signs look promising. Despite a difficult April that resulted in a three-week demotion to Class A Winston-Salem, Engel has improved hit batting average from .188 on May 1 to .253 with a full-season Class AA on-base percentage of .353.
In July, Engel has hit .364 with 10 extra base hits in a league that includes several of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Don’t forget that in November Engel won the batting title as well as the Most Valuable Player award at the Arizona Fall League, a six-week gathering of the top prospects in baseball.
“You try to develop every part of the game the best you can,” Engel said. “I feel like there are parts of my game that are further along than others.
“That’s kind of the same story with everybody. You look for that next edge, that next thing to work on with whatever part of your game it may be. I try not to say, ‘Hey this tool is OK, this tool is where I want it to be. I really got to work on this.’ ”
“I believe if he was here those three weeks when he was down in Winston-Salem he’d probably be leading this league in stolen bases,” Newman said. “He’s an exciting player. Every time he gets on base he can make something happen with his legs. That’s what you want with the top of your lineup.
“I think we’re going to see him in Chicago pretty soon.”
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