Many kids scale the fences of their backyards or local diamonds dreaming of that one moment when they pull off a perfect home run robbery. Adam Engel has experienced that thrill in the big leagues three times … in the past week.
The White Sox center fielder pulled back three potential dingers over the last six days, saving a total of seven runs for Chicago on those three plays alone. Those in tune with advanced metrics might have already known about Engel's defensive prowess; he entered Sunday tied for third in Statcast™'s Outs Above Average metric for outfielders. But now a larger audience is getting a look at just how talented Engel is with his glove, thanks to his heists in center field.
"That's something I take a lot of pride in, show up every day and trying to help the team win in any way that I can," Engel said Sunday. "Defensively, it's something I know I can count on."
Engel's remarkable run began Monday, when he hovered above the yellow line seemingly forever before hauling in a potential three-run homer for Yankees first baseman Greg Bird. The ball came off the bat with an ideal combination of a 103.4-mph exit velocity and a 30-degree launch angle, per Statcast™, and similar batted balls cleared the wall roughly three out of four times from 2015-17.
"It's funny because he's made a lot of those catches for us before," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said of Engel's first catch. "I didn't think he was going to be able to get up there and get it. Again, Engy is one of those guys that can pull out some plays for you in center field and that was one of them."
Engel robbed the Yankees again Tuesday, reaching up and way back to snag a solo homer away from catcher Kyle Higashioka.
"Tonight it kind of felt surreal," Engel said. "It was like, 'I can't believe I had another opportunity to make a play like that.' Just a crazy coincidence it happened in back-to-back nights. Any time you make a nice play for your pitcher, it's always fun."
Engel's pair of grabs led Yankees manager Aaron Boone to wonder postgame about his team's bad luck, and garnered a hat tip from slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who was fortunate enough to see his wall-scraping grand slam clear the wall in right field instead of center on Wednesday.
"Good thing he wasn't playing right," Stanton said of Engel.
While the Yankees rolled out of town, Engel wasn't done just yet. Sunday may have marked his most impressive catch yet, as the second-year player leapt up and let his momentum carry him to make a play that left Yonder Alonso and the Indians shaking their heads.
"Just the chances of there being three balls in one week that you have the opportunity to go up and bring back, I feel like, is slim," Engel said after Sunday's 9-7 loss. "It's cool that it happened, and I was glad I was able to make the plays for my pitchers."
That may be a giant understatement. White Sox pitchers certainly know when Engel is roaming center field behind them, and it's probably safe to say American League hitters are well aware of his presence now, too.