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Engel working to steady barrel in Year 2

White Sox center fielder focused on offense this offseason
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- The chance to talk hitting with Jim Thome -- who should soon be elected to the Hall of Fame -- always rates as a beneficial move for young players.

But in the case of Adam Engel's interaction with the White Sox special assistant to the general manager, during the organization's hitters mini-camp this week, it was a conversation centered more on the center fielder's newfound confidence as opposed to what he needed to learn.

CHICAGO -- The chance to talk hitting with Jim Thome -- who should soon be elected to the Hall of Fame -- always rates as a beneficial move for young players.

But in the case of Adam Engel's interaction with the White Sox special assistant to the general manager, during the organization's hitters mini-camp this week, it was a conversation centered more on the center fielder's newfound confidence as opposed to what he needed to learn.

"I was telling Jim Thome, this is the most excited I've been from an offensive standpoint in my entire career," Engel said during a phone interview from Camelback Ranch. "If Spring Training started today, I would feel like I'm in a better spot than I've ever been, and I just believe in what I'm doing.

"Everything has a purpose. I fully understand why I'm doing what I'm doing, and it's going to give me an edge from a confidence standpoint. Obviously, mechanically I feel like I've definitely taken a huge step forward. I'm really excited."

Engel, 26, played Gold Glove-caliber defense after taking over in center field for the 2017 White Sox. He matched Mookie Betts' 16 outs above average, according to Statcast™, trailing only Byron Buxton (25) and Ender Inciarte (19).

Video: 2017 MLB Awards: Best Play, Defense - Adam Engel

His rookie numbers on offense weren't anywhere near elite, as Engel hit .166 with a .517 OPS, 39 OPS+ and 117 strikeouts against 19 walks over 336 plate appearances. Engel described his mechanics as "pretty inconsistent," and he had an early talk with White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson concerning how those flaws would keep him from reaching full capabilities.

Engel made improved offense his offseason focus, after he started to implement changes on the fly in-season.

"My barrel was moving a lot last year, and in an inefficient way," Engel said. "So that's definitely been a huge focus this offseason, to try to quiet that down, and make sure if I'm moving my barrel, it's going to be beneficial rather than just kind of not helping me out."

"He's been working tirelessly to be able to make better contact, more contact, to make some things happen," said White Sox director of player development Chris Getz. "When he does reach first base, he has an opportunity now to impact the game on the basepaths because of speed that he brings to the table and the fear that he puts on the defense, and certainly on the pitchers."

Steverson and Engel talk at least once every two weeks and often once per week, with Engel sending video of what he's been doing and then discussing the next step. That progression can be difficult to explain by phone, making Engel's weeklong work at the mini-camp an important stretch.

"That's been my biggest goal, to really make use of this time," Engel said. "Get in front of [Steverson] and other instructors and show everyone where I'm at and getting everyone's take on the progress and what's next.

"Once Spring Training rolls around, I just get to come in and believe in what I'm doing, and every adjustment after that will be a small one, what I feel like I need to do as I go. It won't be quite as dramatic as what I was doing at the end of last year or what I was doing this offseason."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox, Adam Engel