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Unheralded Sox trio making most of opportunity

Davidson, Engel, Hanson look to prove they're part of Chicago's future @philgrogers

CHICAGO -- They aren't candidates for the cover of MLB Pipeline, at least not lately.

That's OK with Matt Davidson, Adam Engel, Alen Hanson and the rest of the advance guard of the White Sox rebuilding program.

CHICAGO -- They aren't candidates for the cover of MLB Pipeline, at least not lately.

That's OK with Matt Davidson, Adam Engel, Alen Hanson and the rest of the advance guard of the White Sox rebuilding program.

They're happy where they are -- getting a chance to show they can be long-haul pieces on a winning team on the South Side.

Engel's homer into the left-field seats at Wrigley Field was the biggest blow in the White Sox 3-1 victory over the Cubs on Monday. All three were in the lineup for Wednesday night's edition of the Crosstown Cup at Guaranteed Rate Field, and general manager Rick Hahn was watching closely.

Video: CWS@CHC: Engel puts the White Sox up with a solo shot

"I love the idea of us potentially down the road having to make difficult choices between a guy who has performed very well at the big league level and a top-tier prospect who is forcing the issue," Hahn said. "That's a good problem to have."

Davidson, Engel, Hanson and other 20-somethings to be added later this season may never get a better chance to establish themselves.

They have to make the most of the next season or two before Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Jake Burger and other prospects are deemed ready to join the recently promoted Yoan Moncada in the everyday lineup.

"These kids know," hitting coach Todd Steverson said. "They're not stupid. They [want] to be able to grasp the opportunity that they're being given because, hey, let's face it, at-bats in the big leagues ain't handed out everywhere.

Hanson, 24, was stuck behind Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison and all the decorated outfielders in Pittsburgh before being claimed on waivers by the White Sox in June. He jumped at a chance to join a team that is embracing youth.

"I think I have a better opportunity here," Hanson said through White Sox interpreter Billy Russo. "This is a team that's in rebuild mode. There's an opportunity for young players here, and I think it's just a matter of me performing and taking advantage of the opportunities."

Video: TEX@CWS: Hanson runs 29.3 ft/second to win game

No newcomer to the White Sox roster is making more of this season than the late-blooming Davidson.

He was 22 when he reached the Major Leagues with the D-backs in 2013, but was traded to the Sox the following winter. He had stalled in Triple-A before something clicked last season, and he now finds himself as a middle-of-the-order bat alongside Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia.

Davidson is a natural third baseman but served mostly as a designated hitter until Todd Frazier was traded to the Yankees last week. He has hit 19 home runs -- second to Aaron Judge among American League rookies -- and Steverson expects his batting average to climb over .250 as he plays more in the field.

"You've got to tip your hat and say hey, he's putting his best foot forward in the big leagues," Steverson said. "He's doing the best he can, and he's had to DH most of the year. … It's a lot to deal with on the mental side."

Engel, 25, is one of 78 University of Louisville baseball players drafted since 2007. He used his speed and hard-nosed style to help the Cardinals reach the College World Series his junior year but wasn't drafted until the 19th round.

He has been playing regularly in center field since Leury Garcia went on the disabled list June 19 and has held his own, which shouldn't be a huge surprise since he turned an invitation to the Arizona Fall League into an MVP fall season.

"I call him a working man's player," Steverson said. "He's not conventional in terms of the look of what he does. He knows that and we know that. But he's got a lot of 'want to, get it done in any means possible,' and I'm OK with that."

Engel is enjoying his first taste of Chicago's crosstown series, especially giving the Wrigley Field bleacher fans a chance to return his home run ball to the playing field. His solo homer broke a 1-1 tie.

Video: Davidson discusses hitting a homer out of Wrigley

"That was pretty cool," Engel said. "It's a really competitive series. You feel it as soon as you step out on the field before the game starts."

With only about 40 days of Major League service, it's admittedly a little strange when Engel thinks about how much older he is than Robert, Blake Rutherford and others in the long line of prospects who will be trying to take his job away, assuming he can win a job.

"There's a joke going around that most of the guys are 20, so they're the younger generation," Engel said. "It feels like that. Being 25, man, when I was 20, I was still in college, playing the college game, worrying about class and all that stuff. These guys are 20 and in pro ball and making their way up here. You're excited for those young talents.''

If not in a hurry for them to arrive.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for

Chicago White Sox