Levine: Is Nicky Delmonico’s Strong Play Reality Or Fantasy In Long Term?

By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — The legend of White Sox infielder/outfielder Nicky Delmonico continues on the South Side of Chicago this week.

The 25-year-old Delmonico has been the talk of the White Sox fan base since getting called up in early August. Entering play Monday, he was hitting .361 with five homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.090 OPS in 17 games. Of course, he isn’t all that surprised by his gaudy stats as he begins his big league career.

“I am a gap-to-gap hitter,” Delmonico said. “That is my approach, and that is how I see the field when hitting. I choke up when I need to, and I will bunt when they put an extreme shift on. I will do anything to try and get on base.”

Delmonico’s start has been especially remarkable considering he’s on the third organization of his professional career. He was drafted by the Orioles in the sixth round of the 2011 amateur draft.

While it’s still a small sample size, Delmonico’s big league performance has clearly outpaced his production this season at Triple-A Charlotte, where he hit .262 with 12 homers, 45 RBIs and a .768 OPS in 99 games.

So how does this meteoric ascension happen?

“In spring training, it was evident he was a much more polished hitter than people thought,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “We also saw him in the hitter’s camp early (in January). He was impressive from that point on and when we got him into spring training, he continued to impress. He seems to have a real idea about what he wants to do when he gets into the box. He has a good feel against lefties and righties. He is a baseball player with a pretty decent idea.”

When Renteria calls Delmonico “a baseball player,” it’s a high compliment from an experienced coach and manager. It means a player is utilizing every last ounce of his ability, even if he might have less natural talent than others.

“His path and experience have made him into a mature hitter,” Renteria said, referencing that Delmonico chokes up and has a good two-strike approach. “He is wise to choke up against a tougher pitcher or down in the count. He is making in-game adjustments. He will continue to work and grind. I can’t imagine him being able to stay on the same pace. He does show you the ability, and he has ‘it,’ as I like to say. The league is already trying to do things to him. They are staying away from him a little bit. They will figure some things out, and then he will have to counter.”

The trek to Chicago hasn’t been easy for Delmonico, who had a 50-game suspension for using amphetamines in 2014 while he was in the Brewers’ system. Now, he seems to have a better handle on life as a baseball player.

“I am just trying to stay as simple as I can with my approach,” Delmonico said. “I don’t overthink it. I just go out and play the same way I have my whole life. I don’t get caught up in what I have done. Once you leave the field, I just flush it and move on to the next game.”

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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