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3 things to know about the rise of Micker Adolfo

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The Chicago White Sox slugging outfielder’s stock is quickly rising. It’s time to put him on prospect watch.

MLB: Chicago White Sox-Media Day Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago White Sox outfield prospect Micker Adolfo has always had raw intrigue surrounding his play. A big power bat with an arguably bigger arm had people watching him anxiously awaiting his breakout.

That breakout may finally be here. Adolfo looks like he’s putting it all together.

Who he is

Adolfo was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the White Sox in 2013 and made his debutb in the 2014 season. The 6-foot-3 right-handed slugger debuted at the age of 17 in the Arizona League of Rookie ball where he would stay for his first two seasons.

He arrived in full-season ball in 2016 in the South Atlantic League, which was where I saw him for the first time. I couldn’t make a fair assessment for two reasons. One, I had never heard of him prior to that game. I went to Hickory to watch a duo of Erics in speedster Eric Jenkins and RHP Erik Swanson. Secondly, it was arguably Adolfo’s best game of the season, and not a fair sample size to judge. He went 3-for-5 with this monster shot that may still not have landed.

What we know

Adolfo’s future was attached to his muscle as he clearly had the raw power to excel and a cannon of an arm in the outfield. His other tools were well behind, however, with big strikeout rates and difficulty making contact on anything that didn’t leave the yard. He also repeated the SAL last year. Since he made his full-season debut at 19, he shouldn’t be knocked down too much for having to repeat the level, but in the same, one had to be hesitant to mark his improvements as a breakthrough the second go-round.

The righty’s biggest issues have been with the strike zone. In 2016 he had a big swing, a bit long with some loop to it. Adolfo showed a tighter swing in 2017, but his pitch recognition, especially on breaking balls, was behind. Heading into 2018, he was too much strikeout — always over 30 percent — and too little walk, never recording more than 6.6 walk rate.

Adolfo began the season outside of John Sickel’s Top 175, but thanks to that awe-inspiring power, he did have him in the White Sox Top 20, coming in at No. 12. Here’s why:

Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013, hit .264/.331/.453 with 16 homer, 31 walks, 149 strikeouts in 424 at-bats in Low-A; would rank higher on pure tools alone, notably 60-grade raw power and a 65 or 70 throwing arm; made progress getting his swing in gear in ’17 and boosted his SLG by 100 points but still has some issues with strikeouts/pitch recognition; high-ceiling power bat but still unclear if he will handle advanced pitching; ETA 2021.

Where he’s going

Now with the Winston-Salem Dash in Advanced-A, Adolfo is looking more like a hitter than he ever has and is still just 21. His strikeout rate is still high at 27 percent, but he is also learning to walk behind a career-best 10.2 percent rate. Sure, it is a 34-game sample, but the results are positive all the same.

Adolfo is slashing .323/.408/.599 with an OPS of .977, which is unsustainable behind his absurd .438 BABIP. But the take away here is he is making consistent contact. Hard contact, too. He leads the Carolina League with 12 doubles and is second in home runs with six.

Adolfo is putting himself on the prospect radar. Here’s a guy that looked like he’d be a fun watch for a few home runs, but instead has become an evolving prospect. He is showing constant improvement and now has a feel for the game at the plate and in the field. While there’s no reason to expect a ride on the fast track, it isn’t entirely out of the question that Adolfo sniffs Top 100 honors come 2019. He’s definitely one to watch.