When the Milwaukee Brewers traded Francisco Rodriguez to the Baltimore Orioles on July 23rd, 2013, it appeared that the club had acquired their long-awaited "third baseman of the future" in the form of Nicky Delmonico. After being drafted by the Orioles out of high school in the 6th round of the 2011 draft, Delmonico was praised for his advanced approach from the left side of the plate and strong arm at third base. MLB Pipeline slotted him as the Brewers fifth best prospect overall at the end of the 2013 season.
Delmonico never delivered on that considerable promise as a Brewer, however. After hitting .246/.351/.434 with 24 home runs for a 119 wRC+ in 156 games in the Orioles system, Nicky struggled to transition to the Milwaukee organization. He played in only 58 games for the Brewers in parts of two seasons, all for the high-A Brevard County Manatees. He slashed .239/.312/.362 with four home runs in 237 plate appearances (94 wRC+). He missed all of April 2014 for personal reasons, and then was hit with a 50 game suspension for amphetamine usage last July, which ended his season.
Somewhat surprisingly given the Brewers' lack of depth at third base, Delmonico was released in February of this year. Former farm director Reid Nichols was quoted at the time as saying:
"We couldn't contact him. He wouldn't return calls. We couldn't find him. With all the maintenance, we didn't feel like he was a major-league prospect. So, the work wasn't worth it. It was too much to deal with. There was a lot going on there."
Delmonico later admitted to failing the test due to taking the stimulant Adderall, which he had previously been granted an exemption for due to his attention deficit disorder. He had weened himself off the drug by 2014, but he briefly took it during that season and reported it to both the Brewers and MLB. He was nonetheless suspended after failing the drug test. He said the suspension was mentally a rough patch for him, and combined with his first real experience of failure helped cause the strained relationship with the Brewers that led to his release.
Nicky, now 23, soon got his second chance, signing with the Chicago White Sox shortly after his departure from the Brewers. When he signed, AGM Buddy Bell noted Delmonico's transgressions weren't "serious enough to make us shy away" while praising his talent and upside, saying they were "excited" to add him to the fold in Chicago.
After serving out the remainder of his suspension this year, Delmonico made his 2015 debut on June 16th with class-A Kannapolis, playing five games there before being bumped up to AA Birmingham. Overall, he ended up hitting .251/.321/.412 (106 wRC+) with three home runs in 67 games, though he saw a drop in production after his promotion. He seems to have a new lease on life, saying when he returned that he missed the grind of baseball while he was suspended and added "I come in with a smile on my face, joking around with everybody and just look forward to playing."
Delmonico's overall numbers this season helped him claim a spot in the Arizona Fall League, a place where prospects often go to make names for themselves. He's collected just a walk and three hits (two home run) so far in 18 plate appearances for the Glendale Desert Dogs, but has impressed scouts with his tool set:
Nicky Delmonico with easy, loose avg bat speed; fluid swing with lots of length. Leaks out the front, + raw. Soft hands, above avg arm at 3B— Chris Kusiolek (@CaliKusiolek) October 23, 2015
#WhiteSox Nicky Delmonico just hit a high blast to the berm in right field. He has some real pop in his bat. Barrel of the bat hitter.— Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff) October 14, 2015
This offseason will be an important one for Nicky Delmonico. The White Sox, like the Brewers, don't have a definitive long-term answer at third base and Delmonico will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft for the first time this winter. With a strong showing in the AFL, Delmonico could earn himself a spot on the 40 man roster and a legitimate chance at making it to the big leagues someday. If he does ever turn into a useful player, Delmonico will become a cautionary tale for the Milwaukee Brewers going forward: do not give up so quickly on such a young man, especially one with nice tools at a position of need.