With the fourth overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, the White Sox selected Nick Madrigal, a 5’8″ middle infielder (primarily a second baseman) out of Oregon State. A true “score one for the short guys” pick.
Now, I don’t want to make this about me, but as a fellow short guy who also played middle infield (until age 13, but who’s keeping count), this leaves me almost 100% positive that I could’ve gone top-five in the MLB Draft. I instead chose the gymnastics route, a much more illustrious, financially stable option.
So, yeah, Madrigal is short. Based on that, and his ridiculous contact skills (just five strikeouts in 128 at-bats in 2018) the José Altuve comps were flowing before he even had a chance to get on the phone with Rick Hahn.
Fair? Nah, but it’s a lot of fun.
I prefer going the Dustin Pedroia route, however. Another comp made by many, yes, but I take a bit more stock in this one because of some of the things said by his coach at Oregon State, Pat Casey, on the White Sox Talk Podcast. Casey explained that he coached against Pedroia when the current Red Sox was at Arizona State.
“I think there’s things Nick does better than Pedroia, and I say that with all respect in the world. I think he’s a better fielder, I know he’s got better speed, I think he turns the double play as good as anybody that’s ever going to turn it…so that comparison I can make with my own eyes.” – Pat Casey
While Casey explained that Madrigal is more than capable of contributing offensively at the next level, he specifically gushed about his defensive skills, even saying you could throw him in at second base right now and the Sox wouldn’t skip a beat.
Talking defensive ability is fun and all, but it isn’t as sexy as dreaming about a guy with off-the-charts offensive traits. Here’s a look at Madrigal’s numbers over the course of his Oregon State career:
The numbers that jump out, and something that’s already been talked about by many, is the lack of strikeouts:
- 2016: K every 13.9 ABs
- 2017: K every 14.8 ABs
- 2018: K every 26.6 ABs
Contact skills are hardly teachable, to a degree. On the other hand, guys can develop power as they move through the minor leagues. Is Madrigal going to ever hit 30 home runs? Not a chance. 20? Highly unlikely. But there’s plenty of examples of guys hitting the big leagues and finding power they never had in the past. Heck, for the sake of strengthening the Pedroia comp, let’s take a look at his power numbers while at Arizona State compared to Madrigal:
- Freshmen: Pedroia (HR per 236 ABs, .432 SLG), Madrigal (HR per 195 ABs, .456 SLG)
- Sophomore: Pedroia (HR per 74.25 ABs, .579 SLG), Madrigal (HR per 59.25 ABs, .532 SLG)
- Junior: Pedroia (HR per 27.1 ABs, .611 SLG), Madrigal (HR per 44.3 ABs, .586 SLG)
Pretty similar trend. Part of the reason for Madrigal’s lukewarm jump in production from year two to three can be attributed to a hand fracture he suffered in late-February of this year.
Take those numbers with a grain of salt, obviously, but it’s fair to put Pedroia and Madrigal side-by-side for more reasons than position, a high leg kick and small stature.
Want one more recent example of guy discovering power at second base? Braves phenom Ozzie Albies hit double digit home runs exactly zero times through three full minor league seasons. Well, at the moment (June 5), he’s one home run (has 14 total) behind a guy, Joey Gallo, who was built to do nothing but hit bombs.
It can be chalked up as an anomaly if you like, and I’m not saying Madrigal will get called up sometime in 2019 and hit a bunch of home runs, but there’s room for improvement in the power category.
So…you give me a guy who’s described as having Gold Glove-caliber defense, tremendous make-up (I love baseball jargon) and elite contact skills? I’ll take that any day over a guy who whines about a rain delay.
Nick Madrigal, welcome to the rebuild.