Just 17 games into his professional baseball career, Chicago White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal has been almost exactly as advertised since being selected fourth overall at the 2018 MLB Amateur Entry Draft.
After spending less than a week playing rookie ball in Arizona and collecting just a pair of hits (victim of a .154 BABIP) in 13 at-bats despite no strikeouts, Madrigal was promoted to low-A Kannapolis. In 12 games since, we’ve seen all the tools that made him a top prospect on full display. Remarkable bat control has led to a .341/.356/.409 slash line, and he has yet to strike out in 57 plate appearances. The sure-handed second baseman also hasn’t registered an error.
At 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds, we know that Madrigal will never wow audiences with a power display like other top White Sox prospects (ahem… Eloy Jimenez), and he might lack the necessary arm strength to play shortstop despite the organization’s interest in at least experimenting with him there. However, what Madrigal intends to do is provide needed stability both up the middle of the defense and at the top of the order. That’s something the White Sox haven’t necessarily had.
Yes, 66 plate appearances over 17 games at two levels is a small sample size, but it’s been enough to earn him a promotion to advanced-A Winston-Salem. If he continues to prove he can be a potentially elite contact hitter while buying back some of the plate discipline (he’s walking 3.39 percent of the time after an 8.20 percent walk rate in college) and isolated power (.053 to .141) he showed at Oregon State, it might not be his last promotion of the season.
As expected when drafting an elite college player with the No. 4 overall pick, Madrigal is on the fast track to the Major Leagues. When he gets there, it will likely force some important decisions about the organization’s roster construction.
Until then, it’s worth celebrating how drama-free the beginning of Madrigal’s professional career has been. Every plate appearance you know you’re going to get some sort of contact or that he’ll at least force opposing pitchers to work whenever he finally does succumb to his first strikeout. Defensively, you know he’ll be where he needs to be and protect his teammates from having to cover for too many mistakes.
Even if that doesn’t excite you, it’s what the White Sox need. Because if we assume a number of best-case scenarios during this rebuild, Madrigal still plugs a number of holes in the roster.
They need another bat at the top of the order to either complement Yoan Moncada (who still can be an elite OBP guy) in the top two spots or push him down into a slot where he can use his power to drive in runs. They need somebody who can handle the bat to provide cover for all the speed the White Sox figure to have in their lineup. They need more reliability at second base.
While they won’t be rushing him, you can make an argument that Madrigal could provide all of those things to the Major League club now. And if he ever unlocks the sort of power that puts 40+ baseballs into the gaps and another 10-15 into the seats each year, you’re talking about an All-Star and potential MVP candidate.
If that’s too much projection too fast for you, that’s fine. Look back to what he is at this moment. Feel comfortable in the fact that you don’t have to look ahead too far to see how Madrigal will help the White Sox soon (possibly as early as summer 2019).
Because it’s rare that you see a scouting profile that looks this letter-perfect this quickly.