What to expect from Nick Madrigal

July 31st, 2020

The White Sox injected a player with the most electrifying tools among all of baseball's prospects into their lineup on Opening Day. Now they're adding the best contact hitter in the Minors.

Like Luis Robert (No. 3 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100), Nick Madrigal (No. 39) ranks among the game's best prospects. He should take over at second base for Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick, who are a combined 4-for-28 (.143) this season. Because Chicago waited more than six days to promote Madrigal, he won't accrue a full year of service time for 2020 and can't become a free agent until after '26.

Scouts loved the bat-to-ball skills and energy that Madrigal displayed at Elk Grove High (Calif.), but questions about his size (5-foot-8, 155 pounds at the time) and signability dropped him to the Indians in the 17th round of the 2015 Draft. He opted to attend Oregon State and became the best hitter and player in college baseball. He sparked the Beavers to a 56-6 record as a sophomore in 2017, when he was the Pacific-12 Conference player and defensive and player of the year, and to a College World Series championship as a junior in '18, when he missed two months with a broken wrist.

The White Sox selected Madrigal with the fourth overall pick in 2018, making him the second-highest drafted second baseman ever, and signed him for $6,411,400. He batted .311/.377/.414 in his first full pro season in 2019, advancing from high Class A to Triple-A and leading the Minors with a strikeout rate of just 3.0 percent -- the best since Willians Astudillo's 2.4 percent mark in 2015.

Madrigal should provide an offensive and defensive upgrade over the Garcia/Mendick tandem for a Chicago club looking to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Here's our breakdown of his tools on the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 represents big league average ability:

Hit (70): Madrigal's exceptional hand-eye coordination and feel for the barrel allow him to make line-drive contact to all fields at will. A right-handed hitter, he batted .361 with just 37 strikeouts in 707 college plate appearances and .309 with just 21 whiffs in 705 trips to the plate in two years as a pro. He has the tools and approach to win batting titles in the big leagues. The downside to his ability to put the bat on the ball with such ease is that it cuts into his walk totals, as his free-pass rate was just seven percent in college and eight percent in the Minors.

Power (35): While there's no question that Madrigal will hit, there are concerns as to how much impact he'll make at the plate. He's up to 175 pounds, but he's still small and possesses little raw power. He doesn't drive the ball to the opposite field or in the air very often, resulting in just four homers and 40 extra-base hits in 163 pro games. He's gifted enough as a hitter to make adjustments to add more power, albeit likely with reduced batting averages.

Run (60): Madrigal not only possesses plus speed, but he's also aggressive and has good instincts on the bases. He swiped 35 bags in 48 attempts last year and could lead the White Sox in steals this season if he gets the green light.

Arm (45): Madrigal has fringy-to-average arm strength. While he could get by at shortstop a la David Eckstein with a high baseball IQ and a quick release, he's better suited for second base. He played briefly at shortstop at Oregon State, and though Chicago planned on giving him a look there, he has played all but one game of his pro career at second.

Field (60): A potential Gold Glover at second base, Madrigal has quick hands and smooth infield actions. He also shows outstanding instincts in the field, where he produces defensive gems and is extremely reliable on routine plays. He has committed just five errors in 147 pro games at second, good for a .992 fielding percentage.