CHICAGO -- It's difficult not to like the White Sox middle infielders already in place.• Draft Tracker:Follow every White Sox Draft pickSecond baseman Yoan Moncada, 23, was the No. 1 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline last season, and shortstop Tim Anderson, 24, was the team's top pick in the
CHICAGO -- It's difficult not to like the White Sox middle infielders already in place.
• Draft Tracker:Follow every White Sox Draft pick
Second baseman Yoan Moncada, 23, was the No. 1 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline last season, and shortstop Tim Anderson, 24, was the team's top pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. Both are developing and flashing their five-tool talent on a daily basis in the big leagues.
So why would the White Sox take Oregon State infielder Nick Madrigal with the No. 4 pick overall in the 2018 Draft, as they did Monday night? Without getting too technical, White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler spoke of the team targeting the best player available and Madrigal, 21, might be the best hitter or even the best player in this entire class.
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"Nick was the guy that we wanted all along," Hostetler said. "I made the comment that I had the guy picked out that I wanted. That was the guy. That's not just lip service either, that's 100 percent the truth. Nick Madrigal is the guy that I've wanted for the last month."
"I can't wait to come out to Chicago," Madrigal said on a Monday conference call. "I've never been there before and I'm excited to see it for myself."
Oklahoma Outfielder Steele Walker became the team's second-round pick, taken 46th overall despite being listed as the No. 30 Draft prospect by MLB Pipeline. Walker's Sooners were eliminated by Mississippi State on Monday, but No. 3 Oregon State easily advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals with a 12-0 victory over LSU Sunday. Madrigal finished 2-for-5 with one run scored and two stolen bases, and was named Most Outstanding Player in the Corvallis Region.
In his "welcome to the White Sox" call, general manager Rick Hahn encouraged Madrigal to finish business and get Oregon State a championship ring before getting things worked out with the White Sox and helping them do the same.
Madrigal is batting .406 with seven doubles, four triples, three home runs, 32 RBIs, 32 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, a .470 on-base percentage, .586 slugging percentage and 1.000 fielding percentage in 32 games this season. He missed a portion of the season due to a left wrist injury but is ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the No. 3 prospect in the draft, striking out a mere five times in 133 at-bats.
"He's one of the more advanced guys in the draft class just through the fact that his hit tool is so premium," Hostetler said. "His bat-to-ball skills are second to none in this class.
"We got who we felt was the best baseball player in the Draft this year. He is a high-contact, high-on-base guy. He plays with tremendous energy. Makeup is second to none. It's a leadership quality I have not seen in a player in a long time both on the field and off the field the way he goes about his business. His teammates idolize him."
The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Madrigal, who bats right-handed, was named to the Pac-12 All-Conference and All-Defensive teams, and is a Third-Team All-America selection by Baseball America. He is a semifinalist for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes and Dick Howser Awards.
According to Baseball Reference's records dating back to 1965, the dawn of the June amateur Draft, there have been 272 first-rounders drafted as a middle infielder during that time. The only one of them officially listed at 5-foot-8 or shorter is the 5-foot-7 Joey Cora, who was taken 23rd overall by the Padres in 1985.
But size doesn't matter in Madrigal's mind.
"I like to say I'm 5-8, but it's better to say I'm 5-7, right around there," Madrigal said. "Baseball's one of those games where height really doesn't matter at all. When I take the field, I never think that at all.
"It never pops in my mind, my height, my game or anything like that. I feel confident in how much work I put in in the offseason, in practice, so when I get in the game, I feel comfortable. I feel like I'm the biggest guy out there, no matter my size. That's something I've always tried to do when I take the field, ever since I was younger."
Madrigal marks the second straight infielder taken by the White Sox with their first pick, with third baseman Jake Burger being selected 11th overall in the 2017 Draft. White Sox scout Mike Gange recommended Madrigal, whose pick has a slot value of $6,411,400.
"It's definitely a special moment, not only for myself but for my family, my hometown, my teammates," said Madrigal, whose teammate Trevor Larnach was taken by the Twins at No. 26 during his conference call, setting off much celebration in the background. "I can't thank all of them enough."
"I've said a thousand times these guys are years away from being ready at the Major League level so we can't worry about who is there, playing second base and shortstop at this time," Hostetler said. "Hopefully, Rick Hahn and Ricky Renteria have tough decisions to make in three or four years."
Hostetler envisions Madrigal getting to Class A Winston-Salem this season, playing second, shortstop and even a little third base. The left-handed-hitting and left-handed throwing Walker, 21, will be a center fielder after hitting .352 with a 1.047 OPS, 13 homers and 53 RBIs this season.
"Another one, his teammates love him," Hostetler said. "He has a flair about his game that is second to none. It's a fun product to watch. He gets after it, he's very confident, a very composed kid. We felt he was a first-round talent that got down to the second round."
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.