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Madrigal short in stature but not confidence

@scottmerkin
February 21, 2019

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Nick Madrigal is officially listed at 5-foot-8 in the White Sox media guide. It’s a number the top White Sox pick from the 2018 Draft and their potential second baseman of the future rarely if ever thinks about. “Probably going back to when I was 10 or

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Nick Madrigal is officially listed at 5-foot-8 in the White Sox media guide.

It’s a number the top White Sox pick from the 2018 Draft and their potential second baseman of the future rarely if ever thinks about.

“Probably going back to when I was 10 or 11 years old,” Madrigal said. “I know when I step on the field, it’s not even a thought in my head.

“They always will be saying that, I know, but I feel confident out here. I feel like the biggest guy out there.”

While Madrigal would be considered somewhat vertically challenged for a professional athlete, he’s certainly not short on confidence. It’s not a cockiness or arrogance for the 21-year-old, but more about self-assuredness due to intense preparation focused on reaching this highest of baseball levels.

Madrigal was asked prior to Tuesday’s workout if he would be ready to break camp as part of the 2019 White Sox. That move almost certainly won’t happen, not with Madrigal having taken no more than 98 at-bats in the Carolina League for Class A Winston-Salem.

But if that surprisingly early opportunity was provided to Madrigal, he feels ready because he has worked diligently to reach that point.

“Absolutely. I’d feel comfortable. I feel like I can play this game with anyone in the world,” said Madrigal, who hit .303 with a .701 OPS over three Minor League stops in 2018. “I feel good and confident in my abilities. No matter what pitcher I face, no matter who is hitting in front of me or behind me, I feel comfortable.

“I’ve worked extremely hard my whole life. I’ve kind of envisioned being at this point. It’s not a surprise to me. I think it’s why I feel comfortable.”

Any questions Madrigal had about playing the infield last season could be taken to Omar Vizquel, the 11-time Gold Glove winner, who managed the Dash in 2018. He will be managing Double-A Birmingham in ’19 and should have Madrigal again, after working with him currently in Spring Training.

“It was a pleasure working with the guy. There’s a lot of knowledge there, for as young as he is,” Vizquel said. “Likes to ask a lot of questions. You can see that he wants to learn every day. The kind of player that you want to have with you all the time.

“His defense is awesome. He’s got quick hands, with good range. His arm is pretty good. And he knows where to be in different situations, so you don’t really have to be on top of his game. Just love the guy, everything he does on the field.”

Moving Yoan Moncada from second base to third base opens a clear future big league path to second for Madrigal, a path potentially reached at some point later in the current campaign. The White Sox have not rushed a single prospect during this ongoing rebuild, but they also understand the advanced skill-set Madrigal brought from Oregon State.

“We certainly believe very strongly in Madrigal’s future and what he can potentially bring to a championship club at second base,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said.

Vizquel compared Madrigal to Dustin Pedroia, who checks in at 5-foot-9 and has carved out a high-end career, including the 2008 AL MVP. Let’s also not forget Houston’s Jose Altuve, standing 5-foot-6 and with the 2017 AL MVP listed on his resume of vast accomplishments. Madrigal hopes to follow in those big steps in the not too distant future.

“With all the success he has had, it has made it more eye-opening to look at more players even though they are shorter, bigger,” said Madrigal of Altuve. “So, yeah, I’ve come along at maybe the perfect time. He’s someone I’ve always rooted for, for that reason. But he’s definitely made it a little bit easier for me I would say.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.