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2B battle may boil down to Madrigal's spring

@scottmerkin
February 7, 2020

CHICAGO -- Nick Madrigal will be the White Sox second baseman at some point during the 2020 season, barring something completely unexpected. That could happen as early as Opening Day, when the White Sox host the Royals on March 26. Asked in late January about the team's lone position battle

CHICAGO -- Nick Madrigal will be the White Sox second baseman at some point during the 2020 season, barring something completely unexpected.

That could happen as early as Opening Day, when the White Sox host the Royals on March 26. Asked in late January about the team's lone position battle this spring, general manager Rick Hahn went with a combination of Madrigal, Leury García and Danny Mendick.

Hahn’s mention of Madrigal was a bit surprising only because the team’s top pick of the 2018 Draft and fourth pick overall had 118 at-bats and 29 games last season at Triple-A Charlotte as the most advanced stop on his resume. Hahn called Madrigal a viable option but added he still has a few things to prove.

“[Madrigal] hasn't necessarily answered all the questions we have for him at the Minor Leagues,” Hahn said. “But we're going to go in with fresh eyes and a fresh approach in Spring Training and see where he's at, and in all probability, make an assessment there.”

Madrigal, who turns 23 on March 5, presents a high-contact option within the White Sox power-packed lineup. He's struck out just 21 times in 628 career Minor League at-bats, numbers that played out similarly over three collegiate seasons at Oregon State (37 strikeouts in 612 at-bats).

But there’s more to Madrigal than a player who doesn’t swing and miss often. Although he’s hit just 12 home runs in his baseball career, Madrigal has shown gap-to-gap power with 34 doubles in the Minors and 40 in college to complement five and 11 triples, respectively.

He also has exhibited speed with 43 stolen bases in the Minors, and his defense is projected at Gold Glove Award-caliber level. It’s an important defensive presence with a staff featuring ground-ball pitchers ranging from starter Dallas Keuchel to setup man Aaron Bummer, coupled with the departure of second baseman Yolmer Sánchez, who won a 2019 American League Gold Glove Award.

“It’s not about winning a job, but we are both trying to win for the Chicago White Sox,” said Mendick, who also called Madrigal “a great kid.”

“We are both going to go out there and do everything we can with our skill set to make the White Sox a playoff contender and hopefully further than that.”

The switch-hitting García, 28, had the second-most plate appearances for the 2019 White Sox and was worth 1.3 WAR per FanGraphs. He played two games at second last season and figures to be the early favorite to open there in 2020, but García’s greatest value is the ability to play across the diamond in a utility role.

Mendick, 26, has become an organization success story as a 22nd-round pick in the 2015 Draft out of the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He impressed the White Sox coaching staff with a strong Spring Training showing, then hit .308 during a September callup. A free-agent option could fit at second, but it would be more about holding a spot until Madrigal was ready for a promotion. García and Mendick fit on the team beyond a start at second base.

Manager Rick Renteria certainly would take Madrigal from Day 1. In fact, Renteria would have taken Madrigal at the big league level in 2019. As Mendick stated, the competition at second centers upon what’s best for the White Sox and their push for the postseason.

“This is what we all dream about. You want to play playoff baseball,” Mendick said. “The Sox have made some great moves. You get to go out there and play baseball with some great guys. We are excited.”

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