With the fourth overall pick of the 2018 draft, the White Sox selected infielder Nick Madrigal from Oregon State. After a brief delay while nursing a small hamstring issue, he made his professional debut in the AZL on July 5th (in-person game report here). Just 4 games later, he was in full season ball with the Kannapolis Intimidators.
He may not be there long either.
In his first five games in Class A, The White Sox’ 1st round pick is slashing .429/.478/.524 with a pair of doubles and a matching pair of stolen bases for good measure. But the most impressive statistic measuring the infancy of his pro career is this: in a combined 40 plate appearances across rookie ball and Low-A, the 21-year-old has struck out exactly… zero times.
This is what a plus to double-plus hit tool looks like. Not that he will never strike out, but most hitters would struggle to ever put together a single 40 PA stretch without doing so, let alone to start their minor league careers. How is he doing it?
Madrigal talked about what strikeouts mean to him with Chuck Garfien on the White Sox Talk Podcast on Tuesday:
“I think baseball has kind of evolved into a little bit different game nowadays. There’s some guys that hit for more power and they’re OK with striking out. I don’t know, that’s kind of their style of play. For me I really think it’s one of the most embarrassing things ever to be on a baseball field and to let the pitcher strike you out and you have to walk back to the dugout. It doesn’t sit well with me. It never has and I don’t think it ever will.”
“When I’m in the box it’s me vs. the pitcher. I like to think when most of the times I get out it’s more getting myself out, swinging at a bad pitch or something like that. When the pitcher strikes you out, he beat you on the mound. I don’t know, it’s never sat well with me. It’s always been part of my game I’ve always worked on in practice, hitting different pitches. Also, not leaving it up to the umpire. I make box adjustments throughout the at-bat. It’s something I’ve worked on for a long time.”
“I think one time I think I struck out twice. That was one of the games in college. I don’t remember any more than twice in a game.”
Madrigal having a big time hit tool should not be a surprise. As noted when we previewed him as a draft prospect back in May, scouts pretty universally granted him 65 or 70 grades in that category. In college while playing in an elite conference, he struck out in just 5.6% of his plate appearances across his collegiate career.
White Sox Scouting Director Nick Hostetler had this to say after the draft (via MLB.com writer Scott Merkin):
“He’s one of the more advanced guys in the draft class just through the fact that his hit tool is so premium. His bat-to-ball skills are second to none in this class.”
He’s also got above average to plus speed, and is seen as a potentially elite defender at second base as a pro. Not that there aren’t some questions, as there are with all prospects. In Nick’s case, does he have enough arm and range to play shortstop in the majors? Will he ever hit for any notable amount of game power?
Meanwhile, Madrigal has been executing in all hoped-for facets to start his career. Yes, he was expected to hit well at these levels given his skills, but he’s hit that target and then some. It’s not just numbers in a pint-sized sample either. Scouting types watching his games so far have been impressed.
Our own contributors echo the sentiment. Kim Contreras loved what she saw in her brief looks in Arizona. Sean Williams, who came over from The Loop Sports to write a few in-person AZL reports, saw much of the same and got a few videos too. Here’s Madrigal’s first hit as a pro (you can find more videos of Nick on our YouTube channel as well):
There is every reason to believe he will move up the ladder quickly, and could reach the majors faster than any position prospect the team has drafted in recent memory. Early performance in core numbers aren’t worth a whole lot, but making elite-level contact and impressing seasoned viewers everywhere a player goes certainly are. It’s OK to get excited about Nick Madrigal, even if he’s just getting started.
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