Madrigal has big future with White Sox
With Manny Machado now playing just up the road off Arizona Highway 101, we return you to your regular White Sox prospect watch programming.
Adding Machado's proven ability to the roster would have undoubtedly given the Sox's rebuild a significant boost, but the 26-year-old infielder signed with the Padres after getting a contract that guarantees $300 million.
It was a major blow to the White Sox, and much of the fan base was left despondent.
Nick Madrigal has a different view.
"It's going to be exciting for White Sox baseball soon," said Madrigal, the Sox's first-round draft pick (No. 4 overall) last year. "We have a lot of pieces on the way at all the different levels in the minors. We have enough guys in the front office, all the staff, that know what they're doing. It's exciting just to be a part of it."
Outside of Eloy Jimenez, who should be on the Sox's roster in late April, Madrigal might be the Sox's most exciting piece.
"This is a young man who is extremely gifted, who we all love, everything about him," manager Rick Renteria said. "No question about it."
After batting .367 and leading Oregon State to the national championship last year, Madrigal signed with the White Sox and received a $6.4 million bonus.
In 43 games with the AZL Sox, low Class A Kannapolis and high A Winston-Salem, he batted .303/.353/.348 and struck out only 5 times in 173 plate appearances.
Madrigal played his final 26 games of 2018 for manager Omar Vizquel at Winston-Salem.
"Obviously, he's one of the biggest prospects we've got," Vizquel said. "It was a pleasure working with the guy. There's a lot of knowledge there, for as young as he is. He likes to ask a lot of questions and you can see that he wants to learn every day. That's the kind of player that you want to have with you all the time."
Vizquel is moving up to manage Class AA Birmingham this season, and he'll have Madrigal on the Barons' roster at some point.
For as good as Madrigal is with the bat, Vizquel is equally impressed with his defensive skills at second base. Considering Vizquel won 11 Gold Gloves during his playing career, his opinion carries added weight.
"His defense is awesome," Vizquel said. "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. He knows what he has to do. He comes in and gets his work in. Great. I just love the guy and everything he does."
As he continues advancing through the White Sox's minor-league system this season, Madrigal is prepared to answer more questions about his physical stature.
At 5-foot-7, he is shorter than most players. It is not a detriment.
"I've heard that my whole life," Madrigal said. "I've heard it going back to getting a scholarship to college. I've always been looked at like that and honestly, I haven't thought about it in a long time, probably going back to when I was maybe 11, 10 years old.
"I'm sure people say things behind the scenes, on social media. It doesn't bother me at all because when I step on the field, it's not even a thought in my head. I feel confident out there. Honestly, I feel like I'm the biggest guy out there."
With such a polished all-around game at the age of 21, is Madrigal going to push all the way to the major leagues this season?
"We're going to give him an opportunity to continue to get his feet wet in professional baseball," Renteria said. "In the little that we do know of him, I would say it's probably going to be a process for him that transitions very easily. That's our hope and that's our expectation.
"Pretty bright young man, quietly confident. He understands who he is and he'll kind of tell us when that time will come. We're happy to have him."