How will contact-conscious Cubs use Madrigal next year?

  • Chicago White Sox's Nick Madrigal hits an RBI-single in the third inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Cleveland.

    Chicago White Sox's Nick Madrigal hits an RBI-single in the third inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Cleveland.

Updated 8/23/2021 9:36 PM

Ever since he took the job, Cubs manager David Ross has emphasized quality at-bats and using the entire field as a hitter.

So what might that look like in the future, now that the Cubs are in rebuilding mode?


Well, for starters, they acquired the King of Contact, second baseman Nick Madrigal from the White Sox in the Craig Kimbrel trade. Madrigal is out for the season with a torn hamstring but is expected to be in uniform for the Cubs at the start of next year.

Madrigal has been affectionately dubbed "Nicky Two Strikes," because of his ability to avoid striking out. Madrigal has hit .299 with a two-strike count during his big-league career.

Madrigal might visit Wrigley Field in September, but he hasn't been around his new team yet. There are plenty of connections, though. Cubs infielder Nico Hoerner knew Madrigal growing up, and Colorado Rockies catcher Dom Nunez is a good friend and former high school teammate.

"We texted today and I texted his dad," Nunez said. "I was like, 'Oh, I'm headed to Wrigley.' The message was, can't wait to play against each other next year. That's what I'm looking forward to.

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"He loved it over there (on the South Side), so I'm sure he's going to love it there. That's what he said."

Madrigal is listed at 5-feet-8 now, so it's hard to imagine what he was like as a freshman playing with the varsity at Elk Grove High School, just outside of Sacramento.

"Same," Nunez said. "Just ahead of his years and everything. The biggest thing that stood out to me is just the baseball instincts. He was 13, 14 when I first saw him. He fit right into a varsity program right away.

"Obviously, all the success he's had through college, College World Series, then getting to the big leagues really quick, from a guy that's 5-7, 5-8. Guys like (Jose) Altuve and (Dustin) Pedroia I'm sure he looked up to. He's a special player."

Hoerner is from Oakland, California, but he crossed paths with Madrigal a few times growing up. They were Pac-12 rivals with Hoerner playing at Stanford and Madrigal at Oregon State.


"Honestly, same guy -- contact, speed, winning player, great defense, good teammate, all the above," Hoerner said. "We probably spent more time on opposing sides of the field from each other. We did play together when we were 11 in some showcase stuff. Then when we were 14 and 15, we played on Team USA together."

Over the weekend, the Cubs got rolled by the Kansas City Royals, who had two stellar contact guys at the top of the order in Whit Merrifield and Naperville Central grad Nicky Lopez.

Is that the sort of 1-2 contact punch the Cubs are looking to create? Ross had an assertive answer to that question.

"No. I think the Royals are built as a contact-oriented team," Ross said. "Speed, fundamentals and I think that definitely plays, especially against a contact-oriented pitching staff with a defense that's not 100 percent.

"They've got a lot of speed. Our starting catcher (Willson Contreras) is out, who controls the running game really well. A lot of holes were exposed for us. Solid baseball team over there, but we've got our own way we want to do things around here, for sure."

So it remains to be seen if the Cubs will use Madrigal as a top of the order table-setter or a No. 8 hitter.

He should feel right at home in the NL Central, though. St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Dylan Carlson was another high school teammate at Elk Grove and Carlson's father Jeff was the varsity coach. Madrigal has a twin brother Ty who is still pitching in the White Sox minor-league system. Ty Madrigal was a college teammate of Milwaukee ace Corbin Burnes at St. Mary's.

Then there's Nunez, who hit it off with Madrigal right away in high school, despite being two years older.

"He just followed me around; I drove him around everywhere," Nunez said. "And then when I left for pro ball, his goal was to play in the big leagues just like me and he went to Oregon State and did his thing. Every off-season we would hang out, he'd come home for Christmas break and we'd hang out.

"Just like brothers more than anything. I guess that's what happens when people have similar goals in life. That's a lot of us at Elk Grove. It's been a cool ride for all of us."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHSports


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