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Nick Madrigal Needs To Pull The Ball More

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Nick Madrigal (photo by Bill Mitchell)

Nick Madrigal was one of the best hitters in college baseball over his three seasons at Oregon State. He’s extremely difficult to strike out. Defensively, he’s projected to be a plus defender at second base with a chance to play shortstop.

He’s a very good prospect, one who easily made Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list. But as a hitter, there are questions about whether Madrigal’s approach will allow him to hit for any power. Madrigal’s 2018 season was understandably affected by a broken wrist that cost him significant time during his junior year at Oregon State, but as a pro, he showed very little ability or desire to pull the ball.

During his college career, Madrigal hit only eight home runs in three seasons. He hit just one home run in 62 at-bats with USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team, which plays with wood bats.

For a player with modest power like Madrigal, there are very few doubles and home runs in right field. His pro stats from his debut reflect that—he slugged only .348 and had an .045 isolated power thanks to seven doubles and no other extra-base hits.

Madrigal’s spray chart as a White Sox prospect showed that the left fielder could take some time off when Madrigal batted. Only one of Madrigal’s 47 hits was hit to left field (a double on Sept. 3).

It’s not as extreme, but Madrigal’s spray chart bears some resemblance to Astros outfielder Myles Straw’s 2016 spray chart.

Straw led the minors in batting that year, but his approach was so opposite-field oriented that at one point MLB’s official statisticians checked with the Astros because they believed Straw was actually a lefthanded hitter who had been incorrectly listed as a righthanded hitter. Straw was a righthanded hitter, he just pulled the ball about once an eon.

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Baseball America Prospect Report -- March 27, 2019

Rockies prospect Sam Hilliard crushes a homer, Astros pitching prospect J.B. Bukauskas survives four eventful innings, plus plenty more.

Straw’s development as a hitter does offer some encouragement for Madrigal. In 2018, Straw still peppered the right field line, but he has started to occasionally yank the ball for doubles and the very occasional home run.

Even with more willingness to pull the ball, Straw has remained a high-average hitter with very little power. He’s a useful player who made his big league debut last season, but if Madrigal is going to live up to the expectations that come with being the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 draft, he’s going to have to start pulling the ball much more consistently.

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