Nick Madrigal Stays True To Himself As He Prepares For Major League Call Up
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Nick Madrigal has never played a day at the major league level. But that hasn’t changed any opinions in the Chicago White Sox clubhouse about the 23-year-old prospect’s ability to hit.
“He was a professional hitter even in college,” said White Sox pitcher Jace Fry. “Watching his approach, you could tell he really took his own discipline to the plate. And it’s something I saw when he was coming out of college, I knew he had that big-league appearance when he signed. He has a good hitting coach, Frank (Menechino), now and he’ll learn a lot. He’ll do well.”
Madrigal, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, attended Oregon State, as did Fry. The pair never played together there, but Fry and most of the baseball world watched Madrigal develop into one of the best hitters in college baseball, compiling a .361 career batting average over three seasons with the Beavers.
He has carried that success into the minor leagues. Across five different levels, including 118 at-bats with the Charlotte Knights, the Triple-A affiliate of the White Sox, Madrigal hit .309 and attributed his progress to staying true to his mental approach at the plate.
“I’ve really tried to focus on my game that I’ve had since college, and I haven’t changed my style of play at all,” Madrigal said. “I haven’t done anything that I wouldn’t have (done in college). Even in the offseason, I prepared the same way I would for any other season.”
Despite being together for a short time, Madrigal and White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson have connected. Anderson took it upon himself to advise Madrigal as he approaches what is likely to be his first season in the big leagues.
His advice? Stick with what is working.
“Just be himself,” Anderson said. “He got to this point, so don’t get caught up in what’s going on, just be yourself and keep getting better, keep working. I gave him the option to let him know I’m here if you have any questions. I’m just trying to make his call up as smooth as possible.”
There has been outside noise that suggested Madrigal needs to add more power to his game. Although he said that he hit the weight room earlier than normal this year, that was to simply prepare his body for the season. Madrigal understands that his role, as it has been for years, is to get on base and let the power guys hitting behind him drive him across.
The presumed future everyday second baseman for the White Sox doesn’t strike out often due to his elite ability to make contact. In 628 minor league at-bats, Madrigal has struck out just 21 times. Still, he works on mastering the strike zone and knowing when he can venture outside of it.
“It’s something I’ve always worked on ever since I was younger,” Madrigal said. “I worked on hitting different pitches outside the zone and making contact. Over the years it’s built up, and it’s knowing who I am … knowing what pitches I can hit out of the zone and things like that.”
Although Madrigal has learned that he is capable of handling pitches, it doesn’t mean he has to.
“Over the years, I’ve been hitting many pitches, but I feel like trying to shrink the zone and looking for one spot I can hit,” Madrigal said. “I think the great players can do that. It’s not always the best thing if you can hit balls outside the zone.”
White Sox manager Rick Renteria echoed Madrigal’s thoughts about shrinking his zone and believes that with Madrigal’s ability to make contact, it will pay off for him over the long run.
“(His) bat-to-ball skill is really impressive … he doesn’t strike out very much,” Renteria said. “That skillset is going to serve him well. What we’re going to continue to do is hone in on his strike zone and zone hitting, which will take advantage of his ability to put the bat on the ball more consistently and get a lot more out of what he does.”
From a pitcher’s perspective, Fry said Madrigal is the type of hitter a guy on the mound wants to try to get out of the box as quickly as possible because those hitters can quickly spoil even a pitcher’s best stuff. And Madrigal’s improved discipline at the plate will make it even more challenging to get him out.
Luckily for Fry, he won’t have to face his teammate. It’s the other 29 teams that will have to figure that out when the professional hitter becomes a major league hitter.