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White Sox Go Against Type By Selecting Nick Madrigal

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Photo by Bill Mitchell

Oregon State’s Nick Madrigal wasn’t a prototypical pick at No. 4 overall. In fact, the 5-foot-7 shortstop wasn’t even a prototypical White Sox pick.

Chicago focused on college sluggers with their first-round picks in 2016 and 2017, when they took Miami’s Zack Collins and Missouri State’s Jake Burger.

No one will confuse Madrigal with Collins or Burger, and—at least for a time—White Sox scouting director Nick Hostetler would not have considered Madrigal that high on the board.

“I think going into the process, the first thing in my mind was: We can’t take a 5-foot-7 guy,” Hostetler said a few days after the draft. “But then you start to watch him play . . . (He) changed my mind immediately.”

While Madrigal might not be a big deal in the literal sense, what he does on the field—as a hitter, baserunner and defender—could be a huge deal. Plus, as one of the most polished bats in the country, he could impact the White Sox sooner rather than later.

“For the organization to maybe go out of their realm in terms of taking not the most physical guy, I don’t know if it’s necessarily part of the White Sox DNA in years past,” said Mike Gange, Chicago’s Northwest area scout who spent the last year watching Madrigal play.

In taking a gamble on Madrigal, the White Sox were was also gambling on Gange, who was in his first year as an area scout after spending time as a coach with the University of Washington and an associate scout with the Orioles. Even before taking the job, Gange knew that Madrigal should be a player the team looked at closely. He told the White Sox as much during his interview.

Gange was a coach in the summer collegiate West Coast League in 2015 when he first remembers seeing Madrigal play in person. When Madrigal stepped to the plate, Gange remembers shading his outfielders in closer to the infield, before Madrigal, whom Gange described as 150 pounds soaking wet, promptly hit a ball over the left fielder’s head.

Madrigal did the same in his next at-bat.

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Madrigal had a way of forcing people to believe in his abilities. He is a career .370/.431/.519 hitter at Oregon State. He has plus-plus speed and Gold Glove potential at second base, according to Hostetler.

On draft day, The White Sox weren’t sure if they were going to have a chance to select Madrigal until general manager Rick Hahn received a text from Phillies GM Matt Klentak. Rumors had swirled that the Phillies were considering Madrigal, and Hostetler was beginning to get nervous as he began digging into plan B options. But Klentak let the White Sox know the Phillies were taking 6-foot-5 Wichita State third baseman Alec Bohm—who was the Chicago prototype of the past few drafts—and Hostetler breathed a sigh of relief.

When he realized who they would be taking, Hostetler walked over to Gange, who also is 5-foot-7, to let him know they would be drafting Madrigal.

“(Hostetler) came to where the area scouts were and said, ‘Well if you guys haven’t heard, we’re going to take Madrigal,’ ” Gange said. “And jeez, my face just—it either went up or it went down because I was so shocked. I was so fired up.”

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