2020 Outlook: Will The White Sox’ Nick Madrigal Hold Value In The Short Season?

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Before the shutdown the assumption was that Nick Madrigal would open the season at Triple-A, with the White Sox using a combination of Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick at second base.  Given the unpredictability of 2020s 60-game sprint, will the White Sox change that approach?  If they were expecting Madrigal, selected fourth overall in 2018, to make an impact will they simply hand him the starting job on Opening Day?

Every game is going to be vital, and if a team thinks it can compete they need to have their pedal to the metal right from the start.  No one is going to argue which of the trio has the highest upside, but just what could Madrigal bring to the table?

When we ranked the prospects he earned a “B” grade, and was the fifth best second base prospect, when we said:

Madrigal brings speed and an impressive approach, though his lack of power drags down his overall outlook.  Over 532 PA split between High-A (218 PA), Double-A (180 PA) and Triple-A (134 PA) he hit .311 with 4 HR (36 total extra base hits) and 35 SB.  Of course we’d like to see a few more walks (8.3% walk rate), but his ability to make consistent contact (2.2% SwStr%, 1.9% at Triple-A) is as impressive of a statistic as you’ll find. 

The problem is that it’s impossible to anticipate power suddenly develop, considering he didn’t show it both in the minors or in college.  In today’s game the unique speed only player isn’t seen as being as valuable, though with his ability to make contact he could overcome it. 

Stolen bases are becoming harder and harder to find, so it’s obvious where his value lies.  The question is how often is he going to be able to put it on display?  The two key questions are:

  1. Where will he hit in the batting order?
  2. Will he get on base enough?

The answer to the first question may depend on the second, to an extent.  Tim Anderson is currently penciled in atop the Chicago batting order, bringing a blend of power and speed.  At the same time he benefited from a .399 BABIP and in his first three years in the Majors had posted OBP of .306, .276 and .281. 

That said he’ll still get the first opportunity, and will be followed by Yoan Moncada.  That means that whoever mans second base will likely hit towards the bottom of the batting order.  Madrigal could operate as a second leadoff hitter, but he’s also going to lose PA.

In terms of getting on base enough, it’s something we referenced in our blurb about him.  While he has an elite contact rate, he also doesn’t draw quite enough walks.  Just look at the walk rates that he posted, per level, last season:

  • High-A (218 PA) – 7.8%
  • Double-A (180 PA) – 7.8%
  • Triple-A (134 PA) – 9.7%

Those aren’t bad numbers, but we’d certainly like to see them a bit higher.  With his speed he should be able to post an above average BABIP, and a .260+ AVG (with the potential for much higher) should be a given.  Even with those walk rates that should mean a .340+ OBP, and that should be enough.

Is he going to steal 20+ bases this season?  It’s not likely, given the short season, but he could swipe 10-15 bases as long as he’s starting on Opening Day.  There are limitations, since he may only hit 1-2 HR, but for those in need of speed he’s well worth grabbing immediately.

Source – Fangraphs

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings:

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PositionLast Updated
Catcher04/13/20
First Baseman--
Second Baseman04/15/20
Shortstop04/17/20
Third Baseman04/20/20
Outfield04/24/20
Pitcher--

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