There’s a good deal of time before the White Sox need to decide where Nick Madrigal fits in the puzzle that is the team’s lineup of the future.
The good news is that he’s a piece that can fit into several different spots.
Part of the allure of Madrigal’s first-round selection in this summer’s draft was that he was a talented defender capable of playing a number of positions on the infield. And though he almost exclusively played second base during his first season as a pro, he’s still capable of playing elsewhere on the infield.
Heck, he’s even got experience catching. Kind of.
“I’ve worked on different positions throughout my life in the infield,” Madrigal said, meeting with reporters Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field. “When my dad hit me ground balls, I made sure to take them from both sides of the bag, just to make sure I had that in my back pocket. I’ve played a lot of shortstop my whole life.
“When I was really young I caught, so I feel like I’ve played almost every position on the field and I feel comfortable doing that.”
Madrigal made sure to point out that the last time he played catcher he was 11 years old, so don’t expect to see him bring those skills to the majors when he eventually arrives on the South Side. But his versatility means there’s a variety of permutations that Rick Renteria could employ when the time comes.
Selecting a middle infielder — and one with three years of collegiate experience, at that — was a bit of a curious decision when the White Sox made the pick back in June. It’s not because anyone didn’t like the skill set that Madrigal brings; he was considered the best all-around player in college baseball and is already the organization’s No. 4 prospect in MLB Pipeline’s rankings. But two members of the White Sox young core are currently playing middle infield in the major leagues. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada figure to be pretty well entrenched in their positions, with the team talking about them both as if they’ll be around for a very long time after things shift from rebuilding mode to contention mode.
Will there be room for all three of those guys on the diamond, should they all live up to expectations? The White Sox certainly would qualify that as a good problem to have. But Madrigal’s versatility could help solve it before it starts. To their credit, both Anderson and Moncada have also commented this season about a willingness to play other positions.
Like with many of the other highly touted prospects in the White Sox loaded farm system, Madrigal already has sky-high expectations from the rebuild-loving fan base. He played at three different levels of minor league baseball in his short time since joining the organization, and after a successful collegiate career that included a College World Series win this summer, there’s an expectation that he could fly through the system.
Whether or not that ends up happening, the expectations likely won’t decrease any time soon: In 43 minor league games, Madrigal slashed .308/.353/.348 with a jaw-droppingly low five strikeouts in 173 plate appearances.
“Throughout my life I’ve always had expectations,” Madrigal said. “I know there’s always going to be people talking and social media and all that stuff. I’m really just focused on now and, while I’m in the instructional league, trying to get better, trying help the people around me. Those things don’t bother me, but I know they’re going to be there my whole life. But I’m not worried about it at all.
“I’ve won at every level I’ve been at so far, going back to Little League, high school and college. That’s something I want to continue doing. And it seems like this organization is the perfect fit for me.”
So how quickly could Madrigal force the issue and reach the big leagues? His bat will likely determine the answer to that question, and we’ll see what the results are next season. He’s not concerned about it, however. He seems to share the confidence of many of his fellow White Sox prospects. He definitely shares the knowledge that the decision on when he reaches the bigs is not his to make.
Whether at second base, shortstop or third base — or catcher (not really) — Madrigal has a bright future ahead, another reason for fans to be so excited about this team’s future. How long will this particular waiting game last? You’ll just have to, well, wait.
“It’s kind of out of my control at this point,” he said. “Whatever the organization needs me to do. I can definitely see this being a home for me sometime soon.”