White Sox

Saad could suit up for Blackhawks Thursday

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Saad could suit up for Blackhawks Thursday

Brandon Saad was feeling the same emotions on Wednesday as he did when he was in the Blackhawks locker room back in September. Its a thrill for him to be here, exciting to get a chance to wear that jersey again.

And on Thursday, he just might get that chance.

Saad, who is just the second of six black aces called up to Chicago, could play when the Blackhawks host Phoenix in Game 4 of their first-round series, coach Joel Quenneville said today. The 19-year-old Saad, who was the Blackhawks second-round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, could fill the spot left by Marian Hossa, who is out after the hit he took from Raffi Torres in Game 3.

"Hes got some skill. And just looking at him physically today, theres a remarkable difference from camp and the stint he had at the start of the season. Hes filled out, bigger," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He had a pretty remarkable year and a great playoffs.

"We gave him a great opportunity to start this season," Quenneville continued. "He gives us some nice assets. The puck seems to follow him around.

Saad impressed the Blackhawks in training camp and made the season-opening roster. But after two games, he was sent back to the Ontario Hockey League and finished the season with the Saginaw Spirit. It was a good one: Saad scored a career-best 34 goals and had 76 points on the season. He also had a team-high rating of plus-35.

The Spirit were eliminated from the OHL playoffs on Saturday, opening the door for Saads return on the Blackhawks expanded roster.

They called me (Tuesday) night and told me to come up this morning. Im excited to be here, said Saad, who would love to be part of the Blackhawks postseason.

Everyone knows playoff hockey just picks it up a little bit. The NHL is a little bit faster. I hope (I can play).

Saad may just get his chance tomorrow night.

This is what I dream of. I want to make the NHL and play, he said. I got a taste of it at the start of the season and playoff hockey would be awesome to be a part of.

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

When the White Sox drafted Nick Madrigal with the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft he was known as an elite contact hitter who could play good defense on the infield.

In nearly a year in the minors, that has mostly held true, but not exactly according to plan. Madrigal raced through three levels of the minors in 2018 and hit .303 in 43 games between those three stops. He only had five strikeouts.

This season has not gone as smoothly. Madrigal is hitting .261 for Single-A Winston-Salem, but he still isn’t striking out much at all. In fact, according to a write-up on Milb.com, Madrigal leads of all minor league baseball with a 3.3 percent strikeout rate.

“Madrigal has plus speed, and that should lead to more hits as his sample increases, but he'll have to hit a lot more to provide value from his specific profile,” Sam Dykstra wrote.

So what’s with Madrigal not hitting for higher average? How can a batter strikeout so rarely and not find more hits?

White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler, one of the key decision makers in drafting Madrigal, talked about Madrigal’s progress on an episode of the White Sox Talk podcast earlier this week.

“The one thing he’s still doing is making contact,” Hostetler said. “So that is what we expected. We expected that out of him. I’m not sure he was probably expecting the streaks. I think he’s dealt with a lot of streaks in his offensive game this year. I think he had one stretch that was 0-for-16 or 17 and he came back with a couple hits. So he’s been a little streaky this year. But I think he’s starting to learn. He’s starting to develop. He’s had one home run. He’s starting to hit some doubles, but he’s starting to learn to get the ball in the air a little bit. He’s learning how teams are shifting him, how they’re playing him.”

The shifts Hostetler referred to are another interesting part of Madrigal’s unusual profile. He is actually going to opposite field more than pulling the ball down left field and opposing defenses are playing him accordingly. That could be one reason to explain why Madrigal isn’t getting more hits out of all the balls he is putting in play.

He is showing a bit more power this year as opposed to last year (11 extra base hits vs. 7 in only 10 more plate appearances). His spray charts for 2018 and 2019 show he is pulling the ball more than he used to, a sign that he is adjusting.

2018 spray chart:

2019 spray chart:

Note that Madrigal has more balls resulting in hits getting pulled down the left field side than he had last year. As defenses are shifting him to hit the ball to opposite field, as Hostetler noted, this will be a key part of his development.

He is showing progress in other areas. He is drawing more walks (14 this season vs. 7 last year) and is showing off his speed with 12 stolen bases.

Hostetler isn’t pushing the panic button on Madrigal.

“This is part of development,” Hostetler said. “Unfortunately the new wave we’re in everybody thinks ‘well, they’re a college guy and he’s drafted so high he needs to hit like this and go right away and be there in a year.’ Some guys just take a little bit.

“The one thing I’ll say is the defense has been exactly what we thought it would be. It’s Gold Glove caliber defense and he’s making contact. As long as he keeps making contact, keep fielding those balls like he is, he’ll figure out the rest.”

 

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Redemption Stories & Schwarber Leading Off

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Redemption Stories & Schwarber Leading Off

Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by the Cubs Postgame Live team of David Kaplan and David DeJesus to break down all the various redemption stories on the 2019 Cubs, ranging from Kris Bryant returning from an injury-plagued campaign to Tyler Chatwood becoming a legitimate weapon out of the bullpen (1:00). Then, the guys discuss how well Kyle Schwarber is performing out of the leadoff spot over the last week (11:45).

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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