White Sox

Stalberg strikes twice in World Championship win

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Stalberg strikes twice in World Championship win

Viktor Stalberg scored a pair of goals to help Sweden capture a 6-4 win over Denmark Monday.

All three Swedish Blackhawks combined on the opening goal of the match 2:06 into the first period when Stalberg scored and Marcus Kruger and Niklas Hjalmarsson picked up the assists. Stalberg scored nine minutes, 37 seconds later to put Sweden up 4-0 and Kruger picked up an assist on that goal as well.

Elsewhere, Michael Frolik scored his first goal of the tournament to give the Czech Republic a 3-2 lead before Norway scored roughly three minutes later to tie it. Ales Hemsky of the Edmonton Oilers gave the Czechs a victory in the shootout.

Believe in 'Magic': For White Sox, a matter of when, not if, Nick Madrigal starts raking in the majors

Believe in 'Magic': For White Sox, a matter of when, not if, Nick Madrigal starts raking in the majors

When will Nick Madrigal reach the majors?

That, now that Luis Robert's path to an Opening Day roster spot has been cleared by a big-money contract extension, is the most pressing of the prospect-related queries facing the 2020 White Sox, a team that, it should be noted, will be turning its focus away from the minors and toward playing big league baseball in October for the first time in more than a decade.

Not unlike Robert, Madrigal shredded minor league pitching in 2019, playing at three levels and showing just how successful his elite bat-to-ball skills can make him as an offensive producer. He stepped to the plate 532 times and struck out only 16 times.

There's a reason even Rick Renteria is already calling the 22-year-old "Magic."

The general feeling seems to be that Madrigal will start the season at Triple-A Charlotte, though with the waiting game apparently over on the South Side and the intent to win as many games as possible, perhaps a strong showing at spring training will see Madrigal starting at second base in the March 26 opener.

That's a question better answered after the White Sox have been in Glendale for a few weeks.

But Madrigal's goal is clear.

"I definitely want to be in Chicago as soon as I can," Madrigal said earlier this week at the team's hitters' camp out in the desert. "I know they have a plan for me one way or another, but I think that’s the ultimate goal: being in Chicago and winning with that team.

"I know this offseason there’s been a lot of moves, and I’m excited to be a part of that, hopefully, in the near future. The ultimate goal is winning. There’s nothing else at this point."

Madrigal might not have blown the doors off the minors like Robert, who finished with a 30-30 season, but he wasn't fazed by climbing through the system. Madrigal put up good-not-great numbers in nearly 50 games at Class A Winston-Salem but exploded for a .341 batting average and a .400 on-base percentage in 42 games at Double-A Birmingham before batting .331 and reaching base at a .398 clip in 29 games at Charlotte.

That he didn't even reach 30 games in a Knights uniform could signal that the White Sox might prefer a little more seasoning, but he didn't see any problems facing the pitching at Triple-A.

“Honestly, it wasn’t too different at all. There was nothing I hadn’t seen before," he said. "There were some older guys in the league, more consistent arms. I thought it wasn’t anything too different.”

Madrigal's earning high praise all over the place, rated among the best prospects in the game. He's earned rave reviews for his ability on both sides of the ball, picked by team executives (in an MLB Pipeline poll) as having one of the best hit tools and gloves of any player in the minor leagues.

There still might be some skepticism, or perhaps mere curiosity, as to how Madrigal's skill set will translate to the major leagues. Players like him, who focus on making contact and putting the ball in play, are becoming rarer in today's game, which sees a focus on power and launch angle and an acceptance of strikeouts. His manager, one of "Magic's" biggest fans, isn't too concerned about Madrigal finding success once he finally makes the jump to the bigs.

"Watching him swing the bat yesterday, I'm amazed at his bat-to-ball skills. It's incredible," Renteria said Wednesday from Arizona. "He's actually filling out a little bit more. All these guys, we've seen them for the last four years, they're growing up. And even though Magic just joined us last year, you can see a difference in him, physically speaking.

"I think his skill set, in terms of his bat-to-ball skills, as he continues to develop, you may see a ball leave the ballpark here and there. But the fact he can put the bat on the ball and manage the barrel as well as he does, he'll be able to find holes. Continuing to improve upon and cleaning his swing path, staying through the ball a little bit more and still being able to use all parts of the field, his skill set will play. He'll find a way to get on base at a high rate through probably contact and eye recognition, pitch recognition."

Rick Hahn has said that he expects Madrigal to be the White Sox second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 campaign, so even if he doesn't make the 26-man roster out of spring training, keep your eyes peeled for a Madrigal sighting not too deep into the baseball calendar.

This is a matter of when, not if. So the walk-up music folks at Guaranteed Rate Field better start getting ready. Will it be "Magic Man" by Heart? Or "Strange Magic" by Electric Light Orchestra? "Do You Believe in Magic" by The Lovin' Spoonful is, of course, also acceptable.

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Edgy Tim’s Team of the Decade: Kickers

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EDGY TIM

Edgy Tim’s Team of the Decade: Kickers

You may not picture Illinois as a hotbed for kickers. But we have been fortunate to witness so many that have done well on the prep level.

This is our final position in the “Team of the Decade” series (2010-2019). This position should produce more debate: Do you factor in just strictly high school production and program winning/success, or does a particular player's post high school success also become a factor? Let the debate begin.

Jake Elliott, Lyons Township’s Class of 2013 (Memphis): Elliott, who had never played football until his junior season at L-T, made the most of his limited time on the field. He was named an All-State kicker his senior season. Elliott ended up signing with Memphis and was a four-year starting kicker for the Tigers. Elliott was a fifth-round selection of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2017 NFL Draft and was then signed off their practice squad by the Philadelphia Eagles. Elliott has remained the Eagles kicker since the 2017 season.

Austin Seibert, Belleville West’s Class of 2015 (Oklahoma): Seibert was ranked as one of the nation's best prep kickers in the Class of 2015. He ended up signing with the Oklahoma Sooners after drawing multiple scholarship offers. Seibert had an impressive career kicking for the Sooners and was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He made 25 of 29 field goal attempts and 30 of 35 extra points this past season.

Tucker McCann, O'Fallon’s Class of 2016 (Missouri): McCann was a nationally sought-after kicker in the Class of 2016 and signed with Missouri after considering offers from Alabama and Illinois. McCann is also listed in several IHSA kicking records including career field goals made (28), field goals made in a season (12), field goals made in a game (four) and still holds the state record for the longest field goal made in a game (60 yards). McCann also made at least one field goal over 50 yards in all three years he kicked at the varsity level for the Panthers.

Jack Olsen, Wheaton Warrenville South’s Class of 2020 (Michigan State): Olsen, who graduated early this fall and is already enrolled at Michigan State, was a four-year letterman for the Tigers and head coach Ron Muhitch. He was named as an All-State kicker in 2018 and 2019 by EDGYTIM/Rivals.com. During his time at WWS, he set new IHSA records for the most field goals made in a game (eight) along with the most field goals made in a single season (22).

Dominic Dzioban, Lincoln-Way East’s Class of 2020 (Miami OH): Dzioban, otherwise known as “The Dominator,” was 18-of-20 on field goals and 50-of-51 on extra points last season. Dzioban's kickoff and punting game was a major weapon for the Griffins, who won the Class 8A state title this past fall. Dzioban also earned All-State honors as a senior and owns the school record for most field goals made (37) and is the school's all-time leading scorer (340 points). He possesses 50 yard-plus field goal range and was one of the best two-way kickers in the Land of Lincoln over the past several seasons.

Next in?

Ron Colucci, Naperville North’s Class of 2012 (Central Michigan/Iowa)

Kai Kroeger, Lake Forest: Class of 2020 (South Carolina)

Caleb Griffin, Danville’s Class of 2018 (Illinois)

Josh Pollack, Highland Park’s Class of 2014 (Arizona)

John Richardson, Brother Rice’s Class of 2018 (Northern Illinois)