Nick Madrigal

The wait for Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal might be the last round of waiting for White Sox fans

The wait for Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal might be the last round of waiting for White Sox fans

Eloy Jimenez? Check. Dylan Cease? Check. Next up? Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal.

Cease’s major league debut Wednesday brought the same kind of excitement that Michael Kopech’s did a year ago. But Cease’s came with an added bonus: a light at the end of the White Sox rebuilding tunnel. With Lucas Giolito and Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada and James McCann and Jose Abreu and Eloy Jimenez all producing at the big league level, the idea of the contention window opening in 2020 isn’t at all outrageous.

Cease being here makes it all the more possible. And a couple more core pieces getting to the majors would go even further. And so fans looking to put all the pieces together and see a contending White Sox team on the field look to the next two big arrivals: Robert and Madrigal. Both will play in Sunday’s Futures Game in Cleveland, giving fans a chance to see the two highest rated prospects in the organization yet to reach the majors in action without an MiLB.TV subscription.

“Both Luis and Nick are progressing very well. In terms of where we had hoped they would be over the course of the ’19 season, I’m not sure we could ask for much more,” general manager Rick Hahn said last week. “Talking with (Double-A Birmingham manager) Omar Vizquel and the staff there over the last couple of days, they can’t sing their praises loudly enough in terms of work ethic and what they’re bringing in between the white lines.”

It’s certainly possible that neither reaches the South Side before time runs out on the 2019 season, though Robert’s continued demolition of minor league pitching seems to make his ascent a little more realistic. Speculation kicked into overdrive Saturday, thanks to a Robert social media post, that he might be heading to Triple-A Charlotte after his trip to Cleveland rather than returning to Birmingham, and before Saturday's game, Hahn confirmed that's what will happen.

Robert was superhuman in 19 games to begin the season at Class A Winston-Salem, slashing an ungodly .453/.512/.920, sparking a quick promotion to Birmingham, where he’s done just as well, with a .314/.362/.518 slash line in 56 games. Combined between the two levels, he’s got 16 homers, 21 doubles, six triples, 53 RBIs, 29 stolen bases and 64 runs scored.

The promotion was well earned.

But more than all that production, Robert’s potential is that of a five-tool player at the major league level. He hits for average, he hits for power, he runs fast, he’s got range for days in the outfield. He can do it all, as Madrigal can attest.

“It's pretty incredible to see. Whether it's on the base paths, in the outfield, at the plate, you just see how special a player he is,” Madrigal said on a Thursday conference call. “It seems like one at-bat will go by and he'll look fooled at the plate and the next one he'll be on every single pitch. He makes adjustments on the fly.

“And it's fun hitting behind him, it seems like he's always on base with a chance for him to score every time I'm up. It's been great to play with him.

“At the beginning of the year, playing at Winston-Salem, I feel like he definitely boosted the lineup. Even the way he runs the bases, the way he runs (on a ball) in the gap getting triples, he definitely sparks your team. Baseball's kind of contagious, and once he gets on it's easier to hit. The pitcher feels some pressure. It's just great playing beside him.”

Madrigal, of course, has his own superhuman skill to him, an inability to strike out, and he’s done it just eight times in 74 games this season. That goes along with what was hyped up when he was drafted as Gold Glove caliber defense at second base, as well as a base-stealing ability — he's one off Robert's season total with 28 on the year.

He got off to a good-but-not-amazing start at Winston-Salem, with a .272/.346/.377 slash line in 49 games there. He got promoted and has torn it up at Birmingham, slashing .392/.454/.485 in his 25 games since jumping up a level.

“It's always been a part of my game, trying not to strike out, especially hitting toward the top of the order,” Madrigal said. “Even in college, I feel like on Friday nights we'd see great pitching, so the transition to pro baseball, there's definitely a lot more quality arms on a daily basis. But I feel like there hasn't been anything I haven't seen yet, as far as velocity or different off-speed pitches. I feel like I've seen that, whether in pro baseball or in college baseball. So it hasn't been anything I haven't seen as of yet.

“I worked extremely hard during the offseason and during the season on my swing. ... I finally tried to embrace what kind of hitter I am, a gap-to-gap hitter, rather than trying to do too much at the plate and hit fly balls. I've really tried to perfect what style of play will most benefit me at the plate. When I think about more line drives and hitting the ball hard on the ground, I tend to do better. So that's something I've picked up over the last couple years.”

Robert and Madrigal have batted at the top of the Birmingham lineup over the last few weeks, and it’s not difficult to look ahead a year or so and see them doing the same thing at the top of the White Sox batting order.

Robert seems more likely to reach the majors this season than Madrigal, who was drafted just a year ago. But even if neither makes it to the South Side this year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them on the Opening Day roster in 2020, especially if the White Sox make a splash this winter and come even closer to opening their contention window.

Fans waited for Moncada, for Kopech, for Jimenez, for Cease. Now they’re waiting for Robert and Madrigal. But with each new arrival, the waiting for the White Sox puzzle to come together gets shorter and shorter.

Perhaps by the time these two young stars reach the South Side, the waiting will be over.

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Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal will represent White Sox at Futures Game

Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal will represent White Sox at Futures Game

The White Sox future will be on display during All-Star festivities next month in Cleveland.

Two cornerstones of Rick Hahn's rebuilding effort were named to the Futures Game on Friday, with outfielder Luis Robert on the World roster and second baseman Nick Madrigal on the U.S. roster.

Robert was recently elevated to the No. 5 prospect in baseball in MLB Pipeline's refreshed rankings, a deserved placement with the way he's torn up the minor leagues this season. After posting a jaw-dropping .453/.512/.920 slash line with eight homers, five doubles, three triples and eight stolen bases in just 19 games at Class A Winston-Salem, he was promoted to Double-A Birmingham, where he's hit .320/.365/.531 with seven homers, 14 doubles, three triples and 14 stolen bases in 48 contests.

Robert projects to be the White Sox center fielder of the future, and that future figures to arrive relatively soon considering the damage he's done this season. It might not happen before the 2019 campaign runs out, as Robert playing at four different levels in one year seems unlikely. But he's playing so well that suggesting he could be on the White Sox roster for Opening Day 2020 is not at all outrageous.

Madrigal has also split time between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham this season. Currently ranked as the No. 39 prospect in the game, Madrigal got off to a good but less-than-electric start in his first full season as a professional, hitting .272/.346/.377 in 49 games at Winston-Salem. But he's been on fire since being promoted to Birmingham, with a .377/.442/.449 slash line in 18 games. Oh, and he's struck out all of seven times this season, just once since his promotion.

Madrigal's been a pro for just a year, picked with the No. 4 pick in last summer's draft. But the guy that the White Sox touted as the best all-around player in college baseball in 2018 is just two jumps from the major leagues at this point. He, too, would figure to be unlikely to play at four different levels in one season, but just like Robert, if the hot hitting continues for the rest of the season, seeing Madrigal on the Opening Day roster for 2020 would not be a shocking sight.

The Futures Game has provided a stage for the White Sox to show off their bright future for several seasons now. Last year in Washington, D.C., Luis Basabe hit a home run and Dylan Cease pitched in the ninth inning against some of the best young players in the game. The year prior in Miami, Michael Kopech, Yoan Moncada and Zack Collins all represented the White Sox, and Eloy Jimenez played in his second straight Futures Game right before being dealt to the White Sox from the Cubs.

Well, 2019's edition is another star-studded one, from a White Sox perspective, with Robert and Madrigal playing.

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Highly ranked White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal getting promoted to Double-A Birmingham

Highly ranked White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal getting promoted to Double-A Birmingham

Two days after the White Sox made Andrew Vaughn their latest first-round pick, they've sent their previous first-round pick to the upper levels of the minor league system.

Nick Madrigal, who the White Sox selected with the No. 4 pick of the 2018 draft, is getting promoted to Double-A Birmingham, per Our Chuck Garfien.

Madrigal slashed .272/.346/.377 in 49 games at Class A Winston-Salem, and though his power numbers left plenty to be desired — he hit just two home runs in 218 plate appearances, though power is hardly his most desirable attribute — he's been as advertised as someone who puts the ball in play, with just six strikeouts on the season. He also flashed his speed, with 17 stolen bases to go along with his 52 hits and 20 runs scored.

Madrigal is envisioned by many as the White Sox second baseman of the future. There were questions when the White Sox picked him as to why they made such a choice with Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada seemingly locked into the major league middle infield for the foreseeable future. But after the failed pursuit of Manny Machado during the offseason, the White Sox slid Moncada over to third base, where he's played very well defensively. While the team was insistent that the move was made to help Moncada become a better all-around player and not because Madrigal was on the way, fans and observers couldn't help but notice the long-term hole that opened up at second base, one that figures to be filled by Madrigal once he's big league ready.

Madrigal was touted as an advanced hitter who could play Gold Glove caliber defense at second base. While he hasn't shown much power during his first full season as a professional, as evidenced by that .377 slugging percentage, he's still highly rated as one of the top prospects in the game. MLB Pipeline will eventually shake up their rankings once the draft is over with, but as things stand right now, Madrigal is ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the White Sox organization and the No. 44 prospect in all of baseball.

"I know that’s been one of the questions around everybody, it’s the power," White Sox scouting director Nick Hostetler said last week of his first-round pick from a year ago. "The guy still leads all of baseball in contact rate. He makes the most contact of anybody. That’s what we drafted him to do. We knew he was a contact guy, we knew he was going to play Gold Glove second base. He’s done that.

"He’s Nick Madrigal. He’s going to want to win, and he’s not going to strike out."

This promotion comes not long after the one that sent Luis Robert to Birmingham earlier this season. Robert, ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the organization and the No. 18 prospect in baseball, has absolutely torn the minor leagues up this season. After slashing a jaw-dropping .453/.512/.920 in 19 games at Winston-Salem, he's got a .352/.396/.576 line in 31 games with Birmingham. Now both Madrigal and Robert will be playing with the Barons as they get closer to the major leagues.

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