The White Sox want Nick Madrigal to create a good problem.
He was drafted fourth overall as a second baseman with shortstop skills, and they hope he’s so good at one spot or both that he forces them to consider moving — or perhaps even trading from strength if it comes to that — second baseman Yoan Moncada and shortstop Tim Anderson. Those are the two position-player building blocks from the big-league roster the Sox’ rebuild is centered around.
“It doesn’t change our approach,’’ director of player development Chris Getz said. “Regardless of what our major-league team looks like presently, we’re going to put him in the best position to succeed. Obviously, when the time comes, you can adjust with Nick. One reason he was attractive is we believe his bat plays anywhere. So although he might profile best at one place, he can play anywhere on the diamond.’’
Madrigal, a heady infielder with highly regarded hitting skills, took a short break from the Instructional League to visit Guaranteed Rate Field and throw out the first pitch Monday before the Sox played the Indians. It has been all baseball, all the time, all year long for the 5-7, 165-pounder who got almost all of his playing time at second base for College World Series champion Oregon State and in the Arizona League and at both Class A levels this summer.
“We just wanted him to be comfortable this year and get acclimated to professional baseball having played mainly second base this season at Oregon State,’’ Getz said.
But he’ll get a good look at shortstop in the Instructional League, where his Winston-Salem coach, 11-time Gold Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel, is already hitting him ground balls.
“I’ve bounced a lot of questions off him, not only baseball stuff but outside of the game,’’ Madrigal said.
Anderson and Moncada like where they’re at but have been open to playing different positions, although the Sox have been pleased overall with their progress of late, especially Anderson’s defense. It’s too soon to contemplate what the future holds.
In any event, Getz said Madrigal can play shortstop and second base, and he raves about not only his bat but his focus and baseball instincts that rub off on everyone around him.
“He doesn’t take a moment off offensively and defensively, and the effect that it has on your team is great,’’ Getz said. “You have a middle-of-the-diamond player who is ready for anything, and it increases everyone’s focus: ‘If he’s doing this, I need to do this.’ I truly believe that.’’
Madrigal met manager Rick Renteria and walked through the clubhouse, meeting Anderson and James Shields, among others.
“Everyone was real welcoming to me, so it was definitely nice,’’ he said.
Madrigal was the shortest guy in the room with boyish looks that would blend in on any high school team. Even his twin brother, a pitcher at Saint Mary’s College who was unable to join him and their older brother and parents Monday, is taller.
“I’ve always been one of the smaller kids on my team throughout my life,’’ he said.
That has never been an issue. He is, after all, an inch taller than Jose Altuve.
“No, no, it’s something I’ve never backed down from,’’ he said. “When I take the field, there’s no thought in my mind about my size at all.’’
Getz, who believes home-run power will manifest itself soon, said he isn’t sure where Madrigal will start the 2019 season — at Winston-Salem or Class AA Birmingham. If he continues to progress — he batted .303/.353/.348 with seven doubles, five walks, no homers and only five strikeouts in 173 plate appearances with three teams — a 2020 major-league appearance wouldn’t be out of the question.
“Whatever the organization needs me to do,’’ he said. “I can definitely see this being a home for me sometime soon.’’