White Sox’ Nick Madrigal’s focus off the charts — and skills are, too, exec says
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CLEVELAND — You have to like middle infielder Nick Madrigal’s odds of becoming a White Sox fan favorite.
In these swing-hard-and-swing-often times, Madrigal is a throwback to the days when hitters were ashamed to strike out.
‘‘It’s become kind of normal to strike out in the game today, and it’s changed to where striking out is kind of OK,’’ Madrigal, 21, said. ‘‘But I’m never going to feel OK striking out.’’
With 11 games left, the Sox already have set a franchise record with a major-league-leading 1,458 strikeouts. So Madrigal, the fourth overall pick in the draft and the Sox’ No. 3-ranked prospect behind outfielder Eloy Jimenez and right-hander Michael Kopech, according to MLB Pipeline, should help in that regard. And because of his focus and instincts for the game, the 5-9 Madrigal also will bring a lot of little things Sox director of player development Chris Getz says are invaluable.
‘‘The thing that showed up for me was his focus,’’ Getz said. ‘‘Being a middle-of-the-diamond player demands it from pitch to pitch, and that stood above all else. All the best players in the game have that.’’
Said 11-time Gold Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel, Madrigal’s manager at Class A Winston-Salem: ‘‘He has good ability, he has very quick hands, he can turn some good double plays and get to a lot of balls. But what separates him from the rest of the young kids is his maturity. He thinks outside the box.’’
But Getz wants you to know that Madrigal, who was thought by many to be the best hitter in the draft, is much more than a scrappy, gritty, gutty, heads-up player.
‘‘Don’t underestimate his tools,’’ Getz said. ‘‘Hitting ability, running ability, defense. You are looking at an above-average tool set right there. The bat-to-ball skills are almost to an elite level.
‘‘When he swings, there is contact. He has a solid approach at the plate, and he puts together professional at-bats consistently.’’
Madrigal, who is getting ready for the Instructional League after leading Oregon State to the College World Series championship and making his first pro stops at the Arizona Summer League, Class A Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, showed Getz what he wanted to see, even though he was essentially a singles hitter.
Madrigal batted .303/.353/.348 with seven doubles, five walks and no home runs. He struck out five times and walked seven times in 173 plate appearances.
‘‘All the reasons why we were attracted to him for that first pick pretty much showed up every day,’’ Getz said. ‘‘He doesn’t take a moment off offensively and defensively. You have a middle-of-the-diamond player that’s ready for anything. And if he’s doing the ‘I need to do this’ almost through osmosis, it has a greater effect, where it increases the focus of everyone. I truly believe that.’’
Madrigal played second base this summer, but he’ll get more time at shortstop in the Instructional League.
‘‘It remains to be seen where he will get most of his reps in the majors, but he has the ability to play both,’’ Getz said.
And to hit with no fear.
‘‘I know the pitcher is going to make a great pitch and it’s going to happen, but I’m not afraid to strike out,’’ Madrigal said. ‘‘Some people might get antsy or nervous when they get two strikes on them, but I don’t.’’
Madrigal pocketed a $6.4 million signing bonus but said the only thing he really has spent money on is groceries for his apartment. He will ‘‘eventually buy some kind of car,’’ but that’s about it, he said.
‘‘I don’t need flashy jewelry or any of that kind of stuff,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m all set right now.’’’
Sounds like a blue-collar type made for the South Side.
‘‘I’m fortunate to be drafted by the Chicago White Sox,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s a lot of talent in the organization. Bringing back a winning culture is something I want to be a part of. It’s a perfect fit for me.’’