As the dust settles from Jed Hoyer’s massive teardown, the future of the Chicago Cubs is a bit more clear with the returns they got from key veteran pieces. The deal which sent stud closer Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox brought back second baseman Nick Madrigal to the North Side. Madrigal, 24, will miss the remainder of the 2021 season due to a hamstring injury but looks to be ready to suit up in blue this coming spring.
Known as “Nicky Two-Strikes”, Madrigal was initially drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2015, but did not sign. He was then drafted again by the White Sox fourth overall in 2018 out of Oregon State University. Prior to the 2020 season, he was ranked the 40th-prospect in baseball by MLB.com. Baseball America also had him ranked in the 40s range of top prospects. After slashing .309/.371/.389 in the minors, he made his way to the majors last year.
In 2020 he slashed .340/.376/.369 with 35 hits in 29 games. Before getting injured this season, he slashed .305/.349/.425 with four triples in 54 games. In total, he is slashing .317/.358/.406 with 96 hits and a 114 wRC+ in 83 career MLB games.
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Madrigal is a pure contact hitter who focuses on putting the ball in play no matter where the pitch is in or out of the zone. He does not walk a lot or hit for any power, which is typically not a great combo, but his bat-on-ball skills make him stand out. His career strikeout rate is 7.4 percent and his career contact rate is an incredibly impressive 92 percent. He makes contact on out-of-zone pitches alone 83.8 percent of the time and when the pitch is in the zone and he swings he hits it 97.6 percent of the time.
Another valuable asset of his is his ability to spray the ball all over the field, especially hitting it to center or shooting it the opposite way. He is a career 43.2 percent center and 35 percent oppo hitter.
His nickname “Nicky Two-Strikes” reflects what he can do down in the count. In his career on 0-2 counts, he is hitting .483.
How Nick Madrigal can provide value to the Chicago Cubs
Madrigal brings something that many Cubs fans have wanted to see, a pure contact hitter. With a lot of the past core’s struggles with putting the ball in play, Hoyer might be getting ahead of the curve here and bringing in a new contact-based philosophy. Something baseball has steered away from in recent years. His speed is also an asset that can turn balls in play into extra-base hits, again something the team has somewhat lacked in recent years.
There could be reason to believe that Madrigal, with his pitch identification abilities, can up his walk game a tad as he grows. Not a whole lot, he will likely never be a walk machine, but at least improve and still be able to make contact with a pitch when swinging at it. Just to help his on-base grow even further. Regardless, his career OBP is already .358 which is really dang good for a guy who walks about five percent of the time.
With Nico Hoerner and Madrigal, the Cubs future middle infield has a lot of contact, which is good. The downside? No pop. If Chicago can build corner infielders and outfielders with home run power then it can work out just fine. Madrigal could very well be that top-of-the-order guy that has been needed for a while if he can put the ball in play, get on, and speed around the bases.
This trade can feel a bit like another fleecing to Cubs fans, Kimbrel is the premier reliever in baseball. However, there could be a lot of upside coming to the North Side in 2022 and beyond. It is worth noting that Madrigal has club control through 2026 so he will be here for the long run.