This former first-rounder has to be Cubs' odd man out when Dansby Swanson returns

Without the bat-to-ball skills that made him a top prospect, Nick Madrigal has little to offer.
Chicago Cubs v New York Mets
Chicago Cubs v New York Mets / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

The Chicago Cubs have been piecing together almost every aspect of the roster in the season's first two months, as injuries have piled up at a shocking rate. With Dansby Swanson on the IL with a knee injury, Nico Hoerner missed his third straight game on Thursday, forcing Craig Counsell to go with a combination of Miles Mastrobuoni and Nick Madrigal up the middle.

Mastrobuoni has made several impressive defensive plays and has even done some damage at the plate, getting on base at a .450 clip over the last week. Madrigal, meanwhile, has continued to languish - with half of his six hits over the last week coming in one game against Atlanta. More than anything, it's about the quality of contact he's had, and the numbers tell a damning story.

Somehow, Madrigal has a 0% barrel rate and solid contact rate on the year. The only thing he does well is not chase balls out of the zone, but that's not enough to make up for the lack of hard contact.

With defensive metrics grading him out poorly and the elite hit tool that made him a first-round pick out of Oregon State now just a distant memory, there's no question about who will be the odd man out when Swanson returns. It has to be Madrigal.

Minor league success hasn't translated for the Cubs' Nick Madrigal

He's got two minor-league options remaining, so he seems ticketed for Iowa, where he's put up solid numbers in recent years. In 2022, Madrigal hit .308 in limited Triple-A action and was even more impressive last season, with an OPS north of 1.110 in 70 plate appearances. For whatever reason, though, that production has never translated consistently at the big-league level.

The 2021 Craig Kimbrel trade brought Madrigal and reliever Codi Heuer to the North Side. Heuer is no longer with the organization and is currently on the 60-day IL in the minors with Texas and, sooner or later, it feels like Madrigal's run with the Cubs will draw to an unceremonious close, as well.