As Nick Madrigal talked on a conference call Monday night, there was frequent frantic cheering coming from his end of the phone.
It was fitting background music.
Not only is the 21-year-old Oregon State infielder excited about trying to help the Beavers win their third College World Series in the past 13 years, but Madrigal is even more pumped about being drafted by the White Sox with the No. 4 overall pick.
“This is a special moment,” Madrigal said. “We still have some postseason games, we’re not done yet, but we’re definitely going to enjoy the next couple days.”
If Madrigal lives up to his potential, Sox fans are going to be enjoying his play a lot longer than that.
“Nick is recognized as one of the best hitters in college baseball, and we’re excited to add him to the organization,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “He possesses tremendous baseball skills, character and makeup, and we look forward to watching him compete for the national championship before joining the White Sox organization and beginning his professional career.”
In the second round (No. 46 overall), the Sox drafted Oklahoma outfielder Steele Walker. He was rated the No. 32 best prospect in the draft by Baseball America.
Getting back to Madrigal, don’t be fooled by his lack of size. At 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, Madrigal has been compared to 5-6, 165-pound Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, the defending American League MVP. The Boston Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia is another comp.
“I like to say I’m 5-8, but it’s better to say I’m 5-7, right around there,” said Madrigal, an Elk Grove, California, native. “I think baseball’s one of those games where height really doesn’t matter at all. When I take the field, I never think that at all.
“I feel confident in how much work I put in during the offseason, in practice, so when I get in the game, I feel comfortable. I feel like I’m the biggest guy out there, no matter my size.”
Considering he has a .406/.470/.586 hitting line and only five strikeouts in 133 at-bats heading into the Beavers’ NCAA super regional game against Minnesota, it’s easy to project Madrigal as the Sox’s leadoff hitter of the future.
“I’ve always hit toward the top of the order at all levels I’ve been a part of,” said Madrigal, who has never been to Chicago. “You’re not supposed to strike out if you’re hitting toward the top of the order.
“In batting practice, I’ve always tried to make contact with different pitches, whether it’s a strike or a ball. It’s something I’ve worked on and, hopefully, I continue to do, but I definitely take pride in that.”
As for his defensive position in the pro ranks, let’s just say Madrigal is flexible.
“Whatever the organization needs me to do,” he said. “I know they have a plan. I feel like I can play anywhere on the infield. If they needed me to grab an outfield glove, I feel like I can do that, also. It all depends on what they want me to do. I just want to go out and play at this point.”
Madrigal is a natural shortstop. He has been playing second base at Oregon State because teammate Cadyn Grenier is widely considered the best defender at short in college baseball.
“I’ve played shortstop my whole life,” Madrigal said. “I know I can do it. I feel like I can play second base. I haven’t played much of third base, but I feel like I can do that, also. I feel confident at shortstop.
“Whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll be willing to do that.”
Note: Eloy Jimenez is doing it all at Double-A Birmingham.
In addition to ranking first in the Southern League with a .988 OPS, second with 10 home runs and 39 RBIs (in 41 games) and fifth with a .331 batting average, Jimenez passed out his own bobblehead to Barons fans Friday night.
Voted the Sox’s minor-league player of the month for May after batting .374 with 11 doubles, a triple, six home runs, 25 RBIs and 17 runs scored in 26 games, Jimenez is going to have plenty of more bobblehead days at the rate he’s going.
Triple-A Charlotte is the 21-year-old outfielder’s next stop, and Jimenez still figures to make it to the Sox at some point after the All-Star break.
As usual, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder is staying in the now.
“I do believe I’m ready for it,” Jimenez said of playing in the majors. “But you know what? It’s not something for me decide. Whenever they think it’s a good time for me to be in the majors, they’re going to make it. I’m ready whenever they say I’m ready.”