On Thursday, Oregon State University second baseman Nick Madrigal returned to action after missing seven weeks with a wrist injury, going 2-for-4 in OSU’s 5-2 victory over the University of Oregon Ducks. Madrigal entered the spring as one of the top prospects available for the 2018 MLB draft. Despite his long absence from the lineup, he is still expected to be picked very early.
Madrigal played high school baseball in Elk Grove, California. He was well-known to scouts and was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 17th round of the 2015 draft. Madrigal didn’t sign (obviously) and honored his commitment to Oregon State.
He got into 49 games as a freshman in ‘16, hitting .333/.380/.456 across 195 at-bats with eight steals in 10 attempts and a pleasant 15/14 BB/K ratio. He was even better as a sophomore, mashing at a .380/.449/.582 clip with 20 doubles, 16 steals in 20 attempts, 27 walks against just 16 strikeouts in 237 at-bats and putting him in line for the first round in ‘18.
The wrist injury has limited Madrigal to 29 at-bats in 2018 but he’s been outstanding in that small sample, hitting .552/.581/.828 with a pair of home runs, three stolen bases, one walk, and zero strikeouts.
The numbers are obviously gaudy but Madrigal has the tools to back them up.
Speed is the best tool overall, with grades between 60 and 70 depending on the source. You can split the difference at 65 if you like, but everyone agrees that he’s an excellent baserunner with an ideal combination of instincts, athleticism, and aggression.
Speed doesn’t matter much if you can’t get on base but Madrigal excels in that department, with a superior batting eye and contact ability. There’s plenty of bat speed and his power production has improved steadily. He should hit a substantial number of doubles and triples and has a shot at hitting double-digit homers down the line. He can bunt, too, if you’re interested in small ball.
Madrigal plays second base for the Beavers due to the presence of Cadyn Grenier at shortstop. Madrigal is a tremendous second baseman, MLB.com going so far as to say he could be a Gold Glover someday. His arm and range are good enough for him to be a plausible shortstop, too. To top it all off, his makeup is considered superb.
The only negative here is size: Madrigal is listed at 5-7, 165. Not long ago that might have been enough to keep him out of the first round entirely, but the superior careers of Dustin Pedroia and Jose Altuve plus the increased emphasis on analytics when evaluating college players makes the size factor negligible at this point. Nobody holds his height against him, not with his overall balance of skills and tools.
Barring a catastrophic injury (the wrist doesn’t count) or other unforeseen disaster, Madrigal is a certain first round pick, a virtual lock for the top ten, probably in the top five, and possibly in the top three.
Baseball America video: