Nick Madrigal is a 5’7” 160 lbs Second Baseman from Oregon State University. He recently broke his wrist, but should be back in plenty of time to stay a top pick. And don’t worry about the wrist injury sapping his power, that’s not really part of his game anyway. Nick is kind of like a Willians Astudillo type hitter, he draws walks at an average clip, he doesn’t really strike out and he just makes consistent contact. He has a career .370/.428/.519 line at OSU with a lot of doubles power.
I’ll tackle Defense first and it’s best to say he’s maybe in line with Scott Kingery and Cesar Hernandez: just enough arm and range to play Short in a pinch, but not a guy you’d really want to play there for more than a few innings. His range is average at Second (below for Short) despite being a 70-80 grade runner (range is more reliant on short burst, lateral quickness which explains why some 55 grade runners have great range and some guys with 80 grade speed can have poor range, they’re different skills). He plays a smooth Second though and should be an average defender and his experience at Short gives him some flexibility to sub on occasion in an emergency.
I mentioned the speed above, but I’ll expand a little. Nick’s a Right handed hitter and times from Home to First range from the 3.84 (grade 80+) range up to near 2.10 (grade 70). Scouts also note he’s a smart baserunner, times jumps well and knows when to push the envelope. I expect Madrigal to be a guy who could rack up 25-30 steals a year, maybe more. A team with him and Roman Quinn would be a blast to watch on the bases.
I already noted the power is mostly of the Doubles variety, but I think more could come. The first thing I’d do if I drafted Madrigal is introduce him to the squat machine and tell him to get super acquainted with it. He needs more low end in his swing, a lot more. He’s such a good contact hitter I wouldn’t want to overhaul his swing entirely but I would tweak 3 things and I think those tweaks, all pretty minor could unlock a lot more power. On to the videos where I’ll discuss more, but first here’s one sans comment, just so you can see the swing. This one is courtesy of Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen from a couple years back. Nick still has the same swing, so don’t think I’m cherry picking here.
So first the basics before I talk about my tweaks: Madrigal has a huge leg lift, that’s rare for a guy with such good contact ability. I usually hate them, but Madrigal’s succeeded quite well with it, so I’d live with it for now (I’ll talk about the tweaks later). You’ll also notice he takes a really long stride and lands with his foot closed (parallel to the front of home plate). His swing has a good upward plane also, which should gear him to more power than you see. The problem is his lower half doesn’t drive the way it should and that closed front foot actually locks his hip some and saps power.
My idea for tweaking his swing was figuring out how to keep the contact skills that make him so effective, but to actually get some power out of the swing. That’s important for any hitter, but especially for a guy who is so small for a pro baseball player. Power hitters use a leg kick to get their weight back, build momentum and drive through the ball. Madrigal’s is purely timing, with no power in it at all. He picks it up and puts it down with a big stride, but doesn’t carry momentum from it. It would be great if he loaded with it and started rolling forward more before planting the foot, that would build the momentum and allow him to drive from his back leg, which has very little drive in the current swing.
The second tweak is to land with his front foot more open, this will free his hips to come through with his hands and carry his lower half momentum through the contact. If you freeze his swing at contact his hands are well ahead of his hips, which means some of that lower half rotational power is left sitting in the tank.
The last, and biggest, tweak is for him to drive from the back foot more. There are, obviously, 2 ways to power your hip rotation. You can pull your hips through with your front side, this will cause your back heel to lift in order to free the back hip to turn. Or you push it open from the back leg. Your heel will still lift, but closer to the point you make contact with the ball in your swing. Madrigal’s back heel is up the instant his front foot lands, there’s not a lot of power in pulling your hips through, so I’d rather he plant and push. Opening that front foot should free him to do this more easily.
I don’t want to undersell making changes to swing mechanics, there’s always risk, but I tried to make ones that don’t alter his normal stride, eye level, plane or kick, but instead maximize what he’s already doing. I think he can probably get to average power and above average to plus hitting. Combined with his speed that probably makes him an occasional All Star and a solid impact Starter on most every team in the Majors. Without those tweaks he’s probably Darwin Barney (far right in the picture at the top of the page) and more of a Second Division Regular. I’ll leave you with one more video, he’s such a good natural hitter that I expect he’s got some role in the Majors down the line.