Nick Madrigal, you’re on the clock.
At this time last spring in the White Sox’s training camp, it was Eloy Jiménez.
Would the power-hitting left fielder break camp with the Sox or open the season at Triple-A Charlotte?
The service time issue was undoubtedly in play with Jiménez, but that became moot when he signed a six-year, $43 million contract March 22 that includes club options for 2025-26.
Jimenez instantly joined the Sox’s starting lineup and led American League rookies in home runs (31), RBIs (79) and total bases (240).
That put Luis Robert on the clock, but the 22-year-old center fielder is assured of being in the opening day lineup after agreeing to a six-year, $50 million contract Jan. 2.
Like Jiménez, Robert’s deal has two club options on the back end.
Madrigal is the next prospect expected to play for the Sox, but he is not cut from the same high-end cloth as Jiménez and Robert.
Still, the Sox are expecting the undersized second baseman to make a big splash.
“We’re looking at this young man as being able to do a lot of different things,” manager Rick Renteria said.
The No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 draft out of Oregon State, Madrigal is best known for his bat.
At 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, he doesn’t have much power. But Madrigal does have remarkable hand-eye coordination and struck out only 16 times in 532 plate appearances with Charlotte, Double-A Birmingham and high A Winston-Salem last season.
“I’ve always felt confident in how much work I put during the offseason, in batting practice, so when I get in the game I feel comfortable,” Madrigal said. “And I feel like I’m the biggest guy out there, no matter my size. That’s something I’ve always tried to do when I take the field, ever since I was younger.”
Not only did he make consistent contact last season while combining to hit .311/.377/.414 in the minor leagues, but Madrigal also won the Rawlings Gold Glove at second base.
He is struggling with the bat this spring, batting .211 (4 for 19), and Madrigal most likely opens the season at Charlotte for more development.
For as good as he’s expected to be in the future, Madrigal has only played 163 minor league games since joining the Sox from Oregon State.
“He’s viable, but he’s got a few more things to prove,” general manager Rick Hahn said about Madrigal being with the Sox when the regular season opens March 26 with a home game against the Royals. “I think that when we go through trying to be as objective as possible thinking about where he is developmentally, he hasn’t necessarily answered all the questions we have for him at the minor leagues.
“I don’t think we have him by any means written in pen as the opening day second baseman at this point. But could he change our minds? Yeah.”
The Sox do have a proven veteran who can play second base until Madrigal is ready – Leury Garcia.
He spent most of his time in center field last year, but Garcia has played 49 games at second over seven major league seasons.
“I’m doing a lot of work at [second base],” Garcia said earlier in spring training. “At the same time, I’m doing a lot of work at other positions. I’ve been doing this for several years now. This is a way for me to stay on the field more often. I play different positions and can play every day.”