Nick Madrigal was not having a good season for the Cubs and really hasn’t hit well since a hamstring injury ended his season in 2021. He was with the White Sox at the time after being selected fourth overall in 2018 on the strength of what was supposed to be a 70-grade hit tool. Madrigal hit very well in the minors and he hardly ever struck out, thus providing a change from the game’s recent trends.
He hit .340 and had a 110 wRC+ for the Sox over 109 plate appearances in the shortened season, then batted .305 with a 112 wRC+ before the injury and a trade to the North Side changed things. We don’t need to rehash everything about Madrigal’s performance, but suffice to say he hasn’t reached even the most modest projections in terms of his performance at the plate.
Hence the demotion to Triple-A Iowa, where the Cubs wanted Madrigal to rediscover his hitting stroke in the hopes of either helping the big club or building enough trade value to be moved prior to the deadline. Things appear to be going far better than anyone could have imagined in the early going, as Madrigal is having his way with minor league pitching.
He went 3-for-5 and was a home run shy of a cycle on Thursday to raise his average to .500 with a 1.451 OPS with Iowa. It’s only five games, but he’s already hit more homers (1) and triples (2) in that time than he did in 326 PAs for the Cubs. The big problem for Madrigal is that no matter how well he hits in Des Moines, he really doesn’t have an everyday spot in Chicago.
Even if we assume he won’t eventually be exposed at third base, the Cubs need to find room for Patrick Wisdom and Christopher Morel. A lot of folks out there will tell you they’d rather see a “good hitter” than a guy who strikes out a lot, but Wisdom has been a far more valuable producer and collected as many home runs last Sunday against the Reds as Madrigal has in his entire career.
In order for Madrigal to be a regular, he’s got to bat over .300 with an ISO of around .100 and much better baserunning than what we’ve seen so far. If he’s going to show next to nothing in the power department, the batting average needs to be north of .325 with a strikeout rate of maybe 5% or lower. That’s particularly true when talking about a guy who only draws a walk every 10 games or so.
Barring a significant injury or a trade that removes players in front of him on the depth chart, I have to think Madrigal’s time in the Cubs organization is limited to the next two months. But hey, maybe this stint in Iowa will shake something loose and he’ll come back looking like his old self.