Baseball is always changing. In today’s game, it’s no secret that there is more of a focus on power and patience at the plate, while caring less about the strikeouts that may come with that style of play. This brand of baseball has been growing in recent seasons, to the excitement of some (me included) and the disappointment of others.
Balls in play have become less common, reaching a new low in 2018.
One of the most interesting aspects of this are the few players that go against these trends. One of the more exciting call-ups of the season was when the Twins promoted Willians Astudillo, the anti-three-true-outcome player. But it may be time to bring up another one of these guys. Nick Madrigal, the recent number four overall pick by the White Sox in the 2018 MLB Draft, has taken contact to a new level. After having only seven strikeouts in 201 plate appearances for his junior season at Oregon State, Madrgial has struck out a grand total of...zero times in his first 71 professional plate appearances between the levels of Rookie, Low-A, and High-A. Zero. Zilch. Nothing. As it currently stands, he’s easily the only player in all of minor league baseball to achieve this feat, minimum 50 plate appearances.
Fifteen lowest K-rates in minor league baseball
|Nick Madrigal||- - -||21||66||0|
|David Lozano||- - -||20||97||5.2|
|Willians Astudillo||Twins (AAA)||26||231||5.2|
|Robinson Ramos||- - -||20||54||5.6|
|John Valente||Tigers (R)||23||105||5.7|
|Matthew Mercedes||Pirates (R)||19||106||5.7|
|Grenny Cumana||Phillies (A+)||22||122||5.7|
|Ronaiker Palma||- - -||18||156||5.8|
|Eliezer Alfonzo||- - -||18||168||6|
|Wilson Valdez||Phillies (R)||18||147||6.1|
|Wander Franco||Rays (R)||17||162||6.2|
|Brian Rey||Reds (R)||20||124||6.5|
|Peterson Plaz||Reds (R)||19||61||6.6|
|Antonio Dominguez||Tigers (R)||17||76||6.6|
|Ben Revere||Angels (AAA)||30||166||6.6|
The extreme contact skills shouldn’t come as a huge surprise though, as Madrigal was consistently rated as having the best hit tool in this draft class.
Top hit tools among top 2018 MLB Draft prospects
|Nick Madrigal||2B||21.2||40 / 70|
|Nico Hoerner||2B||21.1||35 / 55|
|Grant Little||2B||21.2||35 / 55|
|Richie Palacios||2B||21.1||35 / 55|
|Nick Dunn||2B||21.3||35 / 55|
|Jonathan India||3B||21.5||35 / 50|
|Trevor Larnach||RF||21.3||35 / 50|
|Jameson Hannah||CF||20.8||35 / 50|
|Tyler Frank||2B||21.4||35 / 50|
|Steele Walker||LF||21.8||35 / 45|
The story doesn’t really stop at strikeouts for Madrigal. Being a big time contact hitter, he’s often protecting the plate at all costs, so walking isn’t necessarily a strong-suit for him. He walked for a somewhat average 8.2 percent rate in college and has only walked twice in those 71 professional plate appearances.
The power for Madrigal is another interesting part of his game. He packs a lot of strength for 5’8” 160 pound dude and can find the gaps with the best of them. Overall, he profiles to have below-average pop in his bat and doesn’t look like a guy who will consistently hit 20+ home runs each year. Any power numbers he’ll produce will hinge on his plus-contact skills and finding the gaps. Nonetheless, his ISO is at a small .053 mark through his young professional career. This isn’t to say that he’ll post these kind of lackluster power numbers his whole career, but he has yet to display it, knocking only two doubles.
So we’ve got a hitter that hasn’t struck out, doesn’t walk a lot, and hasn’t hit for any power yet. This is the ideal anti-three-true-outcome hitter.
Nick Madrigal has had as unique 71 plate appearances as anyone in baseball this year. He’s boasted contact skills that haven’t been close to anything seen this season and is putting walks and power numbers in the backseat. These skills seem to easily work for him, so there is no questioning on this. The contact skills should stick around as he moves up level to level, and the walk-rate could be at least average, considering his college numbers. The most interesting development to watch will be how the power numbers look down the road. With all the balls he puts into play, it would be very feasible to think he could be a big doubles, triples guy. Then if he could ever get the ISO to consistently hit .150+, we’d be looking at a mammoth offensive profile for a second baseman.
Patrick Brennan loves to research pitchers and minor leaguers with data. You can find additional work of his at Royals Review and Royals Farm Report. You can also find him on Twitter @paintingcorner.