Nick Madrigal out to show what he can really do in 2021 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
For playing the vast majority of his 29 regular-season games while battling the aftereffects of a separated shoulder, Nick Madrigal showed plenty.
The White Sox rookie second baseman batted .340, reached base at a .376 clip, struck out only seven times and earned himself a nickname - "Nicky Two Strikes" - for his incredible .321 batting average with two strikes.
But ask Madrigal, and he'll brush away his first taste of the major leagues as good but not great, assuring there's more he can show as part of a White Sox team heading into the 2021 season with championship aspirations.
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"I feel like I can do a lot more stuff," Madrigal said Thursday. "I feel like last year, just getting a little taste, it was only 30-something games (including the playoffs). I feel like I can do a lot more to help this team, whether that's on the base paths or in the batter's box, on the defensive side.
"I feel like I didn't even showcase what kind of player I truly am."
White Sox fans think they have Madrigal figured out, and truthfully, they might. Madrigal's a unique player in modern baseball, which values big power and walk-drawing ability, taking a large amount of strikeouts as just a side effect of being selective at the plate. Madrigal's a high contact guy, he hardly ever strikes out, and though everyone in the organization you talk to, Madrigal included, insists more power is coming from the 5-foot-8, 175-pound middle infielder, it really doesn't have to in order for him to be effective.
Madrigal might be unique. It doesn't mean he's not valuable in helping the White Sox to their ultimate goal.
"You know some of the clubs I've managed, there were home-run hitters there. But what you want the home-run hitter to do is be a good hitter. It's just that the ball carries. And you've got guys that hit .280 to .320, and they hit singles and doubles. That's what starts rallies, moves guys around, RBIs," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said.
"Nick's the kind of guy that you can trust in any situation. ... I bet you if there was a situation where Nick knew the kind of pitcher and where the pitch might be, he could take a shot and hit a home run. But that's not his game.
"The more guys you have in your lineup who play the game of baseball, which means they know how to play the score and they know how to manipulate the bat and direct the ball to different parts of the field and you can play whatever game you want to play with them, then it gives you a chance to win all kind of games. You don't have to win a game when the wind's blowing out. Nick, he's an artist.
"Those guys are winning players, and then you put the thump all around them, it makes us tough to play."
Madrigal's taken all the "when are you going to hit some home runs?" questions in stride, and he's promised that it's coming soon. But of greater focus at the moment is doing what he does best, just better.
Now that the separated shoulder he suffered in one of his first big league games is behind him - he revealed, too, that a jammed thumb bothered him for a three- or four-week stretch last season - he's chomping at the bit to show folks the real Nick Madrigal over the course of a full season.
The last time he played a full season, in the minors in 2019, he struck out all of 16 times in 532 trips to the plate. Forget about waiting for the flashes of power. It's about seeing those consistent high contact skills that made Madrigal the No. 4 pick in the 2018 draft.
That night, he was touted for, in addition to his bat, his Gold Glove caliber defensive ability and his high baseball IQ. A few notable gaffes running the bases and playing the field as a rookie last season didn't exactly match all that right out of the box. But that's part of showing a better version himself - an undoubtedly healthier version - in 2021.
"I'm excited to go out there, especially being a lot healthier this year and feeling almost completely 100 percent at this point," Madrigal said. "I'm excited to play my game."
That's all he needs to do.
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