The White Sox have another prospect to watch.
A week ago, Nick Madrigal was clutching the championship trophy after Oregon State ousted Arkansas in the College World Series.
On Thursday, the 21-year-old infielder was ready to embark on his professional career after signing a minor league contract with the Sox and banking a $6,411,400 signing bonus.
Madrigal – the No. 4 overall pick in the June 4 draft – could have taken some more time off before joining the Sox, but he was eager to take the next step.
“Ever since the draft, I tried to stay focused with our college season and let that play out first,” Madrigal said Thursday. “I was excited just to put the White Sox logo on, get in uniform. I had that wrist injury for half of the season, so my body feels fresh. I told them I only needed a couple of days to swing a wood bat, get used to it. I’m ready to go and just excited to move forward.”
Madrigal was scheduled to play with the Arizona Rookie League White Sox on Thursday and Saturday before heading to low Single-A Kannapolis on Sunday. Ideally, he finishes the season with high A Winston-Salem, but Madrigal is not operating on a timetable.
“I’m going to go out there and just play as hard as I can and play my game,” he said. “As far as the plan of moving up, that’s in their hands. I’m going to do everything I can to be ready for when they need me.”
When the Sox do need him, Madrigal is open to playing second base, shortstop or wherever there’s a need.
He is breaking in at shortstop in Arizona.
“It really doesn’t matter to me, and I really do mean that,” he said. “I’ve played shortstop my whole life, and I feel comfortable with it. Most of my college career, I played second base. I feel like second is pretty easy to play. I feel comfortable there, too.
“At the end of the day, it’s whatever the Chicago White Sox need me to do. I feel comfortable with both.”
Madrigal has a solid glove and was voted to the Pac-12 all-defensive team this season.
The bat is the main reason he was selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft.
After missing the first half of the season with a broken left wrist suffered while sliding into home during a Feb. 23 game against Ohio State, Madrigal batted .367 with eight doubles, six triples, three home runs, 34 RBIs, 41 runs scored and 15 stolen bases in 42 games with Oregon State.
In 180 at-bats, he had only seven strikeouts.
“I’ve always worked,” he said. “Me and my dad, my brothers, we’d go out every single day and go hit in the cage for a couple hours and take groundballs for a couple hours. We did that every single day probably from the age of 9 years old, 8 to 9 years old. That was kind of our routine and something we bonded over.
“In the cage, I’ve always tried to stay disciplined, but I’ve also tried to hit pitches outside of the strike zone. Umpires sometimes are kind of all over the place, so I try not to let them take control, leave it in their hands. These last couple years I’ve really tried to shrink the strike zone and hit more pitches I can handle and not chase.
“I felt like the first couple years in college I was getting out mostly because I was chasing and making weak contact. I’ve really tried to stay inside the strike zone and get pitches I can drive.”
While he was primarily hitting third for the Beavers this season, Madrigal could become the Sox’s leadoff man of the future.
“I’ve hit leadoff for most of my life,” the 5-foot-7, 165-pounder said. “I feel comfortable doing it. Whatever they need me to do, I’m planning to do. I understand my job is to get on base no matter where I hit in the lineup.”
Hitting third for Oregon State in the College World Series, Madrigal was 0 for 13 with a walk as the Beavers got past Arkansas, two games to one.
“People have asked me how I felt,” he said. “I felt good during the series. I felt comfortable in the box. I feel like I hit some balls right at guys, and I understand, that’s baseball. Sometimes you’re going to hit it, and you’re not going to get any hits or get on base. I feel like I gave everything I possibly could to help that team.
“I don’t play for myself, and I don’t play to get hits. I play to win, and we did exactly that. In 10 years, I don’t think anyone’s going to know how many hits I got, but they’re going to remember I’m a national champion. I feel comfortable with that.”