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Deep Dive: Second Base Edition, Part 2

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Nick Madrigal ranks second to none among White Sox second sackers in the upper levels

Fast Learner: From his first pro at-bat (pictured above) on, Nick Madrigal has taken off up the White Sox ranks — now sitting fifth among White Sox prospects and 49th overall, according to MLB Pipeline.
Kim Contreras - @Cu_As

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the White Sox organization. Each position will be a four-part series:

  1. Depth in the lower levels (Dominican through Kannapolis)
  2. Depth in the higher levels (Winston-Salem through Charlotte)
  3. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  4. Free-agent options at that position, plus sneak peeks into available players in the upcoming 2019 MLB Draft.

Now, let’s focus on the second base depth in the organization by providing small bits of information on players who primarily played second base for Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte. Most of these guys are utility infielders than starters, with the exception of Nick Madrigal. The player’s age as of April 1, 2019 is listed.


Charlotte Knights

Eddy Alvarez
5´9´´
180 pounds
Bats: Both
Age: 29
Additional position: Shortstop, Third base

Alvarez gave up baseball for most of six years after high school (he did play shortstop for Salt Lake CC in 2011) to train for the Olympics as a speed skater, failing to qualify in 2010 because of knee injuries but winning a silver medal in the 5,000-meter relay at Sochi in 2014. Afterward, he signed with the White Sox as a 24-year-old, non-drafted free agent, for no bonus — and has performed fairly well ever since. While there may have been some initial concerns about the Alvarez signing being a publicity stunt, his performance on the field has been quite good despite the little amount of baseball he played from 2008-14.

Over his five-year career in the White Sox organization, Alvarez has slashed .272/.370/.392, with a combined 28 homers, 220 RBIs, 86 stolen bases, 277 walks (12.9%) and 386 strikeouts (18.0%). This year for Charlotte, he hit .253/.348/.435 in 308 at-bats, with a career-high eight homers, 37 RBIs, five stolen bases, 43 walks (11.9%) and 79 strikeouts (21.8%).

Other than 2015, when Alvarez stole 53 bases for Kannapolis and Winston-Salem combined, he hasn’t run very frequently. As a result, he seems destined for a middle infield utility role. Alvarez committed nine errors at second base in 67 games and five errors at shortstop over 31 games during 2018. With a plethora of options available in Charlotte for second base, third base and short this year (Bryant Flete, Trey Michalczewski, Jake Elmore, Danny Mendick, Patrick Leonard, Mitch Roman and even Jose Rondon if he doesn’t make the White Sox on the 2019 Opening Day roster), it’s hard to see where Alvarez fits in for 2019. Considering he’ll be 29 when next season starts, he (along with Elmore) may be on the outside looking in.

Jake Elmore
5´10´´
180 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 31
Additional positions: Shortstop, Third Base, Left Field

With a name that’s reminiscent of one the Blues Brothers, Elmore isn’t really a prospect. He’s actually attained 418 career MLB at-bats with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers from 2012-16. Elmore was drafted in the 38th round by the Diamondbacks in 2008, and has amassed 3,326 career minor league at-bats, with a .283/.382/.366 slash line boasting little power but 509 walks (12.9%) compared to 510 strikeouts (12.9%); he’s also stolen 162 bases.

Unfortunately, Elmore’s career minor league numbers haven’t equated to major league success: .215/.297/.280, with four homers, 33 RBIs, four stolen bases, 48 walks (10.0% and 72 strikeouts (15.1%).

The 2018 season was pretty much the same for Elmore with Charlotte. He slashed .289/.397/.359, with one homer, 27 RBIs, 55 walks (14.0%), 58 strikeouts (14.7%), and 11 stolen bases over 329 at-bats. Elmore had a sensational July, when he hit .373/.386/.441, walking eight times and striking out just twice in 59 official at-bats. Although he has better plate discipline and perhaps more versatility than Alvarez, Elmore also may be on the outside looking in for a spot with the Knights in 2019 due to his age. Unlike Alvarez, he’s on the wrong side of 30.


Birmingham Barons

Trey Michalczewski
6´3´´
210 pounds
Bats: Both
Age: 24
Additional positions: Third base, Shortstop

Michalczewski has been a bit of an enigma since signing as a seventh-round pick from Jenks, Okla., as a prep third baseman in 2013. It’s hard to believe now, but Michalczewski was actually ranked as the system’s fourth-best prospect at the beginning of the 2015 season, behind only Tim Anderson, Carson Fulmer and Spencer Adams. Plenty of big things were expected of Michalczewski due to his size, strength and athleticism.

However, his numbers have been meh throughout his six-year minor league career: .248/.322/.381, with a combined 50 homers, 345 RBIs, 30 stolen bases, 255 walks and 759 strikeouts over 2,547 at-bats. His career high of 11 homers came in 2017, with Winston-Salem and Birmingham; his career high of .262 happened in 2014, with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. Michalczewski’s numbers have been consistently mediocre over the years, with little uptick after repeating seasons at various levels in the system.

However, there is still hope for Michalczewski going forward. Providing that Charlotte third baseman Patrick Leonard leaves via minor league free agency and Matt Rose doesn’t earn a promotion due to his flailings and failings with Birmingham, Michalczewski may now have an opportunity to leave the field where fly balls die and move up to Charlotte, where fly balls really fly.

Michalczewski didn’t have an exceptional 2018, so he may move up by default. For the year, he hit .253/.302/.377, with six homers, 65 RBIs, four stolen bases, 27 walks (5.4%) and 131 strikeouts (26.0%). Although his size profiles at the hot corner, Michalczewski’s bat seems to profile best at second base. Like Alvarez, Michalczewski will be Rule 5 eligible, but don’t anticipate him being selected. I expect him to begin 2019 as Charlotte’s starting third baseman, especially with the lack of depth at that position compared to second. However, Michalczewski will need to have a career season in order to earn a sniff at the majors in the next year or two.

Mitch Roman
6´0´´
161 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 24

Roman has enjoyed a fairly solid run since being drafted in the 12th round as a shortstop from Wright State in the 2016 MLB Draft. In his three-year stint in the White Sox organization, he has hit .279/.336/.345, with six homers, 122 RBIs, 52 stolen bases, 89 walks (6.9%) and 271 strikeouts (20.9%), numbers reflective of those he posted with Winston-Salem and Birmingham this year. Roman struggled a bit after being promoted to Birmingham on August 2, hitting just .232/.267/.263 in 27 games with just three RBIs, three walks, and 39 strikeouts.

Roman played all of 2018 at second base, but has also played shortstop and both outfield corners in his minor league career. Ultimately, he seems to profile best as a utility middle infielder due to his lack of overall power. He also doesn’t profile as a regular because he seems to fatigue late in the season. Over the past two full seasons, he’s hit .276 from April through July; in August, he’s hit just .220.

Where does Roman play in 2019? With Madrigal likely to begin with Birmingham in 2019, Roman’s situation is a bit complicated. Birmingham is likely to go with five outfielders, which could mean that the Barons will carry just one superutility guy, Zach Remillard. If that’s the case, Roman could either be promoted to Charlotte (kind of like how Jameson Fisher was promoted to Birmingham last year, even though he wasn’t quite ready) or demoted to Winston-Salem. The White Sox probably will make room for Roman in Charlotte, making it even more difficult to retain the services of Elmore and/or Alvarez.

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Winston-Salem Dash

Nick Madrigal
5´7´´
165 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 22
Additional position: Shortstop

Nick Madrigal had a terrific collegiate career with Oregon State, which culminated in winning the NCAA World Series in 2018. Madrigal was the model of consistency with the Beavers, combining for .361/.422/.502 in 151 games, with 40 doubles, 11 triples, eight homers, 103 RBIs, 39 stolen bases, 58 walks (8.2%) and 37 strikeouts (5.2%) over 612 at-bats — basically the equivalent of a full major league season. Madrigal missed a lot of time due to a fractured left wrist, but resumed his defensive and offensive prowess upon his return.

His combination of offensive and defensive polish, along with his leadership skills and old-school attitude, made it a near no-brainer for the White Sox to pick him fourth in the 2018 MLB draft. Madrigal currently ranks fifth among White Sox prospects (49th overall, third among second basemen) according to MLB Pipeline.

Madrigal’s first season in the White Sox organization had all the makings of a whirlwind tour. Madrigal spent time with the AZL White Sox, Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, combining for .303/.353/.348 over 155 at-bats, with seven doubles, 16 RBIs, seven walks, five strikeouts, and eight stolen bases.

A couple things stand out — his ISO was only .045, which is cause for some concern. However, I’ll attribute it to him simply getting acclimated with professional pitching and the grind of a long season; he also attained injuries almost immediately upon turning pro, being hit by pitches while playing for the AZL Sox and setting him back a bit. The second thing, of course, is Madrigal’s plate discipline: He didn’t walk much (4.1%), but struck out even less (a microscopic 2.9%). It’s hoped that with additional experience, Madrigal can work more counts and earn a few more walks in the process. His success rate in the stolen base department wasn’t ideal (57.1%), but we can cut him some slack because he was 15-of-16 with Oregon State as a junior.

Madrigal has all the makings of an elite No. 2 hitter in the majors: He puts the bat on the ball, has good speed, and should be able to hit better than .300 consistently. Is he a perfect prospect? Probably not. However, Madrigal does enough things well and has the excellent instincts to be a solid major leaguer for the next 15 years, provided he stays healthy. He’s a smart player and will likely find ways to coax more walks while keeping his strikeouts down; he’s also smart enough to find a ways to turn on pitches as well. He has 12-20 homer potential, with 25-30 stolen bases while regularly being among the leaders in batting average.

Madrigal will be working some at shortstop in 2019, but as his arm is just a tad below average, he really seems to profile best at second base, where he’s considered by many to be a future Gold Glove contender; he committed just one error in 39 games at second base this year. I think he’ll begin the season with Birmingham, but could be promoted to Charlotte around the All-Star break provided things go well.

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Summary

Aside from Madrigal, there are no elite second base prospects in the upper levels of the White Sox organization. This isn’t a huge deal right now, since we have a former No. 1 minor league prospect (Yoan Moncada) manning the position in Chicago and other position players capable of playing there, such as Yolmer Sanchez and Jose Rondon. Chicago also has some players who could fit in adequately down the road in utility roles, like Michalczewski, Roman, and perhaps Alvarez or Elmore if their services are retained. If these guys fail or struggle, lower-level prospects such as Amado Nunez, Camilo Quinteiro, or Ramon Beltre may be ready to take their place eventually.