Nick Madrigal Will Be Getting Some Reps At Third Base

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Nick Madrigal Will Be Getting Some Reps At Third Base

Chicago Cubs

We’ve talked a number of times about how the addition of Dansby Swanson, and shifting of Nico Hoerner over to second base, makes things tough on this roster for Nick Madrigal. Unlike some other second-base-capable players currently on the 40-man roster or at Triple-A Iowa – Christopher Morel, Zach McKinstry, Miles Mastrobuoni, and David Bote, for example – Madrigal’s value is generally limited by his ability to play only second base, or DH. In either case, he really has to hit to justify his spot, and it’s a little hard to see at the moment where he’s going to get the kind of regular playing time necessary to get the bat on track.

That’s why trade speculation about Madrigal makes sense, even if I’m not yet ready to say a trade – especially one that’s merely dumping Madrigal – is the ideal move. You never know how much depth you will need, you cannot rule out Madrigal becoming a quality big league bat (in his own unique way), and you cannot ignore that Madrigal is a guy who still has minor league options remaining and hasn’t actually spent THAT much time in the big leagues or at Triple-A. Why would we assume he’s a finished product?

Against that backdrop, Cubs President Jed Hoyer dropped something of a shocker at the Cubs Convention, saying that Nick Madrigal would be taking some reps at third base this offseason. It’s not entirely clear whether that extends into Spring Training, much less the regular season, but it’s something that’ll be worked on.

“He’s not what you think of a stereotypical third-baseman power slugger,” Hoyer told the Chicago Tribune, “but he’s a really good hitter, a really good player and he can definitely do it.”

Obviously the Cubs are preparing to think creatively about how they can get Madrigal more opportunities. If he *does* offer the bat he showed in 2020 and 2021 (.317/.358/.406/111 wRC+), then he’s a guy you want playing somehow, somewhere. I can understand wanting to see if he could even remotely handle third base, leaving you with at least a possible option for some of his starts.

That said … can he even remotely handle third base? You don’t get that sense when watching him, and his 14th percentile arm strength would be pretty hard to justify on the left side of the diamond. Madrigal has not played third base in his career.

I guess we’ll see, and there’s not a ton of harm in giving him some time to work with the coaches there, and even a Spring Training start or two. When push comes to shove, though, I would be VERY surprised to see Madrigal make even a single start at third base this year.

A separate thing Hoyer said about Madrigal’s down season with the Cubs, which was certainly very interesting (via the Tribune):

Looking back on Madrigal coming back from his torn hamstring, Hoyer said he probably would have held Madrigal back last spring training if he could have a do-over.

“He’s a competitor and probably tried to convince us he was ready and he probably wasn’t, and I think that’s somewhat on us,” Hoyer said. “Going forward, (I would) not do that with a player like him who’s always going to tell you he feels good.”

The Cubs last year talked about how physical limitations early in the year could have led to issues at the plate, which could have led to overcompensation, which could have led to different physical issues (Madrigal had a number of them). In the first half of the season, while missing time with a back injury and a groin strain, Madrigal hit an abysssssmal .222/.263/.250/47 wRC+. After returning from the groin strain in August, however, he was just about a league-average hitter the rest of the way. Still not what he needs to be to general real value, but more like the guy he’d been throughout his baseball-playing career.

As for the third base thing, we’ll see if he actually winds up working there in Spring Training. The Cubs likely just want to preserve as much flexibility as possible for now, because there’s no harm in it when you’re just talking about mid-January. For trade purposes or otherwise.


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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.