This Nick Madrigal Third Base Stuff Might Actually Be For Real

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This Nick Madrigal Third Base Stuff Might Actually Be For Real

Chicago Cubs

When Chicago Cubs President Jed Hoyer said at the Cubs Convention that Nick Madrigal, who’d largely been squeezed out of starts at second base, might be getting some reps at third base, it was met with understandable skepticism. Madrigal, who struggled at the plate in his first season with the Cubs, fresh of the serious hamstring injury and surgery, just doesn’t look like a guy who can man third. The physical demands of the position – most importantly the requirement of a big arm – just don’t seem consistent with Madrigal’s body.

That is all to say, many folks felt that the Cubs were simply doing their best to keep all options open, and let any possible trade partners know that they didn’t HAVE to dump Madrigal. It felt like a stretch, to say the least.

But … maybe it’s actually legit? We know that Madrigal has been taking some grounders at third base this spring, but it sounds like it isn’t just some casual thing. Sahadev Sharma writes that there has been a specific plan and a lot of work that has gone into making Madrigal serviceable at third:

First and foremost, apparently Madrigal’s throws from third haven’t looked too bad. David Ross says the throws are carrying well, with no fade, and observers see the throws as looking surprisingly easy and lively.

I still haven’t seen video myself, so I’ll reserve judgment until then. But these early reactions are interesting.

Even more interesting is what Sharma spoke with bench coach Andy Green about. Green, who also coaches the infielders, worked with Madrigal for weeks before Spring Training began. Working on the way the ball comes off the bat at third. How you have to use your body differently on the throw. So on and so forth. It was a real effort, not just a random couple days of grounders at third for eyewash.

What happens now, though?

Well, it sounds like Madrigal really is competing for starts at third base. With Patrick Wisdom, Christopher Morel, Zach McKinstry, and Miles Mastrobuoni all also in the mix, it’s hard to say that Madrigal is anything close to a favorite to win the job. But we know that, if Nico Hoerner is healthy, regular starts at second base simply aren’t going to be possible. And at DH, the Cubs are mostly going to go with Trey Mancini, at least against righties (Mancini will probably play first against lefties). So if Madrigal is going to get regular at bats, he is going to have to be serviceable at third base.

And I don’t want to ignore the fact that, outside of 2022, this is a guy who has always hit. He does it differently than most, and you do wish he had a little more thump, but he has hit. That upside is still there.

What’s also interesting is that if Madrigal shows he can handle third but the Cubs feel like he simply needs more game reps in a less-risky environment, he could still be optioned to Triple-A Iowa to open the season. There, he could work at third and also get regular at bats (after a season in 2022 when the offense simply was not there). Then, when the time is right or the need arises, he could come back up as a semi-regular.

(Oh, I guess I should add: I still think it’s very possible the Cubs trade Madrigal before the season begins, if some team develops a need at second base.)

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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.