Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham second basemen

Star in the making: Nick Madrigal, the White Sox first-round pick in 2018, hit .311 for three teams last year. Did we mention he stole 35 bases, walked 44 times as opposed to 16 strikeouts, and won a minor league Gold Glove? (Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

It’s time to take a look at the second basemen who finished the year with Charlotte and Birmingham; even though Danny Mendick finished the year with the White Sox, he still has rookie eligibility and is thus detailed in this post. These two players are by far the best second basemen in the White Sox system.

(age as of April 1, 2020)

Charlotte Knights

Nick Madrigal
165 pounds
B/T: R/R
Age: 23

Madrigal enjoyed a terrific run with Oregon State University, which culminated in a NCAA World Series championship. For his sophomore season, he slashed .380/.449/.532 in 60 games with 20 doubles, two triples, four homers, 40 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, 27 walks (9.6%) and 16 strikeouts (5.7%). Despite missing much time to a broken wrist early during his junior year, Madrigal still managed to slash .367/.428/.511 in 42 games last year with nine doubles, four triples, three homers, 34 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 16 walks (8.0%) and just seven strikeouts (3.5%). Due to his unique combination of speed, defense and hitting ability, the diminutive Madrigal was selected by the White Sox with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Madrigal played for three affiliates last year (AZL, Kannapolis and Winston-Salem) and fared reasonably well for his first professional season. In 43 combined games in 2018 totaling 155 at-bats, he slashed .303/.353/.348 with seven doubles, 16 RBIs, eight stolen bases, seven walks (4.0%) and five strikeouts (2.9%).

Like last year, Madrigal played for three squads in 2019 (Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte). Ironically, the least success he enjoyed was with the Dash, where he still posted a respectable .272/.346/.377 line in 49 games with 10 doubles, two triples, two homers, 27 RBIs, 17 stolen bases, 17 walks (7.8%) and six strikeouts (2.8%). After being promoted to Birmingham on June 6, he slashed an impressive .341/.400/.451 in 42 games, including 11 doubles, two triples, one homer, 16 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 14 walks (7.8%) and just five strikeouts (2.8%). Finally, for an encore, Madrigal was promoted to Charlotte where he slashed .331/.398/.424 in 29 games with six doubles, one triple, one homer, 12 RBIs, four stolen bases, 13 walks (9.7%) and five strikeouts (3.7%). For the year, Madrigal combined to slash .311/.377/.414 in 120 games with 27 doubles, five triples, four homers, 55 RBIs, 35 stolen bases, 44 walks (8.3%) and 16 strikeouts (3.0%).

Madrigal ranks as the system’s best second base prospect, fourth-best prospect overall and 40th in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline. His hit tool is graded 65 which actually seems conservative, while his field and run skills are also graded highly at 60. This year, Madrigal won the minor league Gold Glove award for second base — which likely had something to do with his terrific range and his committing only four errors in 488 changes (just one error in 77 games with Birmingham and Charlotte). Madrigal’s arm is graded 50 by MLB Pipeline which is satisfactory for second base, while his power grades out weakest, at 40. FanGraphs published an excellent piece regarding the difficulties of evaluating Madrigal’s abilities.

In part because he played just 29 games in Charlotte this year, Madrigal may well begin 2020 there. However, one should expect an early promotion to Chicago for this future South Side dynamo.

Danny Mendick
189 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Shortstop, Third base, Left field
Age: 26

After playing his first two years of college ball with Monroe CC (Rochester, NY), Mendick transferred to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell for his final two years. For his senior year, he slashed .321/.408/.455 in 43 games with 16 doubles, one triple, one homer, 30 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 19 walks (10.3%) and 16 strikeouts (8.6%). As a result, the White Sox took a flier on this River Hawk and selected him in the 22nd round of the 2015 draft. Mendick played that season with the AZL squad and slashed a respectable .256/.340/.394 in 49 games.

Mendick enjoyed a solid season with Kannapolis in 2016 by slashing .274/.343/.355 in 98 games with 22 doubles and two homers, but struggled with Winston-Salem in his 15 games there by slashing just .125/.208/.167. However, upon his return to the Dash in 2017, Mendick slashed a more robust .289/.373/.468 with 18 doubles, seven homers, 30 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 31 walks (10.2%) and 40 strikeouts (13.1%) in 84 games. Unfortunately, he struggled with a midseason promotion to Birmingham, where he slashed just .197/.280/.293 in 41 games.

The 2018 season was spent exclusively with Birmingham, as Mendick slashed .247/.340/.395 with a career high 14 homers, 59 RBIs, 20 walks, 57 walks (10.8%) and 90 strikeouts (17.0%). He was available for the 2018 Rule 5 draft, but went unselected.

Then, in 2019 in the more hitting-friendly confines of Charlotte, Mendick re-established new career bests in most categories by slashing .279/.368/.444 in 133 games by producing 26 homers, one triple, 17 homers 64 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, 66 walks (11.8%) and 96 strikeouts (17.2%). The White Sox called him up on September 3, which obviously meant they didn’t want to risk losing him in this year’s Rule 5 draft. In 16 games totaling 39 at-bats for the Sox, Mendick acted like he belonged by slashing .308/.325/.462 with two homers, four RBIs, one walk (2.5%) and 11 strikeouts (27.5%). Most players who get selected in the later rounds struggle at some point as they advance through the system, but Mendick actually has seemed to improve with each passing year.

Ranked as the organization’s No. 2 second baseman according to MLB Pipeline, Mendick is now regarded as the team’s 26th overall prospect. None of his skills stand out highly per MLB, as his arm and fielding skills are graded the highest at 50. With that said, Mendick does a lot of the little things well: (1) despite playing multiple positions frequently, he only committed four errors for the entire season (two were in Charlotte’s season-ending game); (2) he picks his spots to run, and has attained double-digit steals for each of the past three seasons; and (3) limits his strikeouts while coaxing a fair share of walks (not including the limited sample size with the White Sox).

Mendick has an excellent chance of beginning the season in the majors, as it’s quite possible that long-time defensive stalwart Yolmer Sánchez may not return to the White Sox for the 2020 campaign. Mendick’s future seems to be that of a solid infield (and perhaps even outfield) reserve.

Birmingham Barons

Since Nick Madrigal played much of the year but finished in Charlotte, and other players who played second base this year for Birmingham actually played at other positions more frequently, not one player who finished the year at Birmingham spent the year primarily at second base.

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