Could a 5-foot-8 Second Baseman Be Drafted First Overall?

Both Kiley and I will be posting in-person scouting reports on draft prospects we see throughout the spring. Well, summer and fall, too. Here is another dump of notes from Arizona.

Typically, these draft-related posts are designed to provide updates on multiple amateur prospects all at once — and I’ve included shorter notes on some other players below. Today, though, I’d like to dwell a bit on a specific collegiate athlete — namely, Oregon State 2B Nick Madrigal.

Madrigal is the best player I’ve seen so far this spring. He was electric for a weekend and a half during the Beavers’ first two series in Surprise but fractured his wrist on a play at the plate during a win against Ohio State. He was 14-for-25 with two doubles, two homers, three steals in three attempts, and no strikeouts when he went down.

There is concern regarding Madrigal’s size, but it is his lone blemish. It’s important to distinguish between “short” and “small.” Jose Altuve is short, but he’s built like a little tank and is not “small.” Madrigal, on the other hand, really is small. He’s listed at 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, and is of slight build. Mookie Betts is a fair physical comp, though it’s not perfect, as Mookie has two inches and 15 pounds on Madrigal. Because he does everything you could possibly want someone to do on the baseball field, the only reason Madrigal’s size is an issue for some is because of how they think it will impact his durability. A fractured wrist on a play at the plate isn’t as concerning as, say, a history of soft-tissue injuries, but it’s not nothing.

Here are my tool assessments of Madrigal after seeing him five times in February and several times during his underclass years: future 60 hit, 70 run, 60 glove at second base, 55 arm. He has plus-plus bat control and is athletic enough to incorporate his entire body into his swings without sacrificing much contact, which enables him to hit for opportunistic extra-base power. Even with 40 raw pop, the quality of Madrigal’s contact is so good that he could hit for average in-game power. He may only amass 12-15 homers annually, but he should hit enough doubles and triples to slug a league-average .430 or so.

Statistically, that tool profile looks like something in the Josh Harrison and 2018 Whit Merrifield range. They were 2.6 and 3.1 WAR players last year, respectively, and Madrigal is a better defender than either of them — especially around the bag, where his sleight of hand actions are sublime. If we think he can be that kind of player (a 55 or 60 on the scale) and reach that level of play soon, there’s an argument to take him first overall, especially if you haven’t been blown away by Brady Singer or are bothered by Shane McClanahan’s previous Tommy John. We don’t have a clear 55 or 60 FV player in this class just yet, but Madrigal was off to the kind of start that would have propelled him to the top of our draft board here at FanGraphs if he hadn’t gotten hurt.

Scouts were told Madrigal is expected to miss three-to-four weeks with his wrist injury, but on Saturday, Oregon State coach Pat Casey told the press it would be four to six. That puts him on track for an early-April return.

So, would a team draft a 5-foot-8 second baseman first overall. And, more specifically, would the Detroit Tigers (who select first in 2018) do that? There isn’t much precedent for it. Matt Bush, who is listed at 5-foot-9, went first overall in 2004, but that pick was ill-advised for a number of non-talent reasons. Most No. 1 picks have prototypical major-league bodies. For Madrigal, or a player like him, to go 1-1, it would probably require more than just the talent and performance to justify it, but also for the selecting franchise to care quite a bit less about a player’s size than is typical around the industry.

Oakland, for instance, has what looks to be a long track record of indifference about player size, especially for their pitchers. Detroit’s amateur department, on the other hand, has repeatedly targeted power arms in the draft, and Al Avila’s presence as GM represents more of a continuation of the Dombrowski era than it does a total regime change, from a scouting philosophy standpoint.

It’s early. College players have more of an opportunity to establish themselves early in the season because high-school ball hasn’t started everywhere yet. As we entered the season, maybe eight to 12 players in this year’s draft looked like they had enough talent to, if things broke right, separate themselves from the rest and grab hold of one of the first two or three spots in the draft. Madrigal was among them and looked like he was about to do just that.

*****

Madrigal’s double-play partner, Cadyn Grenier, has an interesting collection of tools. He’s a plus runner with a plus arm and a 45 glove at shortstop. He also has above-average bat speed but probably needs a mechanical overhaul to hit at all. Some orgs are starting to separate themselves from others when it comes to things like swing alteration, so teams could value him very differently come draft day depending on whether or not they think his swing can be successfully tweaked.

Oregon State OF Trevor Larnach hits the baseball really hard. During his opening weekend of the season he hit a laser home run to center field that left the bat at 114 mph. He hit several balls in the 109-111 range throughout the weekend. This power comes without much violence, and some of Larnach’s swing length is mitigated by his timing, which looked good against mostly 40 and 45 fastballs in my looks. He’s a 45 in right field, and I haven’t seen him max out on a throw.

Larnach already has more home runs than he did last year, so he doesn’t have a long track record of hitting for this kind of premium power. He ditched a leg kick that he had last year and his hands are a bit more active, so there’s at least something different to indicate this early-season spike is real. If he hits all year he probably goes in the first round.

New Mexico State RHP Kyle Bradish has been up to at least 95 early on this year, sitting 91-94. He struck out 10 over seven innings against Harvard on Saturday. Bradish’s delivery is evocative of Trevor Bauer’s, and he has two good breaking balls in a plus curveball and hard, average slider. He faces an SEC lineup at Alabama next week.

We hoped you liked reading Could a 5-foot-8 Second Baseman Be Drafted First Overall? by Eric Longenhagen!

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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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verdegeaux
Member
verdegeaux

absolutely not. Not with the power arms available this year. Ask yourself…is this guy a Bryce Harper or Carlos Correa? Also, not buying his stats given Oregon States west coast historical offensive inflation. I am weary of all west coast players offensive numbers. See Logan Ice for latest Oregon State offense discrepancy to name one.

carter
Member
carter

Ehhh Oregon is like one of the worst climates for hitting in the nation.

craiglambert50
Member
craiglambert50

Nobody is Bryce Harper or Carlos Correa, you can’t project someone in HS or college to be that caliber of a superstar. Nobody *expected* Harper to be one of the top 3 to 5 players in the game although he was the surefire top pick and likely all star. Correa went #1 and signed for an underslot deal, the same could happen to Madrigal. Oregon is a colder state, and college baseball offensive numbers in general are inflated compared to pro ball. You also can’t point out one failure on arguably the best college team in the nation and use that as a valid argument against Madrigal. You don’t seem to be evaluating Madrigal, you seem to be evaluating precedents (none of which I agree with anyway).

Francoeurstein
Member
Francoeurstein

“Nobody *expected* Harper to be one of the top 3 to 5 players in the game”

I disagree with you on that front. Harper was one of the most highly-regarded prospects in baseball history.

Joser
Member
Joser

Indeed. While there may be no sure thing, you only have to read this story at SI (which was the cover story with the title “Baseball’s Chosen One”) to understand how high expectations were for teenage Bryce Harper.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip

Ask yourself…is this guy a Bryce Harper or Carlos Correa?

No. Therefore, the Tigers should forfeit their pick unless they find someone who is.