Though we’re only talking about one week of games so far, Nick Madrigal has looked like a different hitter since returning from the IL. He went 3-for-5 as the leadoff hitter in the Field of Dreams Game, notching his third multi-hit game in six starts and even picking up his second stolen base of the season. The diminutive second baseman appears to be moving better out there and that’s great to see.
There are, however, two major caveats to Madrigal’s performance. The first is that, like that ill-fated Harry Caray hologram, a .400 batting average and 167 wRC+ may be a mirage. Madrigal is finding every gap right now and he’s got a .500 BABIP despite generating less hard contact than usual. He’s not getting soft contact, which is good, but the abject lack of power doesn’t bode well for sustained success.
Even for someone whose game is centered around a high BABIP that comes from poking the ball through for singles, this recent run is extraordinary. Madrigal has also drawn three walks in his last 24 plate appearances, including his first time ever taking two free passes in the same game. That wouldn’t seem like much for any player not named Javier Báez, but Madrigal had walked just five times in his first 115 plate appearances.
Maybe this is all a sign that he’s taking a different approach, though I have to think a correction is coming due. Defenses play him shallow due to the lack of power, so maintaining a high average is going to be difficult once his contact profile balances out.
Whether that happens or not, the second caveat is that this could all be for naught if the Cubs indeed make a big splash in free agency. Adding a premier shortstop might push Nico Hoerner over to second and leave Madrigal without a spot. Or perhaps Hoerner stays put and the new guy moves over.
Now, it’s possible Madrigal would still have an everyday role if the Cubs signed Carlos Correa or Xander Bogaerts and moved them to third. There’s value in having a contact bat in the lineup, particularly if Jed Hoyer makes good on his plan to add more pop, so stashing a .300+ hitter at the bottom of the order could work out really well.
At the very least, a nice run over the next several weeks would also increase Madrigal’s value on the trade market if the Cubs indeed want to be active. Picking up hits is never a bad thing, particularly for someone who came in with a little hype, so this is really a no-lose situation.