The Rundown: Madrigal a Puzzling 3B Option, Fowler Hangs ‘Em Up, MLB Drops Entire 2023 Schedule

Business is slow for Cubs bloggers these days, and a perusal of competing sites reveals a whole lot of lineup projections. I’m not a fan of that game, so I won’t bite. However, if you’d like to post your projections in the comments section, I’d love to see them. This is a two-way affair, dear readers, and your contributions are as valuable, if not more so, than mine.

I don’t envision a set lineup so I want to talk about “Little Stick” Nick Madrigal, whose potential move to third base has certainly piqued my interest. Patrick Wisdom can hit more home runs in a good month than Madrigal will in his career, so it seems odd that the two could wage a position battle over the next eight weeks. Then again, Wade Boggs averaged eight taters and 67 RBI per season during his 18-year career and he played on a lot of winning teams. He also had an elite batting average and on-base percentage, plus a much better slugging percentage than Madrigal.

Do the Cubs think Madrigal has 200-hit potential? He won’t get enough at-bats to reach that benchmark, but he offers very good value if he gets 100 hits in 81 games as a platoon option. It would also require a sizeable step up in production. By my calculations, Madrigal should average between 160-170 hits over a full season if he can stay healthy. He’d need to find about 15 additional base hits to reach the century mark in a 50/50 split. Is that possible? He did hit .340 in 109 PAs as a rookie with the White Sox in 2020, but only three of his 35 hits went for extra bases and he only walked four times.

The good news is that Madrigal’s walk rate has increased each year. He’s still mainly a singles hitter and he won’t steal a lot of bases, but he doesn’t strike out much and he won’t hit into a lot of double plays. He sports a .289 average with a .336 career OBP. The commitment to finding a spot for him on the field is due to his potential production at the plate. Wisdom, on the other hand, is a career .217 hitter with a .301 OBP and a high strikeout rate. At best, both are league-average players with completely different paths toward ordinariness.

Madrigal’s potential move to third base is a definite head-scratcher, and you have to think he and Wisdom are nothing more than stopgap options until 2024. Except…there is nothing in free agency that will grab your attention in 2024 or ’25. If you’re looking at Chicago’s minor league system, Jake Slaughter and James Triantos offer the most hope. Triantos had a down ’22 and you won’t find Slaughter on many prospects lists because he’s 26 years old and hasn’t played above Double-A.

Perhaps the combination of Wisdom and Madrigal is just what the Cubs need to keep opposing pitching staffs off guard. Teams will certainly have to make adjustments depending on Chicago’s lineup. Maybe we should christen the duo as baseball’s version of “Shake and Bake.” Does that blow your mind? Not really? I didn’t think so.

Expect Madrigal to get a lot of attention in Arizona as he works to improve his versatility. Those who’ve been around a while know a light-hitting third baseman wouldn’t set precedent with the organization. Steve Ontiveros blasted seven home runs across three seasons starting in 1977 and Lenny Randle hit five in 1980. Except for the Ron Cey and Aramis Ramirez years, third base was a big black hole offensively between the last year Ron Santo played for the Cubs and the 2015 rookie season of one Kris Bryant. Let’s hope the current gap won’t last quite as long.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

I hope Chad Green has an agent who understands baseball’s new math.

Tuesday Stove

Major League Baseball today announced the launch of a new MLB Originals Series Undeniable – Stories from the Negro Leagues,” a contemporary storytelling platform to amplify and honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues.

With the impending bankruptcy of Sinclair’s Bally Sports stations, MLB is looking at several options for broadcast rights. One of those could center on a direct-to-consumer model via streaming.

The league also announced its full 2023 schedule earlier today.

Jazz Chisholm Jr. is the face of this year’s MLB The Show video game.

Arte Moreno is no longer selling the Angels, and that could have a big impact on the impending free agency of two-way star Shohei Ohtani.

Mike Trout is preparing for “world domination” by the United States during this year’s World Baseball Classic.

Extra Innings

For Cubs fans, this was the shot heard ’round the world. It seemed like there was no way Chicago would lose Game 7 after a leadoff jack by Fowler.

They Said It

  • “Honestly, we were like the Beatles…Even the guys like Lackey and Lester and Rossy, they won in Boston. And they were like, ‘Boston was special, but this is crazy. I’ve never seen anything like this.’ That was the biggest World Series you could ever win, and we did it.” – Fowler
  • “[Murray] controls the strike zone really well. That’s what hitting’s all about — it’s knowing when to swing the bat and when not to. He does a great job of that. It tends to be predictive of future success. So I’m really excited about his season coming up.” – Jared Banner
  • “I can play different places. That’s going to be my role, moving around. It’ll probably depend on who’s pitching on the other team. Where I’m playing is going to depend on that. So, that’s what Rossy told me when I talked to him on the phone. And I told him, ‘You know, I don’t care where I play at all. I just like playing.”Trey Mancini

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

Mancini said Wrigley Field is a “magical place.” Let’s hope Madrigal has an enchanted season, too.

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