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23 for ’23: Where does Nick Madrigal fit on the Cubs 2023 roster?

1 year agoAndy Martinez

Between position battles, roster additions and new rules, there are plenty of questions surrounding the 2023 Cubs. We attempt to provide answers for 23 of the most intriguing questions heading into the season.

MESA, Ariz. — For Nick Madrigal, any role that he and the Cubs hope he plays in 2023 relies on one thing — health.

Throughout his big-league career, Madrigal has been hampered by the injury bug — a torn hamstring in 2021 caused him to play just 54 games for the White Sox and lower body injuries limited him to just 59 games in 2022 with the Cubs.

But this offseason was unique for Madrigal — it’s his first real, full offseason with the Cubs after being acquired at the 2021 deadline and they took advantage of it. The Cubs training staff identified some things that were causing those issues with his lower half.

“My body was a little bit locked up and just wasn’t moving the best,” Madrigal said. “So that’s what kinda led to all the injuries and stuff.”

So, with full communication this offseason with the Cubs’ training and medical staff and living in the Phoenix area full-time near Sloan Park, Madrigal had the benefit of being under the close watch of the organization.

“I’ve gotten a lot more flexible and just feel like I’m moving the best I’ve moved in the last couple of years,” Madrigal said. “This full offseason, I started pretty early, lifting, working out. So, it was nice to have a normal, full offseason and able to make some changes for sure.”

With that full offseason, he was also able to prepare to play a whole new position — third base. With the Cubs’ acquisition of Dansby Swanson at shortstop and Nico Hoerner’s subsequent move to second base, it kind of left Madrigal in positional purgatory. He hadn’t played any other position in the majors besides second base and had played just 6 innings at shortstop in professional baseball.

The Cubs, though, saw an opening elsewhere in the infield — third base.

“They let me know pretty early in the offseason,” Madrigal said. “It’s been great so far. I’ve been getting a ton of reps over there. Working with the infield coaches here, they’ve been awesome.”

Madrigal has looked relatively smooth in the new position in camp. The fielding has been clean and the throws — arguably the biggest adjustment — look crisp.

“Second base, you can kinda get away with just flipping it over,” Madrigal said. “Third base, you gotta kinda put something on it. It’s feeling great so far.”

David Ross and the Cubs’ coaching staff are taking stock, too.

“Been impressed. He’s moving really well,” Ross said. “The arm strength’s there. Just continue to just keep an eye that, like it’s a lot of throwing for him from what he has done in the past and he’s aware of that.”

The Cubs aren’t just going to give up on Madrigal, either. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft and the Cubs dealt reliever Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox for him and reliever Codi Heuer in the summer of 2021.

The real impetus, though, to move Madrigal to third was to keep his bat on the roster and in the lineup. Throughout his college and professional career, Madrigal has been a high-contact bat, someone who can hit near .300. He’s a career .289 hitter in the big leagues, .309 hitter in the minors and hit .361 in college at Oregon State.

If a roster resembles a Swiss Army Knife, then Madrigal is a key weapon in that — whether starting or off the bench.

“I think if you need a crooked number, you could go to a guy who that’s got some power over there,” Ross said. “If you need contact, man at third, less than 2 and you need a base hit and need to pinch hit for a matchup, then contact matters, putting the ball in play.

“All those things are the way we kinda think about it. Again, the more good players we have the better off we’re gonna be.”

It’s why Madrigal has been one of the important players to follow this spring and why he could fit on the Opening Day roster when the Cubs play Milwaukee at Wrigley Field. Whether at third base, second base when Hoerner or Swanson are off, at designated hitter or coming off the bench, Madrigal’s skillset is valuable to the Cubs.

“He told me he’d play outfield if it meant he’d be on the team,” Ross said. “It’s just the type of person [he is]. He wants to win. He wants to contribute. He wants to help.”

23 for ’23 series

What will the Cubs’ new era at catcher look like?
What is the Cubs’ plan at third base?
Who steps up in the wake of the Seiya Suzuki injury?
What role will Christopher Morel have on the 2023 Cubs?
Who will win the Cubs’ 5th starter spot?
Where does Nick Madrigal fit on the roster?
Who will close for the Cubs?
What kind of impact will Dansby Swanson have in his first season in Chicago?

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