Nick Hostetler almost never takes a day off. The White Sox Director of Amateur Scouting is probably on a plane, or in a car, traveling to get a firsthand look at what he, and a fanbase desperate for postseason success, hope is the missing piece to the White Sox rebuild puzzle. Now into his fourth year on the job, he estimates that he spends as many as 300,000 miles on airplanes alone during one draft cycle. He also would add in, “not to mention all the miles in the car.” His dedication to the job is one that he would say is born out of pure love for the game of baseball.
It is also worth noting that Nick came up as a young scout in the Atlanta Braves system under the esteemed Paul Snyder, who is credited as a major reason behind the Braves’ run of success in the 1990’s. With the amount of time that Nick Hostetler puts into watching for the next Carlos Correa or Mike Trout, and the background from which he came, it’s probably worth listening when he says a player impresses him. Based on his comments about White Sox first-round pick Nick Madrigal, he was impressed, and then some.
“This is a special special guy and we need to do whatever we can to add this type of person to our clubhouse.“
One thing in particular that drew Hostetler to that conclusion was from an interview he had with Madrigal in the months leading up to the draft:
“When we sat down with [Madrigal] one thing that really jumped out to us was that he’s not talking about himself. He’s talking more about his team, his team efforts, how he encouraged his team and helped his teammates. The only time he really talked about himself, at least to me, was when he brought up a situation with Team USA.”
So what was the only situation that could get Nick Madrigal to talk about himself? When Madrigal was playing on the Team USA Collegiate National Team, Madrigal felt that teammates were playing more for the name on back of the jersey, rather than the name on the front. “He took it upon himself to approach those guys and say, ‘Hey we’re playing for our country here, and you need to have some pride in that and do it for the right reasons.'”
Hostetler would even add that when he went to various sources to try and validate what Madrigal told him, those sources confirmed the story, and even said that Madrigal had undersold what his role was in that locker room.
As a graduate of the Paul Snyder School of Scouting, Nick Hostetler was taught to always trust what your eyes tell you about a player. It’s a philosophy he still maintains today despite all of the advanced analytics and computer models that many scouting departments have adopted as a sole means of scouting these days. That’s not to say he doesn’t see a place for more modern scouting methods in today’s game, and he understands baseball is an ever-evolving game. When asked about the constantly changing nature of baseball, he said, “you either change with the game, or the game will pass you by.“
But why Hostetler’s conviction about the mental makeup of Nick Madrigal is so encouraging is because of the value that he puts in finding the right guy. And to him, you don’t have the right guy unless you have the right mental makeup.
“These are humans, these aren’t robots. These aren’t numbers. These are humans with human emotions, [and] ups and downs. We have to be able to understand, to the best of our ability, what we’re getting into from that standpoint.”
He believes he’s found the right type of person in Nick Madrigal. When asked if he felt that Nick Madrigal could be the “missing piece” prospect that Kris Bryant was to the Cubs, he responded that he felt Madrigal would have the potential to be a different kind of impact, and one that any champion must have. A true clubhouse leader.
“One of his main features is his ability to lead. Just a complete special makeup clubhouse guy. I do think that that part of it may complete it.”
While he would be happy to rave about the kind of impact Nick Madrigal the leader would have in the locker room, he was just as impressed with Nick Madrigal the baseball player as well. “It’s a special hit tool,” he told me when I asked if he felt the MLB Pipeline grade of 65 was a fair assessment of Madrigal’s hitting ability. He would also add, “there’s still some ceiling left to be reached and tapped into.”
It’s hard to imagine Madrigal experiencing much more success than he did at Oregon State this season. Among his various accomplishments this year, Madrigal batted his way to a .397 average during the year and helped lead his team to the College World Series in Omaha. Despite missing nearly two months early in the year, that Nick Hostetler said “zapped” some of his power, Madrigal still managed to slug an impressive .567, due in part to the fact that Madrigal is a threat on the bases as well. His hit tool may be his most prominent feature, but Hostetler claims that they clocked him at times that would qualify him as a 70 speed tool on the 20/80 scale commonly used by scouts.
If Madrigal’s speed and hit tool aren’t enough to get you excited about the five-foot-seven second baseman, perhaps a glove that Hostetler thinks is capable of being Gold Glove caliber will convince you. As he puts it, Madrigal is “a Gold Glove caliber second baseman that can really play anywhere.” They are so convinced that he will be able to seamlessly transition to any position that they are giving Madrigal the opportunity to start his career playing around the infield at second, short and third. He is truly a “Swiss army knife infielder,” as Nick Hostetler likes to describe him.
Hostetler says part of his job is trying to compare prospects to previous players in the league, whether it be by comparing tools, similar injury histories, or any other kind of comparison one could think of. When asked about what sorts of comparisons he liked when it comes to Nick Madrigal, he responded by first saying, “the more people that are around me, the more I realize they sort of hate ‘comps.'” Yet perhaps harkening back to his old school Paul Snyder upbringing, Hostetler offered some names that he felt made for a fair comparison to Nick Madrigal.
While Alex Bregman and Nick Senzel are flattering comparisons in their own right, the former a young star on a World Series champion and the latter being the 5th ranked prospect in all of baseball, it’s impossible not to get hung up on the last name Hostetler mentioned. Craig Biggio is a lofty, yet intriguing comparison for Madrigal. Could he potentially be one day as impactful as the 2015 Hall of Fame inductee? If the way Nick Hostetler describes the newest addition to the White Sox prospect chest is true, the White Sox may well have someone that is as gifted as the man who retired after a career that featured seven All-Star appearances and 3,060 hits in a career that spanned 20 years.
So while no one can ever perfectly predict the future, the White Sox trust Nick Hostetler to do his best. He has seen and talked to many prospects over the years, but few if any, ever matched what he felt Madrigal brings to the table. And while listening to him describe the success he sees in Madrigal’s future and how it will play into the future success of the White Sox, it’s hard not to be excited.
Follow David Wildman on Twitter–Feature Photo Credit: Inside the White Sox