If it were up to Nick Madrigal, we know where he'd be Opening Day.
"I really do want to be a part of this team from the start. I feel like I deserve it," he said Saturday. "But it's in the hands of the bosses and the coaches and whatever works for them.
"I've never wanted something so much in my life just to be a part of this team right now, and I feel like I can help this team win on the field."
Whether the White Sox decide to include one of their highest rated prospects on the roster next Friday, when they open the shortened 2020 season against the division-rival Minnesota Twins, is one of the biggest unanswered questions of "Summer Camp."
It was a pretty big question back in the spring, too, before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sport. But with the White Sox talking about Madrigal still needing to work on some things, a minor league start looked likely. Then baseball's six-month marathon got squeezed down to a two-month sprint to the postseason. There are no minor league games for Madrigal to participate in now, and the lone alternative to his starting the campaign as part of the 30-man big league roster is playing intrasquad games against other White Sox minor leaguers in Schaumburg.
But the structure of the season isn't the only thing that's changed since March. Madrigal's changed, too, earning rave reviews for what he's been able to do over the past couple weeks of workouts and scrimmages at Guaranteed Rate Field. He's showed off the skill set that led the White Sox to take him with the No. 4 pick in the draft two summers ago, spraying line-drive base hits all over the field, doing solid work defensively, utilizing his speed and showing off a strong situational awareness.
"I see a big difference from spring training to 'Summer Camp.' He's in a better place," White Sox third base coach Nick Capra said earlier this week. "More focused, it seems like he's more relaxed. Seems like he's coming out with more confidence every day. We're seeing the things we knew we had when we drafted him.
"It's a really good sign from three months ago till now. He's in a lot better place. ... You can see it in his eyes and his face, he's getting back to being the baseball player we knew he could be."
That's a ringing endorsement.
Madrigal knows there's a difference, too.
"It was a lot of time I had to kind of evaluate things from the first spring training," he said. "I was just happy to get things going again. ... I tried to stay as ready as I could. I never really took my foot off the gas in that time period, mentally and physically.
"For whatever reason, just things weren't bouncing my way in spring training. But this time around, I feel like I'm more relaxed and kind of just enjoying the ride more.
"Even with the guys here, I feel like I've gotten closer to them. That's helped my on-the-field play, just being more comfortable with them. But I feel really good this time around."
Indeed, Madrigal has looked impressive. But does it matter?
Anyone looking for clues as to whether he'll end up on the Opening Day roster won't find many listening to White Sox brass, which tends to play these kinds of decisions close to the vest. The best you'd be able to do watching the intrasquad games is notice that Madrigal has, more often than not, played as part of the "B" team, with the rest of the White Sox major league starters in the opposite lineup. But who knows if that's actually revealing or just grasping at straws for some kind of tell.
In the end, the White Sox have a decision to make. Yes, service time is still a thing in this most unusual of seasons. No, the White Sox have never said that's a factor when it comes to their decisions on when to promote their top prospects. But it is a reality of the game, and if Madrigal's debut comes roughly a week into the season instead of on Opening Day, the White Sox can gain another year of team control.
Remember, though, that everyone involved with baseball has been talking up how important each and every game of the 60-game 2020 schedule is going to be, and indeed, each game will matter twice or thrice as much as it typically does. In a mad dash to the postseason, a losing streak could be the difference between making the playoffs and missing them. An early losing streak could mean a team is playing from behind all season. And the White Sox first week of games features series against the Twins and Cleveland Indians, a pretty important stretch right out of the gate.
Will the White Sox deem those games important enough to put the organization's finest second baseman, offensively and defensively, on the Opening Day roster?
Maybe. Maybe not. After all, Rick Hahn has never wavered in his description of the White Sox rebuilding process as a long-term endeavor, and having Madrigal under team control longer obviously helps accomplish the goal of keeping the White Sox contending for championships for as long as possible. That's a strong argument.
And while looking rather unlikely, there's another interesting argument to be made: What if the White Sox kept Madrigal away from the majors entirely in 2020? Then, if his big league debut didn't come until a little bit into what's hoped to be a full, normal 2021 season, they could extend their team control - and with it, their contention window - even further. Wouldn't Madrigal's services be more valuable over the course of full seasons in which the White Sox were even better positioned to contend for a championship than in this weird one where anything could happen?
Again, this is the decision facing the White Sox right now. What's best for the team's chances in 2020? Putting Madrigal on the roster from Day 1. What's best for the White Sox over the next decade? Waiting a week. The prospects for South Side success this season are tantalizing. But the future could be bright for so long. And that's why it doesn't seem there's a wrong answer.
Unless, that is, you're Madrigal.
"I feel as ready as ever right now," he said. "I feel like not only my on-the-field play is ready, but my body and speed and everything feels game-ready at this moment.
"I don't know what's going to happen. We should hear pretty shortly here what's going to happen, what the roster's going to look like.
"But I feel ready as ever right now."
Nick Madrigal badly wants spot on White Sox roster for Opening Day originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago