Saturday, March 4, 2017

Blue Jays Prospect Ryan Goes McBoom for Walk-Off Win

Clutchlings photo

   Blue Jays 1B prospect Ryan McBroom went deep yesterday in the bottom of the 9th against the Yankees, giving the team a walk-off spring training win:

    Although he has long been considered a fringe prospect, all McBroom has done since he joined the organization as a 15th round choice from West Virginia in 2014 is hit.  He posted an .841 OPS at Vancouver in his first pro season, .869 in his second at Lansing (where he was the Midwest League MVP), and he led the Florida State League in RBI and smacked 21 Homers in a very pitcher-friendly loop last year.
   The knock against the 6'3"/230 McBroom has been that he's a bat-first player.  The Blue Jays have experimented with him in the outfield, but his position for the present and future is 1st Base.  He does not have the speed or arm to play anywhere else.  He did steal 10 bases at Dunedin last year, but that speaks more to his baseball IQ than it does his wheels.
   At the plate, McBroom makes loud contact, but reports from last year suggest that he didn't work the count as well as he could have in 2016.  There is a swing-and-miss element to his game, but he likely didn't help himself by getting into too many pitchers' counts last year.  
      Baseball Prospectus' Steve Givarz watched McBroom in Dunedin last June, and gives his bat mixed reviews (evaluations on the 20-80 scale; 50 is considered MLB average):
Hit 40 Slightly closed stance, wide base; below-average bat speed, strength over bat speed swing, uphill swing path, makes hard loud contact when he connects; long swing, slow trigger, decent balance; fair pitch recognition, struggles on inner half; looks to extend on pitches away
Power 50 Plus raw power; loud contact with strength to take the ball out to pull side and straight away; has loft on hit balls; plays down due to long swing and below-average hit utility
   Bobby DeMuro of Today's Knuckleball is more bullish on McBroom's hit tool:
     With a swing that stays all the way through the zone, and a finish at the plate which gives some natural lift and backspin to his line drives, McBroom has the mechanics down to keep putting up big home run and double totals and hitting the ball in the air with authority, and there’s no reason he couldn’t continue to be a middle-of-the-lineup force.

   There are some developments that the Blue Jays minor league staff have been watching.  Despite his uptick in long-ball production last year, McBroom struck out at the highest rate (22%), and was on base at the lowest rate (.323 OBP) of his career so far.  That may have been because the organization wanted him to focus on driving the ball more, or it may have been a product of finding himself behind in the count a lot last year.
     McBroom had a brief audition at AA last year, filling in for a week and a half while regular New Hampshire First Baseman Rowdy Tellez was down with an injury.  It was a small sample size, but McBroom struggled against the higher level pitching.  With Tellez likely moving up to Buffalo this year, McBroom will return to the Eastern League.  Another knock against McBroom is that he always been old for the level he was at (he'll turn 25 in April).   As I have written numerous times before, AA is where the prospects truly become separated from the non-prospects.  Hitters at this level need to have a plan, and pitch recognition is a large part of that.  Pitchers at AA rely not solely on their fastball - they use a combination of fastballs and secondary pitches, wrapped up in a neat bow called command to get hitters out.

     Truth be told, I have never considered McBroom to be a Top 10 (or even Top 20) prospect - playing behind Tellez may be part of that, but bat-first prospects like McBroom are simply working with a smaller margin of error than more-rounded players. At the same time, the numbers he has posted can't be ignored.
Tellez may be the future of the franchise at 1st, but a strong performance by McBroom at AA in the first half of the season could help bolster the club's depth if they're in contention at the trade deadline.

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