Ryan McMahon is rebounding well. On the heels of a lackluster 2016 campaign, the Colorado Rockies prospect is slashing a loud .359/.413/.630 in his second go-round with the Hartford Yard Goats. And not only are balls screaming off his bat, he’s essentially halved his strikeout rate. McMahon has fanned just 17 times in 103 plate appearances.
Last year’s Double-A efforts — a .724 OPS and 161 Ks — were an introduction to adversity for the 2013 second-round pick. He came into the year with a history of raking, but he did anything but rake in his initial opportunity with the then-yard-less Goats.
Hand path was part of the problem.
“I kind of got extreme with the steepness of my swing,” McMahon explained early in spring training. “In my mind, one thing that’s always helped me is having my hands ready, but I ended up getting them almost too ready. They were too high, and I was trying to throw them at the ball at the last second instead of keeping some rhythm, some timing, some balance.”
McMahon said that he was working on positioning his hands “closer to where I’m shooting them from,” with the expectation that doing so would help him more easily get on plane with the ball. But while he’s familiar with launch-angle studies, that’s not what’s driving his adjustments.
“As far as the analytical side of it, I don’t learn well that way,” said McMahon. “There are obviously a lot of new things coming into the game, but it’s hard to just go in there and incorporate them. I go more for feel — the feel of my bat path — when I’m working on hitting.”
The 22-year-old corner infielder (who has also played a handful of games at second base) worked laboriously on his left-handed stroke over the winter, but his biggest strides came this spring. He spelled that out when I caught up to him prior to a recent game.
I’ve actually improved a lot since we talked in Arizona,” said McMahon. “A couple of our coaches — Tim Doherty, especially — kind of gave me a different way of looking at things I’d been thinking about and trying to do. Things like ways to load. I’ve always been about staying back, but I was doing it too much, to where my weight was getting outside my back leg. I wasn’t in a strong enough spot to start my swing. That’s basically what it came down to. I’ve fine-tuned a few other things, as well, but it’s kind of like one thing fixed everything.”
McMahon, whom our own Eric Longenhagen ranked as the No. 15 prospect in the Rockies system back in November (a more-bullish Baseball America has him at No. 9) was selected as the Eastern League player of the month for April. McMahon leads the circuit in hits, total bases, and RBI, and he ranks second in extra-base hits, and OPS.
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.