CARY, N.C. -- On Wednesday, scouts lauded Kevin McGonigle for his professional batting practice session to kick off the PDP League. On Thursday, he showed that approach carries over to games, proving the scouts who said “that guy just hits” right.
The Aldan, Pa., native picked up a hit every time he came up in the opening game of this week-long showcase, driving in a pair of runs to help his Light Blue team pull out a tie against the Gray team. And while this event is designed to help USA Baseball choose its 18U National Team, as well as inform decisions about who will play in the Major League Baseball-USA Baseball All-American Game in Los Angeles as part of All-Star festivities, there’s no question the participants are treating this as more than just an exhibition and individual competition for roster spots.
“I was just trying to get on, trying to help my team win,” McGonigle said. “Guys behind me, I know they can hit. They’re here for a reason, they’re going to hit me in. I did my best today, put it all out there -- we all did. I’ll take a tie over a loss any day.”
In addition to trying to make the national team, there were dozens of scouts in attendance, many getting their first real look at the best high schoolers in the Class of 2023. Having a perfect day at the plate in front of all those evaluators must have added to the satisfaction in the infielder’s afternoon. Or not.
“I’m here to help my team win,” McGonigle said. “I’m not thinking about any of that.”
McGonigle is always thinking about hitting, and he wastes no time getting after it in the box. He was first-pitch hitting three times and came up with base hits three times.
“I was always taught first-pitch fastball, 'attack it, be aggressive,'” McGonigle said. “That’s what I went with today.”
That all was true except for his last at-bat, where McGonigle saw an offspeed offering and displayed an approach that certainly did not go unnoticed by all the evaluators in attendance.
“I’m very aggressive early in counts, first-pitch fastball. That last at-bat was a changeup, but I had my two-strike approach with guys in scoring position,” the Auburn recruit said. “Those runners meant a lot, so I had to get them in. I just thought about flicking a ball out in the outfield, find a hole anywhere.”
McGonigle is a left-handed-hitting middle infielder who hails from eastern Pennsylvania and started at second base Thursday. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone who one of his biggest influences has been.
“I look after Chase Utley a lot, his swing and his approach,” McGonigle said. “I’m a Philly guy, so I love watching him.”
Both games featured arms that lit up Trackman with high spin rates.
In the first game, Rhode Island lefty Alexander Clemmey put his name on the map by throwing high-spin fastballs and sliders. He had the top five spin rates for fastballs, all north of 2696 rpm. By comparison, the Major League leader in spin rate average with a four-seam fastball is the Reds' Alexis Díaz at 2,676. Clemmey also threw the five fastest fastballs of the day -- up to 96.7 mph -- and though he lost feel for the zone in his second inning of work, he did strike out five in 1 2/3 IP. He also had his slider spinning north of 2,700 rpm routinely.
That paled in comparison with what Cameron Tilly did in the second game. The Newburgh, Ind., native threw three sliders with more than 3,000 rpm and had 10 more over 2,900. In MLB, there are only five pitchers averaging higher than 2,900 rpm with their slider. Tilly struck out five over three innings.
Trackman Hitting Leaderboard for Thursday
106.9, Andrew Wiggins
104.8, Riley Jackson
104.7, Zion Rose
104.3, Gavin Grahovac
103.8, Walker Jenkins
103.2, Roman Martin
103.0, Camden Kozeal
384.0, Riley Jackson
359.7, Braden Holcomb
328.3, Dylan Cupp