Q&A: No. 3 Phillies prospect Griff McGarry on his journey

March 6th, 2023

The revamped Phillies Top 30 prospect list features a three-headed pitching monster at the top.

and were first-round picks in 2021 and 2020, respectively, in the top two spots, while No. 3 went from being a 2021 fifth-rounder out of Virginia to a pitcher with a 35.7 percent K rate across three levels, thanks to a fastball that touches 99 and three above-average secondaries.

Despite control issues, the Phillies are keeping the former Cavalier part of their No. 5 rotation spot competition this spring. His place in that battle took a hit last Thursday when he surrendered five runs (four on a Christian Arroyo grand slam) and walked three in one-third of an inning against the Red Sox. But he showed a flash of his potential by striking out Rafael Devers on three pitches, the latter two being whiffs on his heater.

McGarry spoke to MLB Pipeline's Sam Dykstra about that outing, adjustments he’s making to refine his control and the College World Series experience he brings to a recently World Series-bound organization:

Dykstra: We’ll start with the good with the strikeout of Rafael Devers. You’re going up against an All-Star who just signed for a long time and strike him out on a high fastball. What was going through your mind during that at-bat specifically?

McGarry: Obviously, he's a talented hitter. I was just trying to be in the zone. Make him put the ball in play. That at-bat went my way, but I mean, I think it's hard not look at the whole outing. That was definitely a cool moment, but in the grand scheme of things, it's still kind of on the rougher side.

Dykstra: Rob Thomson said after that game that he told you to focus on how you’ve been throwing strikes in live BPs. What have those been like for you because I know command has been such a point of emphasis in the spring?

McGarry: I think, so far, my lives and my 'pens have been pretty consistent with throwing strikes and getting outs, which is good. I think I detoured from that, but just have to get back on the horse and prepare for the next outing just like I have been.

Dykstra: What have you been doing this offseason to improve that command?

McGarry: I think one big thing is being more within myself with my hands, a little bit tighter, not letting my looseness take over. I think when I can find that balance between being tight and using my loose body, I think that's when I’m at my best. So I was honing in on that all offseason and started to see some good changes early on. I want to build off that and get back to that.

Dykstra: What did you learn about yourself as a pitcher between Jersey Shore, Reading and Lehigh Valley?

McGarry: Definitely when I got to Double-A, I realized – and I had this understanding going in – that I needed a for-sure in-zone offspeed pitch. I developed a firmer slider that was a little bit more in the zone. I think that really helped me, especially during my time in Reading. It was something else that could throw the hitter off a little bit, something that was firm in zone.

I think I learned a lot last year as a whole. I got a little bit of experience out of the bullpen and got to learn from some of those older guys in Triple-A that I was with who pitched in the big leagues and did it for years. That was pretty cool. Picked a lot of brains. Took a lot of knowledge away.

Dykstra: What did you take away from your time in relief?

McGarry: I think you definitely have to be in control of your breath, in control of the adrenaline. It’s a lot different than starting a game. When you’re jogging into a game, you have to be able to breathe and not let that 100-yard jog take over. Not letting the moment get too big [when you’re] coming into a big situation and trusting that your stuff will play out.

Dykstra: Going back to that hard slider, it feels like a lot of Phillies pitchers are adding a cutter. Is that a philosophy or point of emphasis across the organization?

McGarry: I think it goes beyond the Phillies. A lot of guys are starting to add the cutter. I think it depends on the guy obviously. But I think a lot of hard-throwing righties adding that pitch, it’s a great pitch especially as something that can get up and in on a lefty or down and away on a righty. It’s something you can add to your repertoire, and we’re seeing it all across baseball as a pretty powerful and controlling pitch in the game. I think it’s a beneficial pitch if you can throw it for a strike, and I think it’s going to be prevalent in the game for the next few years.

Dykstra: You have College World Series experience, having taken a no-hitter into the eighth against Mississippi State in 2021. What did you take away from that in your ability to pitch in a big game?

McGarry: I think definitely a lot of confidence comes with that, pitching in front of a crowd and knowing you can do it. Looking back, it didn’t feel like – I don’t want to say it didn’t feel like, but – I tried to treat it as any other game heading into it. Everything that helped me with nerves helped me [that day]. Taking that into pro ball, pitching in front of bigger crowds, it’s still the same game out there. Still playing in the same stadium dimensions. Not too much changes. You have to keep a consistent mentality. I think it’s definitely good experience to have under my belt, and hopefully that can help me in the long run.

Dykstra: Besides the hard slider, any other pitches you’re working on this year to push for a Major League debut?

McGarry: Yeah, I think the changeup had made some pretty good strides this offseason. That’s something I veered from a little last year, but I think it’s coming back into the works a little bit. I’m excited to throw it this year. The command has improved a lot on it. The action is a little more consistent. Build that up a little bit and throw it a lot this year.