Pirates' No. 30 prospect McAdoo is on fire in High-A

June 8th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Alex Stumpf's Pirates Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PITTSBURGH -- When goes to First National Bank Field, home of the Pirates’ High-A affiliate Greensboro Grasshoppers, he knows nothing is guaranteed. He could struggle that day, or have a monster game.

But no matter what happens, he’s going to have a smile on his face. Given that the Pirates’ No. 30 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, is one of the hottest hitters in the system -- hitting .333 with eight home runs and a .962 OPS so far this season -- a lot of those smiles are pretty organic.

It sounds simple, but that was hardly the case when he was in high school. Baseball was serious and needed to be treated as such.

“I always thought you had to be serious for an hour before the game [and] in the game,” explained McAdoo over the phone. “You weren’t allowed to smile or else you weren’t focused.”

Reflecting on it, McAdoo feels he was immature then. He was riding the highs and lows of the game too much with that mindset. There was a good ballplayer in him, but he went mostly unnoticed throughout high school, only getting one collegiate offer from San José State University.

It turns out, that was the perfect place for him. There, his roommate and best friend, Theo Hardy, convinced him that he was looking at baseball the wrong way: It’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun. If you aren’t enjoying it, you’re doing it wrong.

That resonated with McAdoo.

“If I played with a smile and I enjoyed where I was at, where my feet were, I was going to have a good time and be successful,” McAdoo said.

McAdoo started to take off from there, batting well over .300 his sophomore and junior seasons with double-digit power. The Pirates took notice and selected him in the 13th round of last year’s Draft, but hardly anyone could have seen how quickly he has taken to pro ball.

After hitting five home runs with a .922 OPS with Single-A Bradenton last year, the organization sent him to Greensboro to start this season. He’s continued to crush the ball in High-A, and the 22-year-old utility man (he’s played first, second and third base and corner outfield this year) was named the South Atlantic League’s Player of the Week after hitting .526 for the week of May 27 to June 2.

Changes in approach have helped make that torrid start possible. Some of it is mechanical -- he is crouching less at the plate now than he did in college -- but a lot of it is mental. McAdoo spoke of what he called “soft focus” and “hard focus.” Soft focus is more going with the flow, while hard is more gritting one’s teeth to get something done.

For example, soft focus would be keying in on a pitcher right when he is about to pitch. Hard focus is zeroing in on him the entire at-bat, from walking into the box or calling time and everything in between. Obviously, both can be beneficial in the right spots and in certain amounts, but with more of that soft focus now compared to when he was younger, he feels he becomes less tired mentally.

“I feel like that’s when I’m the most locked in, when I have a good focus of soft focus or hard focus,” he said.

That change in approach is working, and McAdoo might not be done rising through the system this season. Not bad for a Day 3 Draft pick in his first full pro season.

“All I needed was a chance,” McAdoo said. “I knew I could prove something if I got myself a chance.”