Rockies add to Draft haul with Hurricanes' ace

June 12th, 2020

DENVER -- University of Miami right-hander Chris McMahon’s confidence increased last summer when he not only pitched for, but truly fit with, the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.

McMahon led Team USA with 15 strikeouts in just 12 innings. He parlayed that into a strong performance for Miami in the abbreviated 2020 season -- 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA in four appearances, and 38 strikeouts against five walks 25 2/3 innings.

It all led to the Rockies selecting McMahon in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft, with the 46th overall pick, on Thursday. Ranked No. 29 on MLB Pipeline's Top 200 Draft Prospects, McMahon went a combined 7-3 with a 3.28 ERA with 123 strikeouts to 37 walks in three seasons for the Hurricanes.

But flash back to last summer, when McMahon pitched on the same squad with University of Minnesota righty Max Meyer, chosen third overall by the Marlins, and Texas A&M lefty Asa Lacy, who went fourth overall to the Royals.

“I liked playing catch with Max Meyer -- he’s got a really good arm and obviously a really good slider,” McMahon said. “I learned a lot from him, and learned a lot of grips from Asa Lacy.

“I pitched behind those two guys, too. I pitched behind Max in the first two appearances, and then behind Asa. It was really cool to get together with those guys and just learn from them.”

The success then and during the collegiate season suggests he wasn’t just hanging around to learn. Not only did his confidence increase, but so did his fastball velocity. Before baseball was halted by the coronavirus pandemic, his fastball velocity was reaching the upper 90s and his secondary pitches were coming along nicely. He throws a changeup that he likes, and he prefers his cutter over his slider.

“It was a big thing for me, being able to tell myself that I was in the cream of the crop,” McMahon said. “I’ve just got to keep growing, keep doing it.”

McMahon’s story is one of developing athletic ability by playing multiple sports, then shining when the scouts came around.

At West Chester (Pa.) Bayard Rustin High School, McMahon excelled in soccer, possibly at a Division 1 scholarship level, and in basketball, where he displayed a nice shot and was strong enough defensively to be placed against the opponent’s best shooter. He has dunked, although he hasn’t tried in a while and said he probably won’t, and he can drive a golf ball well over 300 yards.

An athlete and pitcher like this, one may wonder, why did he last until the 33rd round out of high school in 2017, when the Braves took him?

“It was more of a suitability thing -- me and my family had a number, and no one was able to meet that number or not close enough, so I decided to just go to school,” said McMahon, an honor-roll student throughout high school. “I was happy to be able to and get three years of education under my belt, and during that time I developed a lot.”

During Day 1 of the Draft on Wednesday, the Rockies selected outfielder Zac Veen of Port Orange (Fla.) Spruce Creek High School with the ninth overall pick and catcher Drew Romo of The Woodlands (Texas) High School 35th overall, in Competitive Balance Round A.


Round 3, 81st overall: Sam Weatherly, LHP, Clemson
After two seasons as a reliever at Clemson, Weatherly posted a 0.79 ERA in his four starts this season. With pitchers like Weatherly, who has a hard fastball but better command of the slider, the Rockies tend to see whether they can remain starters with the back-pocket knowledge that they can move to the bullpen.

Round 4, 110th overall: Case Williams, RHP, Douglas County High School (Co.)
The 18-year-old righty did not show up on top-prospect lists, but scouts saw a high spin-rate fastball. Williams, who is developing his offspeed pitches, is committed to Santa Clara.

Round 5, 140th overall: Jack Blomgren, SS, Michigan
The Rockies again went to the University of Michigan for a pick -- this one on Blomgren, a junior shortstop and speedy contact hitter who batted .360 in last year's College World Series. Last year, the Rockies took the Wolverines' No. 1 pitcher -- Karl Kauffman, with the 77th overall selection.