McMahon hopes adjustment leads to 2B job
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The day after Rockies coaches talked with Ryan McMahon about a flaw at the start of his swing, he hit a game-turning three-run homer off the Mets' Robert Gsellman on June 20. But that didn't change the fact he needed regular playing time to correct the issue.
So the next day, the Rockies optioned McMahon to Triple-A Albuquerque for the second time. In 44 games after his July 29 return, McMahon slashed .256/.333/.419, with multiple important swings that helped the team to the postseason. Given that had managed .211/.283/.337 in 47 games through June 20, did sending him down on a good note make a difference?
"Maybe when I'm 50, I'll think that," said a chuckling McMahon, 24.
McMahon and the Rockies hope the struggles of 2018 lead to an immediate payoff. McMahon is a prime competitor for regular starts at second base, and those will come his way if he realizes potential for power and run production. In 2017, McMahon hit a combined .355, had a .986 OPS, and accumulated 20 homers and 88 RBIs in Double-A and Triple-A.
No one is claiming the education is complete. But by not re-signing DJ LeMahieu, who joined the Yankees at two years and $24 million, the Rockies are giving him a shot.
The job could go to one player or a combination. Competitors are the left-handed hitting McMahon; right-handed hitting Garrett Hampson (the Rockies' No. 4 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline), who also saw Major League time last year; right-handed hitting Pat Valaika, a bench player the last two years; and right-handed hitting Brendan Rodgers (No. 1 Rockies and No. 10 overall, according to MLB Pipeline).
The Rockies drafted McMahon as a third baseman; in the Minors he played third, but learned first base (where he spent much of last season) and second base to increase the ways to work his power into the lineup.
"This will be his third big league camp," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "He's been in the big leagues. He's checked off some boxes. Some of the things you go through as a young player, he's past all that. Now it's just about performing."
McMahon struck out 64 times in 181 at-bats last season, but he showed an ability to hit balls all over the field. Honing the ability to pull inside pitches could increase his home run totals, but driving the ball to all fields is part of his skill set.
McMahon said his coaches and teammates are good resources, but the key is boiling the information into something usable.
"I can stand there with Nolan for an hour and only pick out one thing he says that helps me, because we think completely different," McMahon said. "That's how life is."
The adjustment that led to last season's option to Triple-A -- starting with the bat in a better position so the body would be in better position -- is a principle he has simplified further.
"There's a certain position each player has to hit the ball, and my goal is to find that position and compete," he said. "What helped me was having success last year. I was still dealing with a lot of bad habits I created, but I was still getting hits. Knowing that, and I'm moving in the right direction of being the best version of myself, gives me confidence."
Each year MLB comes up with new designs for on-field gear. But center fielder Ian Desmond, in warmups last year and still this spring, wears a pullover -- with sleeves cut off -- with the 2007 World Series logo. That's pretty old.
"I found it at Goodwill," said Desmond, who added that he often shops at the thrift store for a little of everything. "It was my favorite style. Plus it's a good reminder, that's what I'm going for."
No real change
Was Tuesday a day of potential distraction for the Rockies? Manny Machado's 10-year, $300 million agreement with the Padres means a National League West rival has added a star. And Machado's signing could be connected to talks about a multi-year deal with Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, who can be a free agent at season's end.
• Arenado: Manny's deal 'really good for baseball'
Black, however, believes the Rockies can not be affected by negotiation talk.
"At some point, there will be clarity, one way or the other," Black said. "Then, knowing Nolan, knowing how our club is going to handle it, for us the team will be business as usual. He's ultra-focused, as I've come to know him. I think the team will be able to handle whatever is in front of us."
As for Machado, been there, faced that. The Dodgers acquired Machado in a trade last season and needed a one-game showdown with the Rockies to lock down the division.
"He was in the division last year for the most important part of the season," Black said. "The reality is a really good player just came into the division, but I ultimately know what we have to do is our focus."