Part of a large group of interesting prospects who are making
their way up through the Devil Rays’ system, Jacob McGee has the
potential to be a power lefty atop a contender’s rotation. The
6-foot-3, 225-pounder features a fastball that sits in the 90-94 range
but can touch 96 as well as an impressive split personality breaking
ball and a changeup that is coming along well.
Following his biggest season to date, we talked to the
20-year-old Nevada native about why he wasn’t drafted until the fifth
round in 2004, how he has added more than 40 pounds to his frame since
high school, and why teammate Wade Davis calls him, “a bit of a
Baseball America: You’ve been pitching in the same rotation as
Wade Davis ever since you two were taken in the 2004 draft. You had
more strikeouts than he did in rookie ball, he had more in
short-season, and you beat him out in Class A. How much do you two
Jacob McGee: We actually compete quite a bit. That’s the thing
we try to compete with, the strikeouts. Last year, it was really good
competition because we were neck-and-neck the whole way. Then towards
the end I got hurt, and I thought he was going to catch up. Then I
ended up pulling it out.
BA: Do you think he has a chance this year?
JM: Yeah, he does’¦he has a chance. I think he has a chance every year. And he’ll probably compete all the way up.
BA: You were an under-the-radar prospect coming out of high school. But you
were considered one of the Devil Rays’ biggest draft steals. Why do you
think you lasted until the fifth round?
JM: I have no idea. The Devil Rays were telling me that I was
going to get picked in the third round by ’em. And then I told them
that I wouldn’t sign after the fifth round, (laughs) so they picked me
up in the fifth.
BA: I’ve seen your breaking ball called both a curveball and a slider. How would you describe it?
JM: At times, I throw it a little loopier and that’s probably when you
think it’s a curveball. And then 0-2, 1-2, sometimes I throw it a lot
harder; it looks more like a slider. So I’d say I throw a little of
both but it’s the same pitch pretty much.
BA: Are you going to lean toward primarily throwing one version of the pitch in the future?
JM: No, I’ll probably still be using both. Like early in the count when I
want to get ahead, I’ll just throw the slower one over’¦just to get a
strike in there.
BA: It sounds like you had a little bit of trouble commanding
your fastball when you really reached back. What are you working on to
JM: I’ve just been working on throwing down at the
knees every time almost. Because when I threw it harder, it would
always go up. So now I’m just trying to keep everything down at the
knees’¦even when I throw it harder, just keep it lower.
BA: You’ve added about 40 pounds to your frame since high
school, which has helped you add velocity to all of your pitches. What
have you done to strengthen your core, and how has that weight effected
JM: Well, when I got drafted my shoulders were huge and I was
really skinny. The past few years, I haven’t been working a lot of
upper body — just a little bit — and I’ve been doing a lot more legs
than usual. So I’ve just been upping that every year’¦just doing a lot
of legs and just light upper body. I don’t want to get my shoulders all
BA: Have you been able to maintain your athleticism with that added weight?
JM: Yeah, definitely. Doing a lot more squats, I think, helped a lot. Just
getting my legs bigger helps a lot. Because my first year I felt like
my legs were giving out and then the rest of my body would give out —
it would be harder to pitch. So, I’ve just pretty much just focused on (building leg strength).
BA: Your strikeouts per nine rate has improved every season
(8.42 in 2004; 10.45, 2005; 11.49, 2006). How much of your progress
last season do you attribute to your added velocity vs. your improved
JM: I think it’s the added velocity and, to me, just
getting more experience and just more innings in minor league baseball.
I was a lot more comfortable last season because it is a long season
BA: One of the pitches that the Devil Rays have been having
you work on is your changeup. How do you feel about your progress with
JM: I feel it’s gotten a lot better’¦especially last
year it got a lot better. And then this offseason I’ve been working on
that the most. So it’s really good this offseason.
BA: You’ve been describes as a pretty quiet guy and, “a bit of
a mystery,” in Wade Davis’ words. What’s so mysterious about Jacob
JM: (Laughs) There isn’t that much mystery about me. I’m
just more of a quiet guy. I just don’t talk a lot pretty much. I just
do my own thing and mind my own business.
BA: I’d be talking a little bit more if I was coming off a season like you had last year.
JM: (Laughs) A little bit more’¦but I’m still pretty humble about it.