Ryan McMahon began the season back at Double-A Hartford where once again he showed a knack for playing a new position—along with a vastly improved offensive approach.
Drafted in the second round in 2013 as a third baseman, McMahon initially played first base last season and finished with 67 games at each corner. Rockies infield instructor Stu Cole called McMahon “a natural” at second base when he began playing there in spring training.
“That may be his best defensive position,” Hartford manager Jerry Weinstein said, “because he’s got a plus arm, and it helps you on cutoffs and relays and it helps you turning double plays. I think he likes playing second base, but he’s good at first and he’s good at third, too. I think (for the) future, he might be best at second.”
The 22-year-old McMahon, who played high school ball in Santa Ana, Calif., typically starts two games at first base, followed by one apiece at third and second as part of his defensive rotation. Weinstein said McMahon is “adequate right now” on turning double plays at second, where the footwork for the 6-foot-2 McMahon is understandably a little challenging and something he focuses on with early work.
Last season, when Hartford played every game on the road because its new ballpark was not completed, McMahon hit .242/.325/.399 with 12 home runs in a career-high 133 games. He also set career highs with 55 walks and 163 strikeouts.
McMahon struck out 30 percent of the time last season but had cut that rate nearly in half (16 percent) in April of this season. He hit .375/.422/.675 with four homers and 20 RBIs.
Weinstein didn’t see McMahon last season but managed him at high Class A Modesto in 2015, when the lefthanded batter hit .300/.372/.520 with 153 strikeouts and has noticed offensive improvements.
“The plane of his swing is a lot more in line with the plane of the pitch,” Weinstein said. “He’s swinging at fewer and fewer balls out of the zone. He’s handling the ball up (in the zone) a lot better than he did before, when he had a considerable lift approach to hitting.”
— Jack Etkin is a reporter based in Denver