Our pre-2012 top 50 prospects list returns after a hiatus with No. 33 Mike McDade, and includes some exclusive quotes from when I caught up with him in Blue Jays camp earlier this month.
With nine days of spring training commitments followed by attempts to move while being sick when I returned home, it’s been difficult to update the top 50 these last two weeks without compromising thoroughness. Now, however, the list will definitely be continuing in the coming days to make up for the lost time.
No. 33: Michael McDade
First baseman / 22 years old / 6’1″ 255 lbs
Born: May 8, 1989 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Bats: Both Throws: Right
High School Team: Silverado (Las Vegas, NV)
Acquired: Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 6th round (205th overall) of the 2007 Amateur Draft
Jersey Number: 40 for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats
Pre-2011 Rank: 28
- Was drafted as a catcher before moving to first base
- Named Organizational Player of the Month in August 2009
- Led the Florida State League with 21 home runs in 2010
- Won the R. Howard Webster Award as Dunedin’s MVP in 2010
- Eastern League All-Star in 2011
- Outdueled teammate Moises Sierra this past season to win the Eastern League Home Run Derby
New Hampshire Fisher Cats team stats ranking:
- 1st in doubles (37)
- 2nd in hits (136), RBIs (74), total bases (221), strikeouts (104) and OPS (.785)
- T-2nd in sacrifice flies (4)
- 3rd in games played (125), at-bats (484), batting average (.281) and slugging percentage (.457),
- T-3rd in home runs (16)
- 4th in runs (71) and errors (7)
- T-4th in HBP (8)
- 7th in walks (28)
- 9th in on-base percentage (.328)
Extra Information and previous experience:
After hitting a league-leading 21 home runs but striking out a team-high 141 times in 128 games for the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2010, Mike McDade knew he was going to have to make some adjustments with Double-A New Hampshire in 2011. He made his fair share of them.
As the Fisher Cats’ cleanup hitter, McDade set new career-highs with a 136 hits, 37 doubles and 74 RBIs after tinkering with his swing in spring training, working hard to command the strike zone and lay off breaking balls, and continuing to be aggressive early in counts.
It’s this aggressiveness, however, that leads to the main knock on the 22-year-old as well.
Having averaged more than one strikeout per game from 2008-10, McDade made it a priority to cut down on his swing-and-miss last season with New Hampshire. He was successful in doing so, bringing down his strikeout rate from a career-high 27.2% in 2010 to a career-low 19.8% last season with room to improve even more in 2012.
While he did manage to improve his strikeout rate, McDade’s walk rate last season was nearly identical to his 2010 campaign at 5.3%. With a career .314 on-base percentage in 512 minor league games, the biggest challenge that lies ahead for the Las Vegas native is seeing more pitches per at-bat and working deeper into counts — crucial for a first baseman and cleanup hitter.
It’s something that he’s well aware of and focuses on as much as he can.
“Every day I’m trying to work on that,” said McDade this spring of his strikeout and walk totals. “The biggest thing is just trying to get my pitch, and I felt like I did a better job last year, I feel like I progressed from the year before. I’m getting a little more mature, starting to know the little things. Right now it’s a work in progress but it’s going well.”
Consistency at the plate, especially in the second half of the season, will be key for McDade this season, since his power potential is evident.
On May 31, McDade was hitting .325 on the season with an .892 OPS that included an impressive .382 on-base percentage. Then, after hitting 18 doubles and six home runs in his first 50 games, he smacked seven doubles and six home runs in 26 June games. But in his final 58 games, he went 47-for-190 (.247) at the plate with a .660 OPS.
A switch-hitter, McDade has always been a better hitter against right-handed pitchers and his performance against southpaws brings down his numbers. That was the case last season with the Fisher Cats, when he hit .291 with a .823 OPS from the left side but just .246 with a .653 OPS from the right. His willingness to chase pitches varied as well, as he swung at only 18% of pitches outside the zone as a left-handed hitter, nearly half as much as the 32% he did right-handed.
Though offense has to be a huge part of his game, McDade has worked incredibly hard on his defense since becoming a first baseman after being drafted by the Blue Jays. Whether it’s turning slick double plays or stretching to scoop short throws, McDade fields his position well and with ease.
He’s quite agile for a 255-pounder and is proud of the improvements that he has made to his defensive game.
“I’m always looking to play defense and just try to help my teammates out any way possible,” he said. “A throw in the dirt, anything — that’s something I really take pride in.”
Added to the 40-man roster back in November, there are things about McDade that the Blue Jays obviously like. Assistant GM Tony LaCava confirmed to MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm that, along with David Cooper, McDade will open the 2012 season at Triple-A Las Vegas, splitting time at first base and DH to get the everyday at-bats that he’ll need at the level.
There, McDade will be reunited with 51s hitting coach Chad Mottola, who spent time in Jays camp this spring filling in for Dwayne Murphy. Mottola has drawn rave reviews for his work with players like Brett Lawrie, Adeiny Hechavarria and Cooper, and McDade is looking forward to working with a familiar face.
“I had the chance to work with him when he was our hitting rover a few years ago so we really know each other and have a really good relationship. It’ll be interesting to work with him this year.”
Expected 2012 Team: Triple-A Las Vegas
Ultimate ceiling IF he puts it all together: Near-everyday 1B with Gold Glove-caliber defense