Michael MacDonald was a pleasant surprise this year for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. He made every start in 2006, and was just as dependable as an ace pitcher. After starting the season on a strong note, he reached a tough stretch in July, but MacDonald proved he can adjust and overcome the odds.
Name: Mike MacDonald
DOB: October 29, 1981
The Blue Jays selected MacDonald in the 15th round of the 2004 draft, and he quickly breezed into the system, reaching the South Atlantic League, and dominating the league in his first summer of professional baseball. The Jays continued with the fast-track approach and started him with Dunedin in 2005. There he went 9-6 with a 4.24 ERA, but showed enough to the organization to earn a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire to begin the year.
“He was a very quiet pitcher this season,” said one scout who saw MacDonald pitch on several occasions this season. “He’s a ground ball pitcher with an effective sinker.”
“Combine that with his poise and control, and you can’t go wrong,” the scout went on to say.
The 24-year-old has a four-pitch repertoire, and is focused on developing all his pitches. His sinker is his best pitch, and the pitch he tries to induce outs with.
“I look to work on all my pitches,” said the right-hander. “You need to throw all of your pitches for strikes if you want to success at this level and above. My main goal is to refine my tools and keep getting better.”
The Maine native went 13-9 with a 3.94 ERA while making 28 starts in Double-A during the 2006 season. He logged a career high 171 1/3 innings, and held opponents to a .271 batting average against mark. MacDonald showed his command of all his pitches while issuing just 37 walks.
After pitching very well over the first three months of the season, he reached a rough spot during the month of July. In six starts he went just 1-4 with a 5.80 ERA, but the right-hander bounced back with his best stretch of the season over the month of August going 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA, and holding opponents to a .234 batting average.
MacDonald struggled slightly with his command during that period in August, but was mature enough to learn from his mistakes, work with his coaches and get back on track.
Scouts noted the right-handed pitcher had a tough time when facing left-handed batters and they believe he needs to sharpen up on his changeup to maximize his chance of succeeding against left-handed batters.
Repertoire: Fastball, sinker, slider, changeup
Fastball: MacDonald is a finesse right-hander. His fastball is usually clocked in the 87-90 MPH range, but has extraordinary movement. The late sink he features causes batters to hit the pitch on the ground. His fastball is not the best pitch in his repertoire, but he can spot it with pinpoint accuracy and uses it to set up his breaking pitches.
Secondary Pitches: MacDonald features an advanced sinker and a good slider, but needs to improve on his changeup if he wants to remain a starting pitcher. Right now he has a tough time finding a way to get left-handed batters out and scouts believe he needs to utilize his changeup more against them.
Projection: This coming season might be the year that MacDonald gets introduced to the bullpen. Most scouts believe he will not be effective as a starter at the Triple-A level and the major leagues because of his inability to get left-handed batters out. Unless MacDonald improves on his changeup or adds another pitch to equalize left-handed batters, his future will likely be out of the bullpen.
2007 Outlook: MacDonald will begin the 2007 season with the Syracuse Chiefs.
ETA: He could be rushed up to the major leagues if Toronto is depleted with their pitching again, but in all likelihood, expect him to remain at Triple-A for the entire season – with a September call up possible – if he shows he deserves it.