Ryan McMahon is back in Triple-A with the Albequerque Isotopes and Colorado Rockies fans are left wondering what to make of the 23-year old infielder.
He has been considered a top prospect for years thanks in large part to his combination of bat skill, power, and positional flexibility. He has seen time at first, second, and third base in the minors and his 64-game big league career thus far, but he has not made the transition most expected when in a big league batter’s box.
McMahon has been young for every stop of his career, but his worst season came in 2016 where he hit .242 and 12 home runs for a homeless Hartford Yardgoats club. Outside of that, his worst batting average is .282 and his fewest home run total came in a 59-game season with Grand Junction where he hit 11 long balls. In 2017 he made it to the big leagues on the back of a .355/.403/.583 slash line and 20 home runs in 119 minor league games between Double-A and Triple-A.
In his time at the big league level he has hit just .202 and launched only two home runs. There was a lot of discussion about what position/role he would play before the season started, and that has not quieted as the season has progressed. With the Rockies sitting right at .500 and in the mix for the NL West, it doesn’t appear he will get much clarity this year but there are three courses of action that could lead to McMahon finding the promise he has long displayed.
1) Keep him at Triple-A – Let him have the rest of the season in Albuquerque where he can get into a rhythm and regain his confidence. At this point he needs at-bats where he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder. Pat Valaika is up to be the utility infielder behind Ian Desmond at first, so let that be the first base duo for now. After getting a couple months of success under his belt, McMahon can become a weapon of a bat off the bench in September and the playoffs should they get there.
2) Trade him – With the Rockies in the hunt, they can look to be buyers and do so at a relatively cheap price if they have soured on McMahon but can find a team that still like his upside. They can get a couple depth pieces from a non-contending team in exchange for McMahon, who can go to a team that is out of the race and get run at first base without bouncing around to different positions or concerned a veteran will take his spot in the lineup.
3) Cut ties with Ian Desmond – This is more likely to happen after the season, but it was a discussion coming into the year and it is not like Desmond is having a great season. He is hitting .217 and only being salvaged by his power as he has put up 15 home runs so far this year. This becomes a debate that leads to a team stuck in mediocrity, as they don’t have enough to get over the top but aren’t making the move for the future.
If the Rockies deal Desmond to a contender that needs depth in the lineup and insert McMahon into the lineup full time, he can take full ownership of the position. At this point the Rockies’ best shot at the playoffs will be as the second Wild Card, so why not roll the dice that the talent of McMahon comes together than potentially ruin his confidence for the franchise moving forward.
Only time will tell what happens with McMahon, but you can tell I am still sold he will be a solid big league bat. At this point it is all about confidence and consistent playing time at the same position to me, and that means a move needs to be made. For his sake, I lean towards option one, letting him get back into a rhythm at Triple-A, be a bench bat down the stretch, then cut ties with Desmond in the off-season.