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McMahon has inside track on first-base job

After a breakout season in '17, he sits atop depth chart

By Thomas Harding /

Sunday, February 18, 2018 1:29 PM MT

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies No. 3 prospect (according to MLB Pipeline) Ryan McMahon has a chance to show he can handle the Rockies' first-base job.

After hitting .355 with 20 home runs and 88 RBIs combined at Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque -- plus a small, but instructive big league debut -- McMahon sits atop the Rockies' depth chart at first base. But his Spring Training will be important.

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If McMahon --the No. 41 overall prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline -- proves not ready, the Rockies have an option in Ian Desmond, who can move in from left field. The Rockies also could pivot and re-sign Mark Reynolds, who hit 30 homers and drove in 97 runs for them last year. There could be room for both, since McMahon bats left and Reynolds right.

"It is the same game, but obviously they do get better along the way," McMahon said. "I had some really good coaches along the way, and talking with teammates who have been there and been through it helped me out, big time."

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McMahon, 23, a second-round pick in 2013 out of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., already has passed his share of tests.

Young for Double-A in 2016, McMahon played on a Hartford team that spent the whole year on the road because its ballpark was not ready. Not far removed from high school and not physically mature, McMahon struggled to a .242 average with 12 home runs and 75 RBIs in 133 games; then the Rockies sent him to fall instructional ball and the Arizona Fall League. All this was happening with McMahon -- drafted as a third baseman -- learning first base.

But last year, he hit his way out of Hartford (.326, 6 HR, 32 RBIs in 49 games) and performed even better at Albuquerque (.374, 14 HR, 56 RBIs in 70 games). McMahon finished the season in the Majors, where the Rockies didn't use him much (2-for-19 with a double, 24 plate appearances in 17 games), but had him learn Major League preparation and study. McMahon also witnessed a run that landed the Rockies in the postseason.

Video: Top Prospects: Ryan McMahon, 1B, Rockies

Now McMahon has the chance to be a starter.

Last season's power surge -- not only 20 homers, but 39 doubles and four triples -- was especially welcome. The Rockies believed it would happen as long as he matured physically and as a hitter.

"Nothing really specific like swing-wise, besides making sure I had better direction with my swing," he said. "I definitely stuck with my approach more consistently day in, day out, than I had any other year of my career.

"Everybody's told me I had a little natural loop in my swing. I know I'm not trying to lift the ball. I'm just trying to hit that thing as hard as I can."

(Almost) all healthy
Gerardo Parra's right hamate surgery, which will keep him out of games until the first or second week of March (which means he'll be back in plenty of time for the regular season), is the only injury among position players, who officially begin workouts Monday.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.