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Rockies prospect rankings: No. 7 Ryan McMahon makes huge leap

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McMahon's stock is way up after about as successful of a full-season debut as he could've dreamed up.

Charlie Drysdale

Editor's note: We've made a change with the PuRPs list this year, deciding to unveil each player individually over the course of a few weeks. To keep track of the rankings, keep checking our PuRPs list StoryStream.

PuRP No. 7: Ryan McMahon (377 points, 16 ballots) | Summer 2014 Ranking: 6 | High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 6, 7, 9

McMahon, a 20-year-old third baseman who spent his age 19 season at Low-A Asheville, can easily be compared to Nolan Arenado. After all, both were high school third basemen from California taken in the second round, both have shown the ability to be great defensive third basemen (though the 32 errors McMahon made this year will give pause), and both immediately hit well in their professional careers.

Here's what David Hood had to say about McMahon when he was drafted:

McMahon has 50 grade tools across the board, but plus makeup and upside potential. He has a 6'3" frame capable of holding 215-220 lbs. (he's listed at 195 lbs right now), and he could grow into 60 pop. He could also reach 60 grades on defense and should have no problem staying at third base. McMahon's swing is balanced from the left side and has natural loft, so line drive/power potential is evident here.

Facing pitchers on average more than 2.5 years older than him, McMahon hit .321/.402/.583 (147 wRC+) with 11 home runs and 32 extra-base hits over 251 plate appearances in Grand Junction. He then began 2014 by tearing the cover off the ball in his full-season debut, hitting .291/.396/.696 in April. For the full 2014 season, again against pitchers 2.5 years older, McMahon's line cooled off to a more temperate .282/.358/.502 (137 wRC+) with 18 HRs, 67 XBHs, and 102 RBI in 552 PAs.

The aforementioned 32 errors for McMahon this year are of course concerning, but that is at odds with what scouting reports claim, which is namely that he has the defensive talent to remain at third. They also have a lot to do with context; we're talking poorly groomed infields and first basemen that don't have the digging skills possessed by major leaguers. I'm more concerned about the elevated strikeout rate -- 26 percent of plate appearances in 2014 -- though McMahon is still pretty raw as a prospect after spending his high school days splitting time between baseball and quarterbacking (sound familiar?).

Checking in with the usual prospect sources, we see that Kiley McDaniel rated McMahon fourth in the system and gave him a 55 Future Value grade, equivalent to an above-average major league regular:

Some teams were skeptical before the draft of McMahon's ability to corral his long limbs to make enough contact long-term, but the scouts I talked to were all-in after an impressive full-season debut. One scout argued McMahon could be the Rockies #1 prospect right now and with Gray/Butler possibly graduating next year and McMahon heading to the Cal League in 2015, that may happen in 2015. He strikes out more than you'd like to see, but McMahon is just 19 and was also a star quarterback in high school (another example of a Rockies draft pick with that on his resume), so there's still a need for reps. McMahon projects for plus raw power that scouts now think he can get to in games and, while he isn't there right now, most believe with some work he will be able to stick at third base long-term.

Nick Faleris of Baseball Prospectus placed McMahon sixth in the system, also pegging him realistically as a major league regular:

Strengths: Loose, whippy swing with above-average bat speed; natural lift and carry pole to pole; can be very difficult bat to unpack thanks to bat speed and solid plate coverage; good athlete; glove and arm can both play above average at the hot corner; lateral agility; hands work; strong competitor.

Weaknesses: Approach still developing; can slip into extended periods where he expands zone and gives away at-bats; needs continued reps to improve tracking and strengthen offensive foundation; particularly susceptible to same-side spin; thickening body could lead to loss of fluidity, particularly in field; gets deliberate in footwork; inconsistent set up can force throws off course.

McMahon's calling card is going to be his raw power, which he comes by honestly thanks to good bat speed, solid strength, and wrists capable of producing whip in the barrel. The approach is still loose, but more as a result of inconsistent implementation of a plan and limited exposure to quality spin. When locked in and comfortable he comes by hard contact with ease, demonstrating an organic ability to use the whole field and giving some reason to project the hit tool aggressively in spite of the delta between present ability and requisite major-league baseline. While a thickening body carries with it the risk of limiting his actions at third, his overall athleticism and arm strength should allow him to stick at the five-spot long term.

McMahon's debut was extremely strong and the reports about his make-up are just as encouraging. I placed McMahon sixth on my ballot given his performance in full-season ball, draft position, and MLB average tools. I'm excited to see if he can continue this success as he moves up the organizational ladder in Modesto next year.

Contract Status: 2013 second round, not Rule 5 eligible, three options remaining

MLB ETA: Late 2017