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Willie MacIver talks rapid development and pitcher relationships

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Colorado Rockies news and links for Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Willie MacIver’s development has been heavily expedited — and it shows after the catcher suited up for five different teams in 2021.

Here are those five: High-A Spokane, Double-A Hartford, Triple-A Albuquerque, the National League squad in the Futures Game, and the Arizona Fall League’s Salt River Rafters.

On Monday afternoon, MacIver spoke on the warning track at Salt River Fields on his path to the Fall League, the pitching relationships he’s forged this year, and his well-travelled body of work dating back to spring training. “It’s the same game at every level,” he said. “The higher levels are just a little crisper and a little more consistent.”

High-A To Triple-A

MacIver spent the final week of the minor league slate in Triple-A Albuquerque this year, recording five plate appearances and familiarizing himself with the final step toward the Show. “The game didn’t seem too fast for me,” he said. “I felt like I was able to play at that level with no problem, so it’s kind of a confidence booster when you go out there and realize it’s the same game.”

MLB Pipeline says MacIver’s big league ETA is in 2022. A scorching-hot .937 OPS with High-A Spokane kickstarted his grand tour around the Rockies’ affiliates, and as he follows a fast track to the big leagues, he has embraced a wise-beyond-his-years mentality. It is something that can surely help him acclimate to some big league rigors he might expect as early as next season.

He says that he made it a point to pick the brains of older, more established veterans during his Triple-A stint, and that the ability to slow the game down at a higher level is something that has helped him grow. He’s received an extended opportunity to showcase that growth in the Fall League, and his insights as a catcher are growing even quicker as he’s placed on a top-tier, graduate-style roster.

When asked if he was surprised or expected a Triple-A promotion this year, MacIver said “I didn’t really know, but it was something I was definitely prepared for. It was fun — a really good experience.”

“I love working with new guys.”

A presumed big league debut might be business as usual for the young backstop: he’s already familiar with the arms to come. Pitcher-catcher relationships are being developed at a record pace for MacIver.

“I love working with new guys and learning what each guy does to make them tick,” he said. By working with such a wide variety of pitchers in the Fall League — and more than just Rockies prospects — MacIver’s knowledge behind the plate is being developed to handle even more levels of big league rigors. He is currently working alongside a Rockies fall league staff that has allowed a single run in AFL action through five games.

“There’s a lot of similarities between pitchers, but each guy is also different,” MacIver added. The Rafters’ pitching staff includes arms like Jordan Sheffield, a 26-man roster member, and other arms like Reagan Todd, and emerging reliever that saw similar promotions to MacIver in 2021.

MacIver also gets to work alongside Rafters/Mets pitching coach Ken Knutson, the former head coach at the University of Washington for over 20 years. MacIver was a Washington Husky himself.

When asked about his time with Triple-A Albuquerque, MacIver credits the more developed arms on the staff for their insights and guidance. “I think I learned a lot from the older pitchers, just with how they go about their business every day, what they do in their bullpens and [their] preparation. If I am working with younger guys, I can kind of help them out a little bit.”

Refined Offensive Eyes

His offensive work in the Fall League has been limited to just two at-bats (1-for-2), but MacIver has carried over his insights from Triple-A plate appearances into the fall graduate level of pitching competition. “As far as the competition goes, it’s just little more consistency off the mound and there’s a little less mistakes,” he said. “You get your one pitch [at the plate], or maybe two pitches, but you’ve got to make sure you take advantage of that.”

“The biggest thing is just having a consistent approach that you can stay with,” he said. As the Rockies search for a consistent backstop for years to come, MacIver is following suit, developing that consistent mentality across every step of his 2021 development.

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