7. Chris McMahon (292 points, 13 ballots)
Though he was Colorado’s third pick of the 2020 draft (46th overall), Chris McMahon is ranked second from the class on the Purple Row Prospects list and in the opinion of several national prospect writers. The 22-year-old right-hander out of the University of Miami had experience pitching for Team USA’s National Collegiate team and was commonly brought up as an option for the Rockies due to his low fastball-heavy approach and athleticism on the mound. In addition, McMahon had a very strong start to his abbreviated junior season in 2020, throwing 25 2⁄3 innings across four starts with a sterling 1.05 ERA and a 38:5 K/BB ratio.
McMahon signed for a slightly over-slot $1.637 million and didn’t see any formal professional action until fall instructs. Rockies AGM of Player Development Zach Wilson had this to say about McMahon in MLB.com’s fall instructs review:
He has tremendous strike-throwing ability. He has advanced command of his fastball, with everything at the kneecaps, and he mixes in a quality changeup and slider.
For more on McMahon, check out Purple Row’s coverage of his media interview back in June.
Here’s some video of McMahon courtesy of Perfect Game Baseball from February 2020 with front and side views of his delivery:
Baseball Prospectus ranked McMahon 5th in the system on their pre-2021 list. Here’s Keanan Lamb on McMahon:
Among the top performers for last year’s Collegiate National Team, McMahon was finally healthy and showing stuff area scouts believed was first-round caliber. After leading the team in strikeouts, he came out in fall workouts up to 98 mph and dominated in his few spring starts. Had the NCAA season continued, it’s possible he could have worked his way further up draft boards in what was an incredibly deep college pitching class. The delivery is consistent, staying a hair upright and tall on his front leg without pushing off much with his back hip. So his mid-90s fastball is rooted in arm strength with the potential to add a tick or two with more lower half engagement. The breaking ball is a slurvy, downer-type that flashes good movement as a chase pitch even though it can be inconsistent.
Staying healthy has been the issue during McMahon’s amateur career. He has solid tools as a starting pitcher, needing sustained reps to work on his secondaries, including a changeup that has improved over time. Between the stout body, mechanics, and lack of mileage on his arm, there is some hope that there is a lot of projection left to be tapped into.
MLB.com, who had McMahon 29th on their overall 2020 draft list, ranks McMahon 8th in the system (three spots below fellow PuRP Drew Romo despite having McMahon six spots over Romo on their draft preference list, hmm...):
The right-hander has more than enough stuff to succeed as a starter at the next level. His fastball is up to 95-96 mph consistently, with late action on it down in the zone, and he was up to 98 mph this fall. He knows how to spin a breaking ball, but it gets caught in between being a curve and slider, looking more like the former. He has a very good feel for his changeup that can miss bats and get ground-ball outs.
When he’s on, McMahon combines athleticism, stuff, feel for pitching and command to make him a complete package. With an arm action that can be a little deep, he can get flat and gets hit more than he should. He got out front more consistently and didn’t leave pitches up for Team USA and early this spring, something the Rockies hope he can carry over to his pro career.
Highlighting the evaluation is a plus (60) grade on the fastball and a 55 on the changeup.
Fangraphs ranked McMahon 49th overall in their 2020 draft list as a 40+ FV player, which would slot McMahon in the 8-15 range in Colorado’s system:
Pennsylvania prep standout didn’t have the draft spring to get paid, but was in the mid-90’s in 2019 and looked good last summer with Team USA, so he may get it in 2020. He had a knee injury in 2018 and shoulder tendonitis in 2019. He’ll flash three above average pitches and run a heavy sinker up to 96 at times, but can also run up his pitch count trying to be too perfect.
McMahon seems likely to remain in the starting rotation with mid-rotation upside as a professional, which automatically makes him more interesting than most Rockies pitching prospects. His prospect stock was way up in his most recent collegiate action with the potential to get first round consideration given a full 2020 college season. With that said, McMahon’s track record as a strong prospect is actually pretty light, so there are questions about his ability to sustain the stuff and results that led to this elevated draft position.
I think the Rockies will start McMahon in Low-A in 2021, but there’s a strong chance he ends the season a level or even two higher if his 2020 prospect gains are shown to be real and sustained. The mid-rotation upside, draft pedigree, and frankly a lack of more interesting options led me to rank McMahon 7th on my personal ballot (right in line with the electorate) as a 45 FV prospect.