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Ranking the infield positions with Ryan McMahon

Sure, he can play all of them, but which is his favorite?

In a recent episode of The Drew Goodman Podcast, Goodman asked Ryan McMahon about playing shortstop. After saying this was a question better directed to Bill Schmidt, McMahon said:

I’ve messed around taking some reads — it feels so weird. It’s so much different than third and second. It feels like you have so much more ground to cover. So I don’t know. We’ll see. I go out there, I’ll try my best, but I’m not I’m not begging for it.

McMahon last played shortstop his freshman year of high school. He played left field as a sophomore and started at short his junior year before losing the position to a freshman, Brandon Perez. “He was a stud,” McMahon said. “I went to third — thank God because I played way better at third than I did shortstop.”

Since then, however, McMahon’s itinerant ways have continued with the Rockies moving him around the infield.

  • First Base (2017-2020): 449.2 innings for a DRS of 1
  • Second Base (2017-2021): 1552.2 innings for a DRS of 13
  • Third Base (2017-2022): 1195.0 innings for a DRS of 24

The offseason rumors that McMahon would perhaps play short did not seem unreasonable given his versatility and proven track record, despite the fact that he was a Gold Glove finalist at third in 2021. But his comments about a shortstop being required to cover so much ground suggested there was a story.

“Yeah, it’s tough,” McMahon said in explaining the challenges of the position. “The angles and everything like that — at least to my eye — looks like a big area to cover. You’re responsible for a lot of it, and a lot of the time, you’re not moving towards the bag. I just think there’s a lot going on at shortstop, but yeah, I just it’s my opinion that there’s a lot of ground.”

And it will be fine with McMahon if one of his teammates covers all that real estate.

When asked to rank his favorite positions by first difficulty and then preference, he explained his thinking.

“Preference, third base, second base, first base” he said definitively. Shortstop would be a distant fourth.

“I haven’t seen much of it,” he said. It’s fitting, then, that McMahon’s preferences would line up with his ability in terms of DRS.

“As far as difficulty,” he continued, “I think it’s got to go shortstop, second, third, first.”

To be fair, McMahon does make playing first seem easy (relatively speaking) as seen in this 2018 clip:

“Second base is harder than people think, though, too,” he explained, “because you’re always worried about covering the bag, but you still have to field your position. So sometimes you get caught leaning towards first base, and you still have to make it back in place.”

Still, McMahon makes it look easy.

That said, both McMahon and the numbers agree that third base is his infield home.

Goodman asked McMahon if he could unseat Nolan Arenado.

“I’m going to try to,” McMahon answered. “Obviously he’s done it a lot longer than I have, and my goal is just to make sure that I go do it again.”

However, McMahon is not deferring to his elders.

“But I think you got to have goals like that,” he said. “You’ve got to try to take down take down the kings. You got to have something to shoot for.”