15. Chris McMahon (327 points, 23 ballots)
Chris McMahon is yet another Rockies pitching prospect who was significantly limited by injury in 2022, throwing just 28 2⁄3 innings across two levels as the season wound down. The 6’2” 24-year-old righty starter’s arsenal fits what the Rockies want to do with their pitchers, combining a steady diet of low fastballs with a change-up/slider mix, all of which play up due to McMahon’s athleticism.
McMahon was the 46th overall pick in 2020 out of Miami, receiving a slightly over-slot $1.637M bonus. He had a strong professional debut season in High-A Spokane in 2021 with a 4.17 ERA and 9.4 K/9 rate in 114 1⁄3 innings, but wasn’t able to build much on that in 2022. McMahon suffered a lat strain late in spring training that kept him on the shelf until late July. He made a four-game, two-start rehab appearance in the ACL, then went back to Spokane to finish the season.
In that four game return to High-A at a league average age, McMahon was knocked around quite a bit. He allowed 14 runs on 30 hits and two walks while striking out 16 in 18 innings of work. That’s a 7.00 ERA and a ghastly 1.78 WHIP, though McMahon’s 3.46 xFIP suggests he was a bit unfortunate to receive those results and he was rehabbing off his injury. Still, allowing 47 hits in 28 2⁄3 innings is hardly a good look for a pitcher repeating in High-A.
McMahon will enter 2023 needing a strong campaign, hopefully at least in Double-A for part of the year, as he’ll be Rule 5 eligible after the season. The stuff profile and draft pedigree are in his favor, but I think everyone would like to see McMahon show success against upper minors hitting before he gets added to the 40-man roster.
Here’s some video of McMahon courtesy of Perfect Game Baseball from February 2020 with front and side views of his delivery:
The right-hander has a solid three-pitch mix with a very good idea of how to use his entire repertoire. He pitches to both sides of the plate very well, starting with a fastball that sits low-90s and touches a bit higher, thrown with good late action down in the zone. His changeup is an above-average pitch that he throws with good deception and arm speed, missing bats and getting ground-ball contact with it. His breaking ball can be a bit of a hybrid/slurve type of a pitch, but it’s trending in the right direction towards more of a tight slider.
While McMahon can throw strikes and can keep hitters off-balance by mixing his pitches and tunneling his secondary stuff off his fastball well, he still needs to work on his command within the zone. His fastball can flatten out at times, causing him to get hit, but he has the pitching IQ to reach his ceiling as a No. 4-type starter.
Highlighting the evaluation is a 55 grade on the fastball, changeup, and control.
Fangraphs ranked McMahon 49th overall in their 2020 draft list and currently slot him 17th in the system as a 40 FV player:
McMahon’s fastball has tail and sink, and its movement mimics a still-improving changeup, while his slider remains his go-to finishing pitch. For how violent his delivery is, McMahon fills the zone with his fastball and is pretty good at locating his slider consistently to his glove side, although not always in a precise, enticing location. He often appears to be “underneath” his changeup and creates lateral action on it but inconsistent dive, though sometimes he actually gets impact dive on the change when he releases it late and it ends up glove-side. He’s had some injury issues (knee tendinitis in 2018, shoulder soreness in ’19) but McMahon has No. 4/5 starter stuff with a chance for more if the changeup keeps coming.
Keith Law of the Athletic ranked McMahon 14th in his February 2022 system rankings:
McMahon is a four-pitch guy with an above-average changeup and maybe an above-average slider, throwing strikes with a delivery that should get him to average command. He hasn’t found a putaway pitch yet, which would give him more than a fourth starter ceiling.
McMahon has been a bit up-and-down since his high school underclass days. He throws a tailing sinker 91-93 mph but was more 93-95 mph when at his best in college at Miami (Fla.). His slider, changeup and feel all flash above average at times, but it’s trending more like No. 4 or No. 5 starter now than it was at draft time.
McMahon seems likely to remain in the starting rotation as a back-end piece who could be on a big league mound within two years, despite the slow start to his professional career. However, the above scouting reports are casting McMahon’s upside into doubt based on a slight down-tick in his stuff compared with his draft year — a worry some had when he was drafted given the limited track record McMahon had of showing that stuff. We didn’t get many answers on his stuff in 2022, but he has a high floor and performed pretty well in his first professional season. McMahon’s college upside combined with the starting role and floor he presents led me to rank him near the top of my 40 FV tier, ranking 19th on my system list.