SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Ryan McMahon woke up Wednesday morning as the current hit king of the Cactus League, sporting a .476 batting average and a ridiculous 1.465 OPS.
All of which means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of a marathon big-league season.
Expect that in McMahon’s case, the hot start is a barometer of his growth as a big-league hitter. Because it’s not just that the Rockies’ second base candidate had mashed 10 hits in 21 at-bats, it’s the way he’s mashed throughout camp that’s been impressive.
“Last year, there were some hits that you might say aren’t the quality of this year,” manager Bud Black said, acknowledging that McMahon’s .319/.365/.522 slash line last spring was built on a lot of bloopers and soft hits to the opposite field. “Now he’s ripping the ball. He’s taking big, aggressive swings and the ball is coming off his bat hot. He’s hitting it to all fields. It’s been impressive.”
During the offseason, McMahon stayed in Scottsdale and worked with hitting coach Jeff Salazar and Triple-A hitting coach Tim Doherty to hone his swing. The goal was to meet the baseball more out front and become a more aggressive hitter. McMahon moved his hands down just a bit and his bat angle became a tad more vertical.
McMahon’s swing was already gorgeous, but there were a few holes to close. Early last season, McMahon was too often overmatched by big-league fastballs.
He made the big-league roster coming out of camp, but hampered by few opportunities, he hit just .211 with a .620 OPS over his first 47 games through June 20. In 44 games after his recall from Triple-A on July 29, McMahon improved, slashing .256/.333/.419.
His shining moment came on Aug. 10-11 vs. the Dodgers at Coors Field when he became the first player in franchise history to hit a game-winning home run in the seventh inning or later in back-to-back games.
Still, the gregarious McMahon knew he had a long way to go to being a proficient big-league hitter when his season ended with a slash line of .232/.307/.638.