Pittsburgh Pirates: A Look at the 2016 MLB Draft, Travis MacGregor
Minors: Over the last few weeks, the Pittsburgh Pirates have seen most of the 2016 draft class return to action. So far we have reviewed first round pick Will Craig and third round pick Stephen Alemais. Up next, Travis MacGregor.
Travis MacGregor was the highest drafted prep arm to sign since Mitch Keller in 2014. Before that, the Pittsburgh Pirates recently have focused on taking college players early in the draft while taking prep players later on. The Bucs ended this trend starting last year by taking MacGregor, Braeden Ogle (fourth round), and Nick Lodolo (41st overall). This year, the Bucs took prep arms with their first two picks of the draft in Shane Baz and Steven Jennings. So far it seems the Pittsburgh Pirates have made good picks with these prep arms. MacGregor is leading the pack.
MacGregor is 6’3” and180 pounds, and he had a commitment to Clemson. However, entering the draft MacGregor was expected to be a second-day prospect. Instead, the Bucs felt he was worth taking toward the back end of the second round. It worked out for both sides. MacGregor received a higher bonus ($900,000) than he originally anticipated, while the Bucs saved on the slot ($948,000). He is a tall, projectable right-handed pitcher. He has a three-pitch mix in a four-seam fastball, a curveball, and a change-up. His fastball is his best pitch, which makes sense as most prep pitchers get by with their low 90s fastball. His fastball sits 90-92 and has hit 94 miles per hour. He has shown a good feel for all his pitches so far, something rare in a pitcher of his age.
MacGregor started his professional career pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates Gulf Coast affiliate in 2016. MacGregor made nine appearances, all being starts. In those starts, he accumulated 31.2 innings. Across his 31.2 innings, he posted a 3.13 ERA, while striking out 19 batters. Now, the strikeout number is a somewhat low, but the Pittsburgh Pirates generally preach pitching to contact in the lower affiliates. They also love to teach pitchers how to induce groundball outs. This is where MacGregor impressed, having a 1.69 groundouts to air out ratio. All in all, MacGregor showed a lot of positives his first season.
This year, MacGregor entered the season as a consensus top 20 prospect according to most major sites. Here at Rum Bunter, we have MacGregor ranked as the 13th best prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. The former second round pick is now pitching for the Bucs Short-Season affiliate Bristol. So far, he has made three starts, pitching 9.2 innings. He has struck out sin batters, but he has always walked six. Although he has lacked in the k/bb department, MacGregor has put up a very impressive 2.29 ground out/air out ratio. Over his first two starts, he threw nIke innings and only gave up one earned run. His last start was his worst. He only made it through two-thirds of an inning and gave up three earned runs. He was yanked due to pitch count. Still, two out of his three starts have been solid.
Obviously, 12 overall starts is a small sample size. However, MacGregor has shown why the Pittsburgh Pirates invested such a high pick in him. He has produced a solid groundball rate, and he has done a good job of limiting base runners. One area to focus on is to see if MacGregor can develop a strikeout pitch. Yes, all three of his pitches are solid offerings, but he is lacking that dominant wipe out pitch. As much as producing groundball is a good thing, without the ability to strikeout hitters he will continue to have the occasional games like he did in his last start.