The Pittsburgh Pirates may have their next top pitching prospect in the form of right-hander Travis MacGregor. MacGregor is dominating in his first full season of professional baseball.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Braxton Ashcraft in the second round, it resembled a pick they made in 2016. Ashcraft, of course, was the team’s top pitching prospect who they drafted and signed in this year’s draft class. Entering the draft, Ashcraft was rated around 60-70 in terms of available prospects. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him at number 51 overall. He is a high school righty who has all the things teams look for in projectable prep pitchers. This pick was very similar to when the team took high school righty Travis MacGregor in the second round of the 2016 draft.
MacGregor, of course, was a raw high school righty who the team “reached” on when they took him. However, reports were that he was a rising prospect as the draft approached, and he is now showing why the Pittsburgh Pirates thought so highly of him. Through his first two seasons, he only pitched in 73 innings as the Bucs always proceed with caution when it comes to prep arms for their first few years in the organization. He had up and down results through 2016 and 2017 pitching to 3.13 ERA in ’16, but a 7.84 ERA in ’17. However, in the lower minors, especially with pitchers, they are working on certain aspects of their game, which could explain his struggles last season.
Now MacGregor is in his first full season and is already putting together everything he has worked on the last two seasons. The righty is pitching for the Low-A West Virginia Power. He came out the gate like an ace throwing to a 2.08 ERA in his three April starts. Also, he struck out 28 batters in just 17.1 innings during the first month. He started off May hot as well. His first two starts were effective, throwing back to back five inning appearances and yielding two runs in both. However, in his last May start, he only lasted 1.2 innings and gave up two earned runs on six hits. This obviously raised a red flag, and MacGregor headed to the disabled list for nearly a month.
While MacGregor missed nearly a month, it did not affect his performance on the mound when he came off the shelf. Since then he has made four starts for the Power. His first start was abbreviated to three innings as the team did not want to push him his first start back. He only gave up one earned run and struck out two. The next start he went up to four innings and punched out four batters while giving up just one run again.
Those two starts came in the last week of June. His first start in July he threw five innings and struck out six batters while only walking one. Once again, MacGregor gave up one earned run. His best start since returning from the DL came last night. He threw five shutout innings against Hagerstown (Nationals). The Suns registered just three hits against MacGregor and struck out six times. However, they scored two unearned runs and MacGregor received the loss in the game.
Still, it is good to see that MacGregor did not allow the time on the disabled list to affect his strong season. He has really turned the corner in terms of taking his game to the next level and likely will be a top 10 prospect for the Pittsburgh Pirates by seasons’ end. Furthermore, if he continues to pitch this effective he will warrant a promotion to High-A by the end of the year. This will get him one step closer to the big leagues and show why the team invested such a high pick on him.