Wild Prediction: James McDonald Will Be A Good Source of Ks In 2011

As we head into 2011 it certainly isn’t unreasonable for someone to argue that James McDonald is the Pirates best starting pitcher.  After being acquired from the Dodgers (as part of the trade that sent Octavio Dotel to Los Angeles), McDonald went 4-5 with a 3.52 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.  Those are good enough numbers, for sure, but not that most impressive.

In his 64 innings of work McDonald struck out 61, good for a K/9 of 8.54.  Many would say that after finally being given a long-term shot in a Major League rotation, it isn’t surprising to see him deliver.  Still, in reality, could anyone have really expected it?

The 11th round pick in 2007 has always had a strong minor league strikeout rate, which helps to lead to this prediction:

James McDonald will strikeout at least 180 batters in 2011

I wanted to push it even higher, but it is probably a long-shot that he throws enough innings to justify it.  In 2010 he threw just 140.2 innings.  In 2009 he was at 93.1 innings.  He has a ton of upside and it is impossible to think that the Pirates are going to put him at risk and increase his innings to 200 or more.

With that said, seeing him reach 175 would not be a surprise.  There are plenty of reasons to believe that he will improve on his 2010 success with Pittsburgh (he posted a .322 BABIP).  Improved luck would certainly help establish him as a fixture in the Pirates rotation long-term.

With that many innings, would this really be THAT big of a stretch?  Over his minor league career he posted a K/9 of 9.69 including spending parts of three seasons at Triple-A:

  • 2008 – 22.1 IP, 11.28 K/9
  • 2009 – 30.1 IP, 11.87 K/9
  • 2010 – 63.1 IP, 8.10 K/9

Obviously it isn’t the biggest of sample sizes, but it gives hope that he can maintain an elevated strikeout rate against tougher competition. 

I love McDonald as a sleeper option on draft day (something that we will discuss in a later column).  He has a live arm (92.5 mph average fastball over his Major League career) and brings a ton of strikeout potential with him.  Assuming he gets the opportunity, this mark could potentially be in reach.

Chance of Happening: 10%

What are your thoughts on McDonald?  Is there any chance that he reaches this type of strikeout rate?  Why or why not?

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Make sure to check out our previous Wild Predictions:

One comment

  1. Steve Johnson says:

    I have no idea about the k’s, but McDonald is one of many SP sleeper candidates. Not sure what his ADP is at the moment, but if he’s available in the later rounds of my draft I am taking him for sure!

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