BRISTOL, Va. – The Appalachian League, like other rookie leagues, is often tabbed “developmental” to indicate the emphasis on players adapting to pro ball and making strides with their game to separate from the pack. One of the most impressive things about Travis MacGregor is how he’s embraced this developmental focus.
“The coaches preach fastball command so that’s always a focus,” MacGregor said. “But this year, I feel like I need to make the changeup a better pitch. I need to get to where I’m locating that one better. It’s really those two things for me right now.”
In my viewing of MacGregor in Bristol against Pulaski on July 8, he demonstrated his fastball/changeup emphasis, giving up one earned run, on three hits, one walk, and five strikeouts. In the first, MacGregor’s command of his 90-93, 94 MPH four-seam fastball was shaky, leaving several up and out over the plate. The pitch has plus life, so there is some margin for error, but at this stage the focus is on manipulating the fastball to get ahead in counts.
“I got in a couple jams, but I was able to get out of them,” MacGregor said. “A majority of the time, the fastball was [located] where I wanted it. I feel that I have a good enough fastball to run through the lineup with it and stay out of trouble.”
While MacGregor is focusing on the changeup development, it should be noted that the pitch is already effective against Appy League competition, and I am bullish on it becoming an above average or plus MLB offering. The pitch sits 83-86 MPH (best in the lower velo band) and has similar action to his fastball, making it his best secondary pitch.
“The changeup is definitely my second pitch to go to,” MacGregor said. “It has similar action to my fastball but with the speed difference. I think it’s a really tough pitch for lefties.”
MacGregor rounds out his repertoire with a 79-80 MPH curveball he likes to use out of the zone to righties. In my look, the curve was often a little too out of the zone and it did not induce many swings. While this pitch is not a focus right now, as MacGregor matures, the hope is to see the pitch tighten up and for him to locate it with more precision.
The lanky 19 year-old’s repertoire has him positioned to stay in the rotation for the foreseeable future, with a backend SP upside but high floor of an MLB reliever given the fastball/changeup quality.
But for MacGregor, the focus now is becoming pro, establishing a routine, and improving his consistency. He also made some tweaks to his delivery.
“This year has been really good for me,” MacGregor said. “I made a couple changes early on in Spring Training, and that was a little tough. The coaches ask me to stay back more over my back foot and to keep my arm moving in a continuous motion through my backswing. I used to bring my arm down and it would ‘sit’ a little before I’d bring it through. That was a difficult change but it’s something I’ve adapted to.”
In addition to MacGregor’s mature approach to the pro game, his age and projectable body portend a wide range of potential outcomes. He’s still growing and looked all of 6’ 4”, 180 pounds to me, meaning more velo and power could be on the way. Ultimately, how his body responds and changes may be the biggest factor in his development, but for now, MacGregor is keeping things simple with a stellar fastball/curveball combo.
This is most of MacGregor’s July 8 outing. In the first few batters you can see his trouble commanding the fastball, and leadoff man #14 Pablo Oliveras (a good prospect in his own right) rips a first pitch single the other way. MacGregor stayed with the fastball until he got it working better, getting away with a few up but live enough to hurt him. By the second inning, against #60 Eric Wageman, MacGregor was showing a fastball/slider mix that the slugger couldn’t handle. Finally, you can see the changeup best via the few left-handers in the video.