Pirates Prospects has learned that the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed 1B/OF Connor MacDonald to a minor league contract on Tuesday. MacDonald was released by the Houston Astros this past July. Before being released, he had reached Short-season A-ball after being signed as an international (Australia) free agent in 2014. He hit .252/.339/.387 in 150 total minor league games with the Astros.
MacDonald has an extensive track record in the Australian Baseball League, where he is currently playing. This is his sixth season of ABL play and he turns 22 years old in late February. His winter performance under Sydney manager Tony Harris, who is also a scout for the Pirates, helped MacDonald get back into pro ball. Through 29 games, he is hitting .282/.336/.591 with nine homers. MacDonald’s big weakness as a pro is strikeouts, averaging nearly one per three at-bats. Despite the big stats this winter, his strikeout rate has been even worse, with 45 in 110 at-bats.
On defense, most of his time has been spent at first base, though he has also played both corner outfield spots and taken a couple of turns at third base.
With the strikeout rate, it will be tough for MacDonald to make it to the upper levels. He will likely play in Bradenton this year, where his winter power outburst will be tested by the pitcher-friendly FSL. If not there, then he could be with West Virginia, though their roster seemed to be crowded at his spots. MacDonald has just 12 homers as a pro, but he’s at the age where power can go from developing to an actual tool, so it doesn’t hurt to see what he can do. He is listed at 6’5″, 200 pounds, but has probably filled out some over the years. Unlike many minor league signings that are for just one season, MacDonald would have three years before he reaches free agency.
You can follow his progress this winter as we cover the final two weeks of the ABL season starting Friday in our Winter Leagues article. Here’s a video of his winter power display.
— Australian Baseball League (@ABL) January 4, 2018
UPDATE Thursday: MacDonald has been signed as a pitcher. He has pitched once in his six years of ball in Australia and four years of pro ball. That inning was two weeks ago and it was apparently impressive…for the ninth inning of a 14-1 game.