Travis MacGregor went a long time without pitching in a real game before his start for Double-A Altoona on May 5, 2021.
He missed the 2020 season like every other minor league player, but that was after he missed the entire 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. The injury initially cost him the last two weeks of the 2018 season.
You could forgive him if he was a bit rusty when he first returned. He was two levels lower in Low-A when he played his final game in 2018, before going 33 months between appearances. MacGregor made 21 starts and one relief appearance for Altoona last year, posting a 6.25 ERA, a 1.47 WHIP, and an 88:41 SO/BB ratio in 90.2 innings. He was in the Altoona rotation again this year and this went south in a hurry.
On April 13th, MacGregor allowed four runs in three innings during his first start of the 2022 season. That was followed by two runs over three innings a week later. In what has been his final start, he gave up four runs and six walks in 2.2 innings on April 24th. He went to the bullpen on April 29th and has put up a 2.00 ERA, a .201 BAA, a 1.11 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 27 innings.
MacGregor has clearly adapted well to the new role as far as results, but he has also embraced the challenge and believes this could be his role going forward.
“I’m really comfortable in this new role”, said MacGregor. “I certainly enjoy the adrenaline that comes with hearing your name get called to go in the game. The only mindset change I’ve had is that I get to give it everything I have for a few innings.”
That “everything” he talks about includes a fastball that has been up to 97 MPH this season, and a cutter that he has added this year, which sits in the 88-92 MPH range. Here’s a video put together by Anthony Murphy, where you can see MacGregor getting good results with his fastball, and he works in the cutter once for a strikeout.
After Carmen Mlodzinski was put on the injured list, the Altoona Curve went with a bullpen style game to cover Friday's contest. They were led by Travis MacGregor, who struck out EIGHT in 4 innings in relief. #LetsGoBucs pic.twitter.com/ozwLQkXUM6
— Anthony Murphy (@__Murphy88) May 14, 2022
In MacGregor’s June 1st appearance, he went three innings, allowing two runs on three hits, with a walk and five strikeouts.
His slider was sharp early, sitting low-80s, getting a strikeout by using it on back-to-back pitches to start his day. He threw it to all four batters in the inning, but the last batter saw 94 and 95 MPH fastballs for his second strikeout. As you would expect, he stayed with what was working in the second frame and worked quickly, getting a strikeout to end the inning on a slider. He threw his fastball just once, coming in at 95 MPH.
The third inning had the damage and it started with a walk to the first batter, as the slider wasn’t sharp early on. He hung a slider after that and it got lined to left field, where it was misplayed from a single into an RBI double. The other run scored on a 94 MPH fastball lined the other way from Gunnar Henderson, a top 50 prospect in baseball, who also collected the first hit off MacGregor by going the other way on the same pitch. MacGregor then got the strikeout by mixing the slider and fastball to get the final out of his night.
I don’t like saying that a pitcher got hurt by his only mistake, because more often than not, the pitcher had other mistakes that he got away with. In this instance, the phrase feels appropriate. MacGregor was hitting his spots, throwing strikes, not leaving pitches over the center of the plate, and mixing his fastball/slider well, with the occasional cutter, and I believe there were 1-2 changeups to a lefty batter. It was a nice looking outing overall.
This is a big season for the 24-year-old MacGregor, who reaches minor league free agency at the end of the year. The Pirates brought back two relievers last year who reached minor league free agency, one being Yerry De Los Santos, who is in the majors now. So there’s a recent example to show that things can work out for MacGregor in Pittsburgh by pitching extended outings out of the bullpen in Altoona.
Clearly the success is there in the six weeks since he made the transition. There’s also plenty of time left this year to continue to make a strong impression. The big thing here is that he has adapted well to the new role right away, looking like the pitcher who was making great strides before his injury in 2018.
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Travis MacGregor Adapts Well to Bullpen Role
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
going into this year, I no longer thought MacGregor was a prospect. But, he may have found himself in a bullpen role
Great timing, John. Last night at AA Noe Toribio threw the first 2 innings, then Mac for 5 very high quality innings with 2 hits, 0 runs, 0 Walks, 8 K’s. Definitely showing that he is a keeper with long term upside.
Just another quality arm in Altoona, but I think Burrows and Toribio could be promoted to AAA soon. With the very high possibility of Jose Quintana being a target of contending teams at the trade deadline, and Contreras already up at MLB, it would be nice to see the BB’s of Bolton and Burrows together at AAA.
Did I miss the FCL and DSL write ups? If so, where can I find them?
The daily recaps are in the Prospect Watch. The team previews are upcoming
In the Prosect Watch.
Parison me. They were not there.
I have to admit, I totally forget about this guy. If we can somehow develop him into a useful reliever that would be a huge feather in the cap of the new development team.
We were told that our farm system ranked high due to depth, I will admit, I knew it, but not to the extend that I know now. Aside from the glut of middle infielder options and the new found depth of outfielders, a future strong bullpen is starting to take shape. Would rather it was starters, but I take a strong pen just as well.