Mesa, Arizona —— Baseball’s a weird game sometimes.
Sometimes, you have to go to a notorious pitcher’s league to prove your home run power, overcoming humidity and big ballparks and tough conditions with a couple dozen bombs that earn you some well-deserved attention.
That’s the path Toronto Blue Jays first base prospect Ryan McBroom took, at least, when he showed up to the High-A Dunedin Blue Jays in the Florida State League exactly one year ago.
Sure, he hit a few bombs the first couple years of his professional career—11 in short-season in 2014, and an even dozen in 2015 in 127 games at Low-A Lansing—but putting 21 out of the park, to go along with 26 doubles, in a full season at Dunedin is a big deal. Not too many guys can claim a 20-plus-homer season in the Florida State League.
“I didn’t get many cheap ones last year, I had to earn those numbers,” McBroom told Baseball Census at the end of his Arizona Fall League tenure over the winter. “I really feel like I grew a lot with our hitting coach Corey Hart, we worked so much in the cage, and I realized true power is a growth process. I wasn’t coming to the ballpark every single day trying to hit homers, and I think the consistency of me really sticking to my approach is what led to those power numbers. I was just trying to look for pitches I could drive, and I got a lot of them. It was pretty fun.”
McBroom’s approach is a credit to him, but in its simplest, it really all boils down to this: he tries to hit the ball really hard. During his AFL tenure over the winter, he was responsible for two of the hardest-hit balls across the entire Fall League—no small task considering the presence of bona fide plus-power studs like Eloy Jimenez down in Phoenix, too.
“It really depends who is on the mound,” McBroom admitted about what his approach means. “If it’s a soft-throwing lefty, I am going to look more to right-center. If it’s a guy with a power sinker, I might think about driving a ball to left center. But for the most part, last summer was me trying to stay in the gaps, stay up the middle, and just focus on putting a really nice swing on balls.”
There was an issue last summer, admittedly; as powerful as McBroom has become, to really take the next step now that he’s beginning a full season at Double-A, he needs to walk more often and get on base more consistently. Yeah, he slugged .468 in the Florida State League in 2016, but his on-base percentage was only .323, and he only walked 34 times (against 112 strikeouts) in 119 games (468 at-bats). That’s a meager 6.6% walk rate—and it’s something about which McBroom is well aware.
“Walks are huge, and I like to pride myself on walks,” McBroom said. “I like to go up there with a plan to get on base, and an idea of how to help my team win. I’ve learned I can’t go up there free swinging all the time. Discipline at the plate is huge, and I know that on-base percentage is key for a power guy. But it comes down to staying within myself, just like with hitting home runs.”
And now, today, Ryan McBroom turns 25 years old. He’ll do so as a member of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, and at this age, it’s time for him to succeed here and show the Blue Jays he’s more of a prospect, less of an also-ran. He understands the urgency there as well as anyone—but like it goes with hitting home runs, you just can’t press and push and try too hard to make it work.
“This game is so humbling,” he said, smiling. “One day you come out and feel like an All-Star, and the next day you come out feeling like you’re never going to make it. I can’t ever really come out and expect too much from myself, because it can be taken away really quickly. I have to keep getting better against better pitching. Don’t stop, don’t settle for anything, keep growing, keep progressing, and keep working. That’s the plan.”
Now, McBroom will get a long look in the Eastern League to prove that, to himself as much as to the Blue Jays. Don’t try to do too much, and the homers, the walks, and the long-term opportunities will all come to him.
That’s the plan.
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Ryan McBroom Scouting Report Video: Toronto Blue Jays, April 2017
April 9, 2017 at 6:55 am
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