I had reached out to LSB commenter HufftheMagicDragon to get his take on recently-drafted Rangers’ prospect Dylan MacLean. The initial intention had been to include this analysis in the Hidden Gems article on pitchers. However, HtMD went into such detail that this deserved it’s own article. The only contributions I’ve made here are to condense the analysis for reader flow, add some brief commentary in brackets, and to include the video and gif examples of the motions HtMD mentions. Every bit of the credit should go to HtMD. Let’s get to his analysis:
Dylan MacLean (LHP) may very well be one of the best pitchers in the Rangers’ farm system, and while he currently isn’t listed as one of the Rangers’ top 30 prospects per MLB Pipeline; I’d expect that to change in the near future. Scouts say that MacLean has great command, though it was his potential to increase his velocity plus the command that caught the eye of scouts (right now his fastball averages ~92mph).
After watching video on MacLean and reading some articles about him, it’s easy to see why the scouts were drooling over his potential, and it all stems from his terrific mechanics. [Here’s his delivery from a slow-motion perspective]:
I’d say his mechanics are flowing [emphasis is HtMD’s], and while that may not be a common term in baseball circles, it perfectly describes how MacLean utilizes his body. He is a tall kid (6’ 4”), so maintain the timing of his delivery, he implements a high leg kick that pairs flawlessly with when he lifts his arms up towards his chest.
Proceeding the leg kick, at the moment his hand exits his glove, MacLean sits into his back leg (also called the drive leg) and utilizes that leg as he drives down the mound. The force created by driving that back leg will only be intensified more as his body grows and develops. Right now — at age 18 — MacLean comes in at 6’4 and 190 pounds, so one of the main factors behind his anticipated future velocity gains will come from further growth and development.
Next, once MacLean’s lead foot lands in his delivery, he shows excellent hip and shoulder separation. What’s hip and shoulder separation? It’s honestly hard to explain in the written medium, but here’s a good video on it from Dan Blewett’s YouTube channel.
[To sum up Blewett’s talk, hip and shoulder separation happens when a pitcher’s hips have fully rotated open just as their lead foot makes contact with the mound. At this point, a left-hander’s hips will be angled towards the first base on deck circle. As the hips continue to move towards home plate, the pitcher’s core rotates backwards towards second base. These contradicting movements generate tension in a pitcher’s core and upper half. As, the upper half opens this tension is harnessed. This process generates the velocity a pitcher uses to power the baseball from the point of release towards home. Here’s a gif exhibiting how MacLean achieves hip and shoulder rotation:]
[Note how as his hips rotate towards the first base on deck circle, his core twists backward. The thoracic extension he produces through curving his upper back and shoulders coils his load, bringing all that force together to advance forward. Upon opening his front shoulder, he brings his backside forward, thereby leveraging the energy in the separation between his shoulders and hips to drive the ball towards home. Overall, he’s got excellent mechanics.]
Transitioning away from MacLean’s delivery to his windup, MacLean moves into a slide-step motion when runners are on. His delivery from the stretch makes use of the same drive leg power and arm swing that he utilizes from the windup, but it happens much quicker due to the slide-step action. [Here’s the slide-step delivery in slow-motion:]
[If you’re wondering, MacLean went from raising his lead foot to the ball being in the catcher’s mitt in a grand total of 1.7 seconds. Given that he’s already a lefty, it’s going to be incredibly tough to steal against him.]
An additional nugget on MacLean’s delivery that cements my love of it, is the fact that he doesn’t tuck his glove under his glove side shoulder like many pitchers will do as they throw the ball. This process, known as “chicken winging” is one that occurs in both pitchers and hitters. If they are chicken winging, some pitchers will occasionally [emphasis is HtMD’s] yank the ball to their glove side. By keeping his glove 6-8 inches away from his body at all times throughout his delivery, MacLean effectively eliminates the problem of yanking the ball as a result of glove tucking.
All in all, I believe that with more growth and development, the Rangers might have a serious weapon in their farm system right now that nobody knows about. To provide a relative point of comparison, based on the first pitcher that came to mind, I think MacLean pitches exactly [emphasis is HtMD’s] like Blake Snell.
[Similarly to HtMD, and as the hidden gems article showed, I’m excited to have MacLean in the system. In the fourth round, MacLean represented incredible value. Give me the guy with clean mechanics, plus command, and the potential to develop three plus pitches from his arsenal every time. I don’t agree with HtMD’s assessment that MacLean could show top of the rotation stuff, but given his fourth round selection, MacLean’s potential more than justifies the pick. While I’d be surprised to see MacLean reach any full-season affiliate in 2021, we should definitely keep an eye on his development in the Arizona Rookie League. As a final tip of the cap to HtMD, I’ve managed to poorly stitch Snell and MacLean’s deliveries together. Even seeing past our mutual homerism, it’s clear he’s onto something with the similarities in their mechanics: thanks for your work Huff]: