BURLINGTON, IA — A simple approach at the plate is paying dividends for a Beloit Snappers’ outfielder in his first full season of professional ball.
Former Illinois-Chicago standout Mickey McDonald endured a tough 16-game stretch with short-season Vermont after being drafted in the 18th round last June, but he’s rebounded nicely in 2018 by playing to his strengths.
“It was exciting being able to break with the full-season team,” McDonald said. “That was a goal of mine coming into spring training. Hopefully I’m coming out and making a good impression and can keep building on that. I focused in the offseason on making more contact, making the defense make plays and use my speed to my advantage a little bit. I’m working on that as much as I can. It still needs some improvement, but I’m trying to get better every day at it.”
That mindset has added up to a solid first half of the season for McDonald, who was slashing .279/.359/.324 through 37 games. The outfielder has greatly improved upon his .130/.190/.148 line in the New York-Penn League last summer.
McDonald has also managed to stay consistent despite playing in an outfield rotation that has included up to six players at times.
“I don’t really think about it too much and come to the yard every day expecting to play,” McDonald said. “When you get your opportunities, make the most of them. You need to stay ready for whatever happens.”
A game of constant adjustments, the 6-foot-4 switch hitter has made his fair share of those as the opposing teams have gotten more familiar with him.
“I’m starting to see everyone twice and picking up on some tendencies,” he said. “It’s different from organization to organization, some teams will pitch you one way and other teams might pitch you a different way. It’s a new experience for me.
“I’m trying real hard to stay the other way and I’ve noticed a lot of teams are starting to come in more with inside fastballs and then they’ll go soft away late. I’m not really cheating, but I’m staying ready for that that inside pitch early in counts. I’m starting counts looking inside and then if I fall behind I’m knowing they may go soft away outside.”
McDonald said he took his 2017 stint with the Lake Monsters as a learning experience, saying it helped him get to the point he is today.
“It just kind of introduced me to pro ball a little bit,” he said. “You just figure out your plan every day and develop routines and see what works for you to play every day. I was around some new guys. It was a good experience overall.”
As one of the older players in the lower levels of the organization, McDonald was tasked with jockeying around to numerous teams during spring training.
Facing advanced pitching, as well as similar hurlers that he’d be facing in the Midwest League helped him gain a better understanding of what it takes to succeed.
“I was kind of bouncing around with all the teams,” McDonald said of his spring training experience. “One day it was Double-A, one day on Low-A and the other day on Triple-A. It was wherever they told me to go. You’re playing with new people every day, but it was good because I got to know a lot of the guys up and down the organization. I took the good from it.
“I noticed the higher guys were way more accurate with all their pitches. They could go inside, outside and put it where they want to with three or four pitches. At the lower levels, they might only have that ability with two pitches. At the lower levels, you can maybe eliminate one pitch that they really can’t throw for a strike whenever they want.”
A Bay Area native, McDonald hopes to put together a solid first full season with the Snappers and move closer to home in High-A ball.
“I’m trying to cut down on strike outs and am still striking out more than I’d like to be,” he said. “I’m not a guy that’s going to be putting balls over the fence at a high rate, so I need to put the ball in play as much as I can and let me legs play.”
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