Matt Magill’s Quick Start In AA Helping His Prospect Status

Matt Magill, one of Chad’s “boys”, is off to a hot start with the Chattanooga Lookouts, and it’s looking more and more like he might not be just a fringe prospect after all.

The 2008 31st-round draft pick from Simi Valley caught my attention during his 2010 campaign with the Great Lakes Loons. He ended up at 7-4 with a 3.28 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 3.75 FIP. But his more impressive numbers lay with his peripherals — a 6.2 H/9, 3.7 BB/9, 9.6 K/9, and 2.60 K/BB were all outstanding. Even more impressive — Magill did all of this as a 20-year-old.

By comparison, he outperformed Dodgers top prospect Zach Lee at the same level. Magill bested Lee in ERA, WHIP, H/9, and K/9. Granted, Lee was 19-years-old, but it’s only a one year difference.

Yet, Magill isn’t talked about among the Dodgers best prospects, and I’m just as guilty as the rest. I ranked him No. 11 heading into the 2011 season, but just No. 46 heading into this season. Chad named Magill his 25th-best prospect in the system after a rocky 2011 season with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in the notorious California League.

While there, Magill’s hits per nine rate skyrocketed to 10.1, where his previous career high was 9.1 in his debut season in the Gulf Coast League (as an 18-year-old). This season, it’s at 6.4. His home runs per nine rate is at an all-time low — 0.2 — as he’s allowed just one home run in 48 innings so far in 2012.

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So Magill’s “fringe” stuff is obviously holding up well in the Southern League — either that or it isn’t as “fringe” as previously described. Chad wrote that Magill’s fastball sits at 89-91 mph (touching 93) with movement. While the velocity is considered fringe, to throw that hard with movement definitely helps. Magill’s low-80s slider is his best offering, and he’s getting some big strikeout numbers with the Lookouts thus far, as he boasts a 11.2 K/9 rate. He also uses a solid changeup.

While it’s a pitcher’s league, he’s facing the likes of Matt Davidson (Diamondbacks), Junior Lake (Cubs), and Nick Franklin (Mariners) — all of whom are legitimate prospects for their respective organizations, so it’s not as if it lacks depth (just ask Allen Webster).

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When I mention career lows in hit and home run rate, I know what you’re thinking, but it isn’t like he’s getting particularly lucky, either. His groundball rate is 2.5 percent lower than last season (not a GB pitcher anyway), his line drive rate is virtually the same (14.4 to 14.5), and his batting average on balls in play is .292, which is just a touch better than league average. While he’s walking too many left-handed hitters (7.65 BB/9 against LHH), he’s holding them to just a .211 batting average (.186 vs. RHH).

So despite not getting the acclaim of guys like Lee, Allen Webster, and Nathan Eovaldi, he’s performing the way one would expect those guys to perform at this level, which can only be looked at as a positive sign considering advanced bats were considered his litmus test of sorts.

The only area in which Magill has struggled is walks per nine. His rate now sits at 5.4 and Thursday night’s start (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 10 K) was the first this season in which he didn’t walk a batter. That’s certainly something to keep an eye on going forward, as it shows there’s still work to be done.

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Double-A is about the final stop for Dodgers pitching prospects, as the organization (rightly) likes to keep the kids from reaching Albuquerque because of the extreme hitter’s environment. But Magill doesn’t have to be placed on the 40-man roster after the season, so it’s entirely possible he could pitch all of 2013 in Double-A as well, unless the Dodgers want him to test the Triple-A waters because he’s not considered an elite arm. Regardless, the Dodgers could put him on the 40-man if they view him as a legitimate option (either for the rotation or bullpen) in 2013.

Magill has gone from potential roster fodder to intriguing prospect, which if nothing else improves his value. Scouts and analysts were always concerned with his velocity and stuff holding up against advanced competition, and while he struggled in 2011, he’s proving he can more than hold his own as a 22-year-old in Double-A.

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