All this week, we'll take a look at some players from one of the Rays' three short-season teams(Hudson Valley, Princeton, and the GCL Rays) who didn't make our top 15 lists last season, but will at least garner consideration for next season. Of course, with any stats at this point, it's a very small sample size.
The Past: McEachern was drafted in 2008 out of a North Carolina high school in the 13th round. He showed pedestrian stuff for most of his high school career and was committed to Division II Wingate University. But his stuff blossomed his senior year, showing an 88-92 MPH fastball along with a tight curveball. He signed quickly and was assigned to Princeton, where he made 9 appearances(including 2 starts) to the tune of a 1.44 ERA. Over 25 innings, he struck out 16 and walked 8.
He didn't make out top 15 pitchers list, but ranked just behind Ryan Reid on our top 30, checking in at #23 and essentially ranking as the 16th pitcher. He was the lone 2008 high school draftee to make the honorable mentions list, where I noted he pitched the entire season at age 17. In the pre-season predictions, I tabbed him as my low-level breakout candidate, liking his stuff and projectability.
The Present: As expected, McEachern was assigned to Princeton for 2009, where he's currently the youngest player on the team. He was the team's opening day starter and has made three starts to date, and he's been fantastic. In 17 innings, he's allowed only two earned runs on 11 hits, good for a 1.06 ERA. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that he hasn't walked a batter while striking 15. His strikeouts have increased each start, from 4 to 5 to 6. He's allowed one home run but has gotten groundballs at a nice rate, two for every one flyout.
The Future: McEachern will play the entire season at age 18(he turns 19 in mid-October), and it seems unlikely the Rays would push him up to Hudson Valley this year. With no top pitching prospects or draft picks in Princeton or the GCL, it seems likely that McEachern would headline the 2010 Hudson Valley rotation. Assuming continued performance and good health, McEachern figures to reach full-season ball by 2011.
Besides his intriguing stats, McEachern offers a lot of projection. He's a lanky 6'2" 160 pounds and with a loose, easy delivery, should add velocity to his fastball as he matures and gets stronger. He was described by an announcer has looking like he was "swimming in his jersey" in 2008, and has made it a point to get stronger. “You’ve got to start working out and throwing in January, that is when the throwing program started,” McEachern told the Register-Herald of West Virginia. “Other than that, I was trying to get in the weight room and trying to fill out my jersey.”
At only 18 years of age, he's got plenty of time for that. He'll also have to develop/refine a change-up. For now, though, it's encouraging enough that he's getting strikeouts and groundballs while not walking anyone, all while being the youngest player on Princeton's roster.