6'3" 190 lbs DOB: 7/6/1986
Bats: Left | Throws: Left
2009: Gulf Coast League Rays/Charlotte Stone Crabs
Acquired: 2004 Draft, 5th Round, 135th Overall
Jake McGee was on the fast track on the majors, hitting AA at the end of his fourth professional season. Along with Wade Davis, he was a part of the next exciting wave of Rays pitching prospects. But while Davis was able to taste success with the Rays in September, McGee was still getting re-acquainted to the mound.
After posting monster strikeout totals through his career, including 175 in 140 innings in 2007, his numbers slipped in the first half of 2008. He felt soreness in his forearm during a start in June, and got the bad news when he underwent an MRI: Torn elbow ligament, Tommy John surgery required.
McGee got back into game action in 2009 with the Gulf Coast League Rays, where he made five appearances before being promoted to Charlotte. In 22.1 innings with the Crabs, McGee struck out 26 and walked 9, putting his rates right in line with his career averages. His 6.45 ERA is the product of a high hit rate: It was 10.5 in his short stint with Charlotte as compared to a career average of 7.3. It's most likely a sample size issue, but being fresh off surgery probably factored in.
Even before he got hurt, McGee looked like he might be ticketed for the bullpen. His power arsenal, including a fastball that touched 99 before surgery and is back into the mid-90s, would play up and mask his average control. He throws a hard breaking ball that has been inconsistent with good tilt but suspect location. McGee says his change-up is better than ever, and BaseballAmerica identified it as a potential plus pitch.
Given the glut of starting pitching prospects and that he's had the surgery, a move to the bullpen almost feels inevitable. The Rays could keep him as a starter, at least for now, to get him more innings to help develop his command and off-speed stuff. But he has the makings of a back-of-the-bullpen type guy, and that would make for a quick ticket to the majors. McGee has embraced the idea of relieving. "I'd like that role a lot, actually," he said in a November article. "Just the adrenaline going out and knowing I have only one inning for three outs. Pitch for pitch, I can give it all I got."
Where McGee starts the 2010 season could depend a lot on how he does in Spring Training. If he works out of the bullpen and takes to the role, then he could start out in the Durham bullpen and be at the top of the list for a promotion. If they determine he needs more innings, he'd be in the rotation, either in Durham or Montgomery. 2010 will be his first full season since 2007, so the Rays will probably want to keep his innings capped. If he's in the bullpen, no worries, but if he's a starter, then he may not work very deep into games.