Ol’ McDonald… Made the Right Choice

It might have taken James McDonald a little time to settle on pitching but it looks like it was the right choice for the former two-way player.

Originally drafted as a pitcher at the age of 18, McDonald spent his first minor league season on the mound and posted a 3.33 ERA with 39 hits and 15 walks allowed in 48.2 innings. He also struck out 8.69 batters per nine innings. Regardless, he was converted to a hitter the next season due to ongoing arm issues.

McDonald spent the next two seasons as a light-hitting outfielder and batted .220 with an OPS below .600. He struck out 71 times in 208 at-bats with 21 walks. Sensing his career was at another crossroads, McDonald moved back to the mound and crossed his fingers that the arm woes were behind him.

And they were. McDonald has been on fire since rededicating himself to the art of pitching. In his first season back on the mound, McDonald allowed just 119 hits in 143 innings. He posted rates of 4.03 BB/9 and 9.25 K/9.

His 2007 season, which ended in Double-A, was even better as he shaved off about one-and-a-half walks per nine innings and posted a strikeout rate of more than 11 K/9. In 2008, McDonald returned to Double-A where he spent most of the season. He then pitched in 22.1 Triple-A innings before getting the call to the Majors. The pitcher features the best curveball in the Dodgers’ system, as well as a good change-up and an 88-93 mph fastball. McDonald has good command of all three pitches.

McDonald ended the 2008 regular season by throwing six scoreless innings with five hits, one walk and two strikeouts. He impressed the Dodgers enough in that brief time to receive the final NLDS playoff roster spot. McDonald has come a long way in a short period of time.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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