Victories have been few and far between for the Toronto Blue Jays so far in Grapefruit League action. They have just two wins so far against seven losses but former Vancouver Canadians first baseman Ryan McBroom provided one of them with a walk-off home run to help the Jays beat the New York Yankees 3-2 in Dunedin this past Friday. McBroom swung and missed twice against lefty Joe Mantiply but he made contact on his third swing against the former Detroit Tiger on a 2-2 pitch by belting one over the left field wall. That was McBroom’s lone at-bat after he replaced fellow 2014 C’s teammate Rowdy Tellez at first base.
That home run earned McBroom a mention on Baseball America‘s daily Prospect Report the next day.
If not for Rowdy Tellez, Blue Jays fans might be awaiting the arrival of this first base slugger. McBroom, who ranked among the Florida State League leaders with 21 homers, smashed the walk-off shot Friday in a 3-2 win over the Yankees. McBroom lacks Tellez’s feel to hit and at 24 was old for high Class A, but his power is real.
McBroom came to the Blue Jays as a 15th round pick after completing a four-year career with the West Virginia Mountaineers, signing for just a $1,000 bonus. He was drafted in the 36th round by Kansas City in 2013 but opted to return to Morgantown for his senior season. The 6-foot-4 right-handed slugger grew into his power during his final two seasons in college ball, slugging .518 and .512 that included 20 home runs and 31 doubles. Fun Fact – the lefty-throwing McBroom pitched 2-2/3 innings for the Mountaineers as a rookie but it didn’t go well as he coughed up three runs on two hits and four walks but he did strike out four. As least being a lefty helps him a first base when it comes to starting doubles plays in the field.
McBroom began his pro career with the C’s and recorded an RBI single in his second game June 20 at home against Spokane to support Miguel Castro and help Vancouver split a doubleheader. That was his only hit in his first 11 at-bats but he homered in Hillsboro on June 22 to spark a come-from-behind victory and would go on to earn Northwest League player of the week honours on June 30, powered by an eight-game hitting streak and then a 10-game hit streak after earning a walk in the game in between, adding up to a 19-game on-base streak that ended June 12 at home against the Everett AquaSox.
The Fredericksburg, West Virginia native continued to carry the hot stick with a pair of six-game hitting streaks, including back-to-back three-hit games in Tri-City July 21-22. McBroom kept his on-base streak going by drawing a walk in two games after the latter six-game hitting streak before recording at least a hit in 14 straight to produce an overall on-base streak of 22 games. The mid-season NWL All-Star was a big reason why the Canadians were able to reach the playoffs for a fifth straight season as they clinched the second-half North Division title.
They met Spokane in the North Divisional final where McBroom was hit in the foot by a pitch in Game 1 and he was in considerable pain. He was hitless during the C’s two-game sweep of Spokane but recorded four hits in the NWL final which saw Vancouver lose to Hillsboro in two straight to end their bid for four straight championships. McBroom ended the season as the league’s co-leader in home runs with Spokane’s Luke Tendler with 11 and finished third in slugging at .502.
The 2015 season was McBroom’s introduction to full-season baseball with the Lansing Lugnuts and what an introduction it was. All he did was lead the Midwest League with a .387 on-base percentage while finishing second in home runs (21) and slugging percentage (.482). He also finished second in runs batted in with 90. That was enough to earn him not only a mid-season All-Star berth but the Midwest League Most Valuable Player award. The signature performance of the season was a 6-for-6 effort with a walk, two doubles, a home run and four RBI against Daytona on July 12. He burnished his MVP credentials by hitting .400 in the MWL playoffs, sweeping the Great Lakes Loons in two games before falling to eventual the eventual league champion West Michigan Whitecaps. McBroom spent most of the time in the field with a first baseman’s glove but also played 10 games in left field.
McBroom kept the momentum going with a solid season in the Florida State League with the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2016. After getting his first spring-training at-bat, he really earned the nickname “McBoom” by slugging 21 home runs and a league-leading 83 RBI. His 26 doubles left him three back of the league leaders and he placed fourth in slugging percentage at .468. He began last season with an 11-game hitting streak and put together a 13-gamer in May. He had two four-hit games and four three-hit efforts among his 30 multi-hit performances.
McBroom did get a quick taste of Double-A ball with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats when Tellez went down with an injury in late July and it was there he endured his first big struggle as a pro. He went hitless in his first four contest but he did belt a home run in the seventh game of his nine-game trial in the Eastern League. Still, his line with the Fisher Cats was an anemic .138/.235/.241.
McBroom returned to Dunedin to help them earn a post-season berth and despite going 2-for-5 with two runs scored and a run batted, the D-Jays lost to Tampa in the North Division series finale. His season didn’t end there as he was sent to Arizona to play winter ball. He managed to go deep twice with two doubles and 10 RBI in his seven-game stint with the Mesa Solar Sox. He also slugged .536 but the one concern was his six strikeouts against just one walk in 28 at-bats. His whiff rate also climbed above 20 percent for the first time in his career with Dunedin and his over six-percent walk rate needs to improve as well.
MLB.com rated McBroom as the Blue Jays 30th best prospect in its latest rankings, describing him as having above-average raw power, a strong, lofty right-handed swing and an aggressive hitter with a knack for making hard contact. They also have a number of reservations about the big slugger.
…there is some concern that upper-level pitchers will exploit his swing-and-miss tendencies. McBroom’s bottom-of-the-scale speed limits him to first base, but he has a chance to become an average defender there.
As a first-base-only prospect whose value comes solely from his bat, McBroom will be forced to hit his way to the Major Leagues. While he’s unlikely to ever serve as an everyday player, McBroom hits southpaws well enough to profile in a platoon role.
MLB.com rates McBroom as a ’50’ hitter for power and average and a ’50’ fielder on the 20-80 scouting scale. They give his throwing arm a ’40’ and say he has virtually no speed with a ’20’ grade, which seems a little harsh considering he stole 10 bases with Dunedin last year and has 16 overall in his three-year pro career. By no means is he the second coming of Rickey Henderson but I think that grade is a tad suspect. He only stole one base with Vancouver but the Go-Go Canadians of 2014 already had Roemon Fields, Tim Locastro and Franklin Barreto on hand to take care of pilfering bags.
As also evidenced by Batter’s Box rated McBroom as the Jays #24 prospect while Bluebird Banter and Jays From Away both rate him 27th so McBroom is not exactly the darling of prospect watchers and are not sold he will become an effective major leaguer. Baseball America did not even rate him in its 2016 Prospect Handbook despite his MVP season in Lansing.
McBroom turns 25 on April 9 and is expected to return to New Hampshire to begin 2017. Considered by many to be too old for this level, he faces a big test as he will receive extended exposure against Double-A pitchers. A good season in 2017 will help prove the doubters wrong and put McBroom firmly in the Blue Jays future plans.