Will McAffer led the Vancouver Canadians pitching staff with seven victories in 2018.
2018 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Will McAffer is the latest guest to climb the mound in this edition of C’s Chat.
The pride of North Vancouver has been places already in his young baseball career. If 2018 is any indication, McAffer will be in more places in the future.
The Sentinel Secondary School letterman did some globetrotting in 2015 that included a trip to the spring training home of his future big league employer, the Toronto Blue Jays. McAffer was in Dunedin, Florida with the Canadian Junior National Team for a spring exhibition game.
“It was great. I’ve always been a Blue Jays fan. I played in Dunedin Stadium down there when I was playing with Team Canada in high school. I was playing a game against their split-squad team there so I actually went out and threw three innings against them but we lost about 17-2 (laughs) (Editor’s Note – 17-3) but it was fun regardless.”
BC Premier Baseball League
McAffer returned home and enjoyed a banner year with the North Shore Twins of the BC Premier Baseball League. He was the co-winner of the league’s Pitcher of the Year award with his North Shore teammate Matteo Vincelli. McAffer also posted the BCPBL’s lowest earned run average at 1.36 and was named a First Team All-Star after striking out 65 batters in 51-2/3 innings and recording seven wins.
A former San Francisco Giants minor league pitcher—-who was also a draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1999—helped McAffer develop on the mound.
“Definitely the head coach—he was my pitching coach back then—Brooks McNiven. He’s been my coach for God knows how many years, probably eight years or so. I still go back to him every off-season, go work with him. He’s the man. He shaped me as a pitcher really.
Every one in the Twins organization. My trainer Rob Williams, he helps me a ton. There’s so many people to name. You got John Haar, Parker Kynoch and Rick Elstone. So many people.”
The Cincinnati Reds would select McAffer in the 32nd round of the 2015 draft.
“It was an unreal experience. Out of high school, I wasn’t really expecting it. I was pretty set on going to school so I was picked up in the late rounds so I decided to take a pass on it.
One of the cross-checkers came to watch me after a couple of weeks after the draft. He wanted me to go play another year of high school ball because I was eligible for a 13th year. He wanted me to do that. I wasn’t really (excited) about it. I wanted to go to (college). I really didn’t want to go back to high school again so I opted out. It was just a huge honour to get picked. It’s always pretty crazy to see your name come up on the board so it’s really cool.”
McAffer got to represent Canada again at the Under-18 World Baseball Championships in Osaka, Japan. Even though he fell ill during the tournament, he was glad to participate.
“It was really fun. It was an honour. I got one start and then I caught some sort of flu. I missed my second start which was no fun and I had to watch them all from the hotel room but I wouldn’t trade that opportunity for the world. That was really great to go represent my country like that.”
Will McAffer limited Northwest League hitters to a .200 batting average in 2018.
Division 1, Summer Ball & Junior College
McAffer headed to Brookings, South Dakota to join the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in 2016. Baseball America pegged the 6-foot-2 righthander as its preseason pick for Freshman of the Year in the Summit League due to his “live arm with a fastball in the low 90s.”
Splitting time between the starting rotation and bullpen, McAffer finished an up-and-down year on an up-note. He helped South Dakota State capture a Summit League Tournament berth by picking up a save in the clinching game. McAffer also pitched six shutout innings out of the bullpen to help the Jackrabbits down Omaha in an elimination-game victory over Omaha. That helped him earn a berth on the Summit League All-Tournament team. However, McAffer decided to leave South Dakota State after his freshman season.
“It wasn’t a great fit for me. I loved the guys there but it just wasn’t that great a fit of a program so I decided to opt (out) and go to junior college and do the 4-2-4 (four-year college, two-year college, four-year college) route. You have to do that to get to another D-1 (school). I knew the coach down at Central Arizona so I (asked) him, ‘Hey, you got a spot for me?’ He said, ‘Absolutely. Come on down.'”
Before going to Coolidge, Arizona, McAffer would spend the summer of 2016 with the Victoria HarbourCats of West Coast League. He had an outstanding season in the HarbourCats rotation, winning WCL and National Pitcher of the Week honours and finishing the year with a 6-2 record with a 1.99 ERA. The first-team WCL All-Star says he had a great time pitching at Royal Athletic Park.
“I loved the HarbourCats. It was fun playing there for the summer. It kind of got you used to what pro ball is like because it’s about the exact same. Eight-hour bus drives, coming back and playing the same day. I really enjoyed my time there. I still got lots of friends that I met there that I still hang out with today so it’s really cool.
I’d say Nat Bailey has got a bit more fans, a bit better atmosphere but it’s still a really good atmosphere over there. They pull a good crowd. They get a lot of fans out to watch and really get support. They put on a good show. It was really fun to play there for sure.”
With the Central Arizona College Vaqueros in 2017, McAffer made 13 of his 16 appearances as a starter. He saw an improvement in his strikeout and walk rates while winning six of his nine decisions. The coaching staff at Central Arizona helped pave the way for McAffer to head out to New Orleans.
“The coaches there knew the coaches at Tulane so they set me up with them in the fall. I signed with them and just continued on the next year and enjoyed the year down in New Orleans. That place is great.”
Save for one start, McAffer’s 23 appearances for the Green Wave came out of the bullpen. He increased his strikeout rate to just over eight batters per nine innings but his walk rate was the same over 28-2/3 innings. There were some highlights along the way including picking up the save in Tulane’s season opener against Wright State February 16 and pitching an Immaculate Innings (nine pitches, three strikeouts) against the University of New Orleans April 3. McAffer also succeeded in the classroom as well by earning a spot on the 2017-18 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team. He has a lot of fond memories during his time in the Big Easy.
“I loved it. It was a really good year. It didn’t end up as well as we hoped but it was a lot of fun. A lot of good guys. Great stadium and stuff there. Great atmosphere. It was really fun.”
Will McAffer picked up two holds and finished off seven games for Vancouver in 2018.
2018 MLB Draft
McAffer decided to turn pro after the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the 25th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball draft. The last time the Jays took a pitcher out of Tulane was in 2009 when they selected lefthander Aaron Loup in the ninth round. McAffer says he was trying to keep himself busy during the draft.
“I didn’t want to look too closely and drive myself crazy but all my folks and family and friends were following it. They blew me up (on his cell phone) as soon as it happened. It was really cool, a really fun experience for sure.
I got a call from my area scout Brian Johnston about five minutes before and he just said, ‘Hey, like we got this and that. Are you in?’ I said, ‘Absolutely I’m in! Sign me up!’ Later that round, he just gave me a call and said, ‘Yeah, we picked you. I’ll get you a plane ticket for Friday.’ I was down there (in Dunedin) two days later.”
After getting a $50,000 signing bonus, things moved quickly for McAffer after being drafted.
“It was interesting, yeah. Two days after the draft, I’m already down there and doing a physical on the first day. A lot of long days getting there early in the morning and not leaving until pretty late but it was fun. I got to meet so many new faces. It’s tough to try to remember all the names. I’m starting to get them down now but I probably met 50 people that first week I was down there and then another 10, 15 up here (in Vancouver). It was definitely a learning experience but I loved every minute of it.”
Some players find the heat and humidity of Dunedin takes some getting used to but McAffer did not find that to be a huge obstacle for him.
“I’m kind of used to the weather since I was down in New Orleans just before that. That’s where I went to the school my last year. I was used to the heat. It doesn’t get much easier but at least you get used to it, 95 degrees and 100 percent humidity, it’s a little tough but it’s not too bad. You get used to it.”
McAffer relies mostly on two pitches, the heater and the bender. Here is how he describes his fastball which has topped out in the mid-90 miles per hour range.
“I just throw four-seam. That’s what works for me. It gets a little bit of run on it so I haven’t messed around too much with a two-seam but it could be something I could look into for sure.”
This is how McAffer broke down his mid-70’s curve.
“Just a normal curveball. More or less 12-6. It has a little bit of sweep to it but not much.”
McAffer says he has two other pitches in his arsenal.
“I got a cutter and a changeup as well. The changeup is still kind of a work in progress but mostly fastball-curveball is what I’m throwing now. I like to challenge hitters. Throw it, let them hit it and see how far they can hit it and believe my stuff is better than theirs.”
When asked to describe himself as a pitcher, McAffer says he attacks hitters with what he’s got.
“You’re going to get your fair deal of fastballs for the most part. Average velocity, throws a curveball for strikes. That’s pretty average stuff.”
McAffer says consistency is what he needs to improve on.
“I’m feeling good. I’ve just been working on some stuff. Getting more consistent out there is the biggest thing I’m working on and it seems like to be working well. I’m really happy with my progress this year.”
Will McAffer made 21 appearances out of the Vancouver Canadians bullpen in 2018.
Pitching in Vancouver
McAffer’s first pro assignment was a return home to Vancouver and he was happy to begin his career there.
“It was really an honour. When they told me I was coming up here, I told all my friends, all my family ‘I’m going to be home. Come watch games.’ Every time I pitch, my parents are here and I got a bunch of friends. My grandparents, aunts and uncles, they’re all watching so it’s super cool. I like to be able to take a train ride, 30 minutes (and I’m) home, it’s always nice.”
McAffer says he did not feel any extra pressure to perform in front of the fans at Nat Bailey Stadium.
“It’s not too bad. Most of the people who ask for tickets are longtime friends so I don’t mind. I don’t really get asked by many random people. It’s been nothing for good things being here. I loved every minute of it.”
McAffer picked up the victory in his professional debut came June 17 when he threw a shutout inning in Eugene. He pointed to the game as a personal highlight of the year.
“It’s all been a blast. It’s hard to pick one. It’s probably the first time going out there, my first pro appearance. It was a special moment for sure.”
Five scoreless outings out of six helped McAffer establish himself in the Canadians bullpen. He earned victories in back-to-back appearances against Tri-City on June 26 and Salem-Keizer June 29, pitching a career-high 3-1/3 against the Volcanoes with three strikeouts to run his record to 3-0.
The year took a downturn in mid-July when McAffer was roughed up for multi-run outings in three of his next four outings, taking a pair of losses against the Boise Hawks in Idaho. He would get back on the beam with five shutout appearances to end the year.
The 2019 season should see McAffer get his first exposure to full-season baseball with the Lansing Lugnuts.
A big thank you again to Will McAffer for taking part in C’s Chat and to C’s Media Relations Assistant Sharlene Canning for arranging the interview.