McMahon is related to former Baseball Commissioner Larry MacPhail. Ryan is Larry's great grand-nephew on his mother's side. (Rockies Magazine - April, 2019)
Bobby Grich was Ryan's neighbor growing up. So whenever the occasion arose, the young McMahon would hit and pay catch with Grich's stepson, Brandon.
In 2013, McMahon's senior year at Mater Dei High School in Yorba Linda, California, he committed to the University of Southern California on a baseball and football scholarship.
In addition to being the star third baseman, he was also the quarterback for the Monarchs' football team—and a good one, too. Good enough to commit to a football scholarship to Southern Cal.
In 2013, Ryan got drafted by the Rockies (see Transactions below).
McMahon is a leader—very vocal on the field. Ryan also displays mental and emotional maturity in dealing with adversity. He is very smart and intuitive about the game. And he has a gamer mentality.
In 2014, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated McMahon as the 8th best prospect in the Rockies organization. He was at #5 in 2015 and 2016. He only dropped to #9 in the spring of 2017.
In 2018, they moved Ryan up to 2nd-best Rockies prospect, behind only SS Brendan Rodgers.
In 2015, Ryan led the Cal League with 43 doubles and was fourth with a .372 on-base percentage. He also slammed 18 homers—12 in the second half—despite playing in Modesto, a graveyard by league standards.
In 2017, Ryan represented the Rockies in the All-Star Futures game.
On August 11, 2017, the Rockies called McMahon up to make his MLB debut. Ryan is blocked at third base, his primary position, by Nolan Arenado. The Rockies have shifted him around different positions this season, with 49 starts at first base, 32 at second and 24 at third. McMahon has responded with his best season and solid defense as well, including a highlight-reel play during the Futures Game in Miami while playing first base.
Playing in the Majors requires mental preparation, and Ryan said Rockies assistant hitting coach Jeff Salazar has helped him in that regard. The biggest thing McMahon needs to focus on, the same thing Salazar had to do in his rookie season, is "slowing the game" down.
In 2017, McMahon played almost every day in the Minors. But since his promotion on Aug. 11, he has just five plate appearances in four games. Going from consistently starting to a utility role takes a lot of adjustments, McMahon said, and the most important thing is to stay ready no matter what.
"He's never done it before, and in the Minor Leagues, it's difficult to train someone to do that," Salazar said. "There's a period where it's 'Oh, the lights, the field, the stadium,' there's MLB Network TV crews going around with all the cameras.
"There's so many little elements that you kind of know of, but you're not experiencing until you're here. Maybe's he's different, he's always been a name . . . but it's just helping him work through all those thoughts and feelings."Salazar worked with McMahon last season when he was the hitting coach at Hartford. With the relationship they've built, Salazar is also helping the rookie take some pressure off himself.
"I'm trying to make sure he doesn't feel that he has to get a hit every at-bat," Salazar said. "Because pinch-hitting, if you don't do anything all day and then you go pinch-hit and you strike out, it feels bad. You feel like you've failed the team. There's a lot of weight on that one at-bat." (Gelman - mlb.com - 8/15/17)
2017 season: Every year, minor league fans get the opportunity to vote in many different categories for award winners for the season. The whole event is known as the MiLBYs, and this year, Colorado Rockies rising star Ryan McMahon won the honor for top offensive player with 21% of the fans’ vote.
Early in April, it was clear that McMahon was poised to have a big year for the Rockies organization. His batting average stayed north of .400 for a couple weeks before eventually settling down to .326 for the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats.
Nonetheless, McMahon’s strong performance earned him a call-up to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes where he performed even better than he did in Hartford. At the end of the season, he had a .374 batting average in AAA baseball and a .355 average overall on the year.
2018 season: After struggles at the plate and two extended Minor League stints, McMahon's .330 on-base percentage since his July 29 recall is fourth among Rockies. He has also shown a penchant for clutch homers. Four of his five 2018 long balls have come late in close games with Colorado trailing, including a memorable three-run walk-off shot against the Dodgers on Aug. 11.
Ryan is a very good dancer. Even as a little boy he can see a dance move and mimic it almost immediately. That started at age 6. And even when he was a teenager, his mom says he'd dance, rather than walk, down the hall at home. He would even dance while cleaning up his room.
2019 Season: After getting very familiar with I-25 between Albuquerque and Denver in 2018, Ryan McMahon proved that he belonged in Denver long-term in 2019 (or however long the Rockies choose to keep him in the organization). McMahon transitioned to become a primarily second baseman this year, which came with difficult task of trying to fill the enormous shoes left by DJ LeMahieu. He started off strong, slashing .424/.470/.763 with 13 extra base hits (nine doubles, one triple, and three home runs) in Spring Training. That led him to being awarded the Abby Greer Award, which is awarded to the Rockies Spring Training MVP.
McMahon did, however, have some growing pains and hit a few roadblocks this season. In early April, he landed on the Injured List for the first time in his career after running into by AJ Pollock trying to run out a throw to first base. That was also when Daniel Murphy, David Dahl, and Jake McGee were on the Injured List. In his first game back on April 18, he hit his first two home runs of the season and went 3-for-4 with five RBI and nine total bases.
In May, Brendan Rodgers was called up, which meant he and McMahon split time at second base. It certainly meant another different role for McMahon, who has been floated around the infield, but he returned to being the primary second baseman once Rodgers was optioned and later put on the Injured List with a shoulder injury.
Despite some of those roadblocks, McMahon made huge strides as a second baseman. He played in 141 games this year, after only playing in 91 in 2018. During those 141 games he hit 24 home runs and 83 RBI — both Rockies franchise records for a primary second baseman. The 24 home runs also ranked him fourth on the team. He also slashed .250/.329/.450, all career highs despite a September slump that cost him some points.
McMahon finished 2019 as a Silver Slugger finalist at second base, but he lost out to Ozzie Albies. Defensively, McMahon finished with a .972 fielding percentage and committed 13 errors. As a first year full-time middle infielder, that’s not bad and will get better with more consistent reps and playing time in the middle.
Ryan McMahon had a successful 2019 season even with some of the ups and downs. There’s room for improvement, sure, but hopefully he continues the upward trajectory into 2020 and beyond. He isn’t DJ LeMahieu by any means, but McMahon definitely proved he belonged in the big leagues this year. (Samantha Bradfield - SBNation - Nov. 9, 2019)
Jan 17, 2020: McMahon’s next step could amount to the next leap for the Rockies. The Rockies’ disappointing 2019 season featured a fair amount of lineup turnover. They introduced first-time, full-season Major League regulars at catcher (Tony Wolters), in the outfield (David Dahl and Raimel Tapia shared time in center and left with veteran Ian Desmond) and, of course, McMahon at second base.
Will McMahon have a 2020 breakout?
He had to break into the lineup first. The left-handed hitting McMahon withstood challenges from Garrett Hampson, Pat Valaika (now with Arizona) and, most seriously, top prospect Brendan Rodgers. General manager Jeff Bridich said the Rockies had what “wasn’t an easy meeting” with McMahon, but stuck with him starting in mid-June. He relaxed and progressed.
“There's offensive growth in there,” Bridich said. “There's definitely more in there in terms of pure production. He's a very good athlete. It ended up being a very solid-to-good season for him—struggles early on, and he got better as the season went on."
Defensively, McMahon, drafted as a third baseman and mostly a first baseman during his debut season of 2018, held his own statistically.
Interestingly, though, asked his favorite play, it’s “the ball hit to my left, where I backhand it and flip it like that … I don’t know why.”
Experience will help all aspects. Can he maintain the aggression that leads to hard contact while taking his walks and limiting strikeouts? Learning pitchers is an acknowledged development, but McMahon also feels staying in his proper swing could help make the rest easier.
“Sometimes this year my swing feels really short and sometimes it feels really long,” McMahon said in a late-season interview. “I’ve lined up differently without trying to; it’s just something that happens throughout the season. Just really honing in on the consistency is going to really help me. I had an OK year, but I think I can do a whole lot better if I find a way to lock in and do the things I do well.”
Defensively, McMahon is similar to LeMahieu. They both possess greater height and reach than typically found at second base. But while LeMahieu was a middle infielder out of college at LSU, McMahon was drafted out of high school (second round, 2013) as a corner infielder and, before a brief injury rehab assignment last year, played just 49 games at second base in the Minors.
“I think I’m starting to get the feel for second base down,” McMahon said. “Before, it was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to go out there, react, see what happens.' Now, I’m getting better at reading people’s swings from that angle. I’m starting to take that next step at second base.” (T Harding - MLB.com - Jan 17, 2020)
Through its Phone-a-Story program, the Denver Public Library had never had professional athletes read stories to children before Ian Desmond and Ryan McMahon. The two Colorado Rockies not only made history with the program, but also turned their stories into two of the most successful segments the library has ever seen.
Normally each reading of a book lasts for one week on the Phone-a-Story program. However, the popularity of Ian Desmond reading, “Dragons Love Tacos” and Ryan McMahon reading “Is Your Mama a Llama?” pushed the Denver Public Library to have the readings available for two weeks in late April and early May featuring the two Colorado Rockies players. ( Kevin Henry - May 16, 2020)
Many agree that some ingrained baseball habits are going to have to be put aside when baseball resumes. Ryan said someone in his family will be quite happy if he can curb one nasty ritual.
“My grandma is going to be happy with the no-spitting rule,” he said. "Every time she sees me spit on TV, I’ll get a text after the game: ‘Stop spitting! Stop spitting!’” (Harding - mlb.com - 5/21/2020)
June 2013: The Rockies chose Ryan in the second round, out of Mater Dei High School, Yorba Linda, California. And McMahon signed for $1,327,600. Jon Lukens is the scout who signed McMahon.
The Rockies have a history of drafting and signing quarterbacks, including Todd Helton, Seth Smith, and Russell Wilson, who all played QB in college.
|Birth City:||Yorba Linda, CA|
|Draft:||Rockies #2 - 2013 - Out of high school (CA)|
McMahon has a compact, fluid, and easy lefthanded swing and the ability to hit to all fields. He should hit for both power (mostly pull power) and a good batting average in the Major Leagues once his plate discipline and pitch recognition improve.
Ryan has a natural swing with tremendous raw power, almost exclusively to his pull side. McMahon is still learning how to adjust his bat head as needed. He is at his best when he can extend his arms. But this leaves him vulnerable to inside pitches and a lot of strikeouts. He can be susceptible to inside heat. He will have to more consistently drive the ball to the opposite field. He has a bit of a hook in his swing, which makes him susceptible to quality fastballs
But Ryan has good hitting instincts, stays inside the ball and uses the whole field like an older hitter—a middle-of-the-field approach. It helps him make steady contact. So he should hit for power and a good average as a middle-of-the-order run producer. When opponents shift the infield to defend him, he can take the ball the other way or even bunt his way on.
In 2017, McMahon improved his plate coverage by leveling his swing. He traded loft for selectivity to help his power play. (Spring, 2018)
McMahon has leverage in his lefthanded stroke and can crush the ball. He has a rather natural upper-cut, lefthanded swing with power to all fields. He has excellent bat speed.
Ryan has strong, quick hands with natural loft in his swing to center and right field. McMahon can be too pull conscious, however, when he’s equally capable of hitting opposite-field line drives.
Ryan is a rather streaky hitter, his home runs, and even hits, seem to come in bursts. He is endeavoring to become a more mature, patient hitter.
2014 Season: After ranking second in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in slugging (.583) in 2013, McMahon moved up to low Class A Asheville and tied teammate Correlle Prime for the South Atlantic League lead in RBIs (102) and finished second in OPS (.860) and doubles (46) and tied for second in runs (93).
2015: Ryan’s beautiful swing is the strongest asset of his game. McMahon’s stroke is simple. He keeps his hands at a high level the entire swing. This allows McMahon to generate a stroke extremely conducive to line drives. MLBFarm reports that over 24% of McMahon’s balls in play in 2015 were liners, and only 1.78% were popups, so this kid certainly knows how to square up a baseball. Mechanically, Ryan begins with a simple weight transfer, plants his front foot down, and then throws his long arms and hips into his swing.
McMahon has one flaw at the plate, he’s a free swinger. Something McMahon needs to work on.
Hartford manager Jerry Weinstein noticed Ryan's offensive improvement early during the 2017 season.
"The plane of his swing is a lot more in line with the plane of the pitch,” Weinstein said. “He’s swinging at fewer and fewer balls out of the zone. He’s handling the ball up (in the zone) a lot better than he did before, when he had a considerable lift approach to hitting.” (May 2017)
A solid athlete, McMahon has regained confidence, reined in some of his aggressiveness and feasted on mistakes this year (2017) while competing consistently against better pitching. Still, he has just 2 of his 19 homers against lefthanded pitchers, who had held him to a .236 average.
McMahon has improved his contact rate this season, shortening his swing and using the whole field more. That's helped him get to his solid-average power, which at this stage plays more consistently to the gaps away from hitter's paradises such as Albuquerque.
What about the Future? Of course, McMahon will be playing at a hitter's haven at Coors Field, but doing it against big league pitching, not the Pacific Coast League's finest. With all due respect to the PCL, McMahon likely will find the sledding tougher against big league pitching, but he has the contact skills, power and versatility to be an asset for the Rockies down the stretch and to be a long-term fixture on the right side of the infield for a contender. (John Manuel - Baseball America - 8/11/2017)
In 2017, McMahon was named the Rockies Minor League Hitter of the Year by MLBPipeline.com.
2018 Season: Ryan spent much of the season shuttling between the Majors and Triple-A but performed when he stayed in one place long enough to gain a rhythm. He hit .305 with a .908 OPS in his final extended stint in the PCL, then was called back up to Colorado on July 29 and remained in the Majors for the rest of the season.
McMahon remains an athletic hitter with a smooth lefthanded swing that produces consistent hard contact. He’s adjusted his approach to focus on hitting fastballs and spitting on off-speed pitches, and with that change in approach has come more hard contact and fewer strikeouts.
Hitting would be simple if it were call-and-response. Hey, Ryan McMahon, in your stance, hold your bat so that the head points toward the second deck, instead of the on-deck circle . . . Boom. Rockies coaches gave McMahon that simple bit of advice in June 2018.
By beginning to apply it, he went from overmatched to a key off-the-bench component of a postseason team. But in March 2019, after an offseason of truly studying the how and understanding the why, McMahon is lighting up Spring Training and showing he is ready for regular duty at second base.
During a 6-3 victory over the Reds, McMahon launched a Tyler Mahle changeup 466 feet for a home run, and stayed with a Mahle slider and pulled a double into the right-field corner. Add to that a nice barehand grab-and-sling to first, after Jesse Winker’s drive bounced off pitcher Kyle Freeland in the bottom of the third, and it was a big day in a big spring game.
McMahon, 24, is sizzling at .444 with three homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.335 OPS. Yes, it’s the Cactus League—the same schedule that he hit .319 against last year, before needing two options to Triple-A Albuquerque before he could contribute meaningfully to the big club. But this is different, and McMahon feels it.
“You hear a lot of people say, ‘Oh, it’s just spring, it’s just spring,’” McMahon said. “But when you’re going good, you definitely put it up a little bit higher.”
Kind of like how McMahon is holding the bat head—higher. The bat position was something then-hitting coach Duane Espy and still-assistant hitting coach Jeff Salazar brought to his attention last year, and Triple-A Albuquerque hitting coach Tom Doherty drilled. The adjustment took some time. He hit .256 with a .752 OPS after the All-Star break, after a .211 average and .620 OPS before the break. The adjustment in the bat position was key to getting McMahon more efficiently into hitting position—the stage of the swing where the hands move away, the weight is on the back leg and the front leg is ready to stride. The better position allows for better pitch recognition, a shorter stroke to the ball and a chance to make contact in front.
Eliminating the poor positioning habits that had crept into his swing allows McMahon to better use his bat speed, which the Rockies consider elite.The offseason was devoted to consistency. In addition to the bat positioning, McMahon added more bend in his waist, which has given him more power.
“There were definitely points, like, ‘Hey, I got it this at-bat . . . Oh, shoot, I lost it again,’” McMahon said. “There were some things that got fixed with the help of a lot of people.
Trent Otis works for Zona Baseball Instruction in Phoenix. He's a former player and coach who has worked with the Rockies’ David Dahl. "Trent Otiswas a guy I went to outside the organization," said McMahon. "He said a couple of things to me that made me understand exactly what Jeff Salazar and Tim Doherty were talking about. I would say I didn’t have a great understanding of it last year. I’m just learning it more.” (T Harding - MLB.com - March 18, 2019)
April 18, 2019: Ryan didn’t believe in single-handed hitting drills. “I was like, ‘You’re never going to really swing like that.'” But while sitting out 10 games with a left elbow sprain, he was bored enough to hit off a tee using only his right arm.
McMahon homered twice in a 6-2 win over the Phillies; he went 3-for-4 with five RBI and put four balls in play, all with exit velocities greater than 100 mph, according to Statcast. Now, McMahon has a new training technique.
“If you have a purpose and understand what you’re trying to do, it can be beneficial,” McMahon said. “Honestly, it was something I did when I was bored and I felt something in that swing. ‘That feels really good.’ So I just kind of rolled with it. It’s more of a direction of your swing sort of thing. It helped me realize how I should line up and what the quickest path was to the ball.” (Harding - mlb.com)
- 2019 Season: McMahon, 25, showed development both offensively and defensively. In 141 games over his first full Major League season, McMahon slashed .250/.329/.450, knocked 24 home runs and finished third on the team with 56 walks.
There were some inconsistencies. While his walk rate was high and his 47.7 percent hard-hit rate (minimum 95 mph exit velocity, according to Statcast) was 22nd in the Majors (among hitters with 200 or more batted ball events). But he also struck out 160 times in 539 plate appearances.
- As of the start of the 2020 season, Ryan's career stats were: .243 with 29 home runs and 103 RBI in 680 at-bats.
Ryan has a strong arm for the long throws across the infield from third base. And it is an accurate arm. He also plays first base where he displays soft hands and good footwork.
In 2017, McMahon added second base. He has the athleticism to man second and third as a fringe-average defender but probably fits best at first base. His reaction time is a concern at third base. (Spring, 2018)
Drawing on his experience as a quarterback, McMahon is a leader on the field.
McMahon should develop into a solid and perhaps above-average third baseman. He has agile feet, a plus arm and moves well to either side. But he always get his feet set properly before he throws, but he has excellent lateral agility and a plus arm that gives him a chance to be an above-average third baseman. Rockies director of player development Zach Wilson and Modesto development supervisor Jerry Weinstein devised a comprehensive plan for McMahon during instructs.
“It wasn’t easy,” Wilson said. “It was intense. It was every single day. He got after it, and he certainly improved himself with the process.”
Weinstein and McMahon called their program “Project .950.” In 2011, Weinstein managed Nolan Arenado at Modesto and helped transform him into an elite defender. Weinstein said that .950 is a fair compromise between Arenado’s fielding average in the minors (.939) and Majors (.966).
Over a period of about 75 minutes daily, McMahon, a 2013 second-round pick from high school in Santa Ana, Calif., took 100 groundballs of all types and had to make the play at or above game speed and succeed 95 times. The drills were recorded on video and critiqued at the end of each day.
“It’s going to be plus range, because he is an instinctual player,” Rockies farm director Zack Wilson. “He’s got baseball intelligence and instincts that really help him on the defensive side of the ball. So there’s impact on both sides of the ball with him.
“He made the routine plays, the spectacular plays. But he also screwed them up. There’s always a mental component to anything you do in training, and the mental component for Mac was to be there on every pitch," Wilson continued.
“He didn’t become a better fielder or a better technician because he makes all the plays. What he did become is a better focuser. He became more consistent because he works very well when you have measurable goals and you put pressure on him . . . If he continues to grow the way that he has, he’s going to be a well above-average Major League defender.”
Ryan has made big strides defensively. McMahon still makes spectacular plays, but is much better at keeping his feet underneath him on routine plays and staying balanced while using improved footwork to make consistently accurate throws. His footwork is the reason for almost every error he makes.
Ryan is an instinctual player. He makes the difficult reaction plays at third base and will make the more routine plays that have given him trouble once he gets his feet in synch with his arm. His footwork just needs cleaning up. It is the source of almost all of the errors he commits. (Spring, 2016)
A quarterback in high school, McMahon brings athleticism and leadership qualities to the infield. He has soft hands and a plus arm but needs to clean up his footwork to improve his throwing accuracy.
Rockies infield instructor Stu Cole called McMahon “a natural” at second base when he began playing there in spring training.
“That may be his best defensive position,” Hartford manager Jerry Weinstein said, “because he’s got a plus arm, and it helps you on cutoffs and relays and it helps you turning double plays. I think he likes playing second base, but he’s good at first and he’s good at third, too. I think (for the) future, he might be best at second.”
The 22-year-old McMahon played high school ball in Santa Ana, Calif. He typically starts two games at first base, followed by one apiece at third and second as part of his defensive rotation. Weinstein said McMahon is “adequate right now” on turning double plays at second, where the footwork for the 6-foot-2 McMahon is understandably a little challenging and something he focuses on with early work. (Jack Etkin - Baseball America - 5/26/2017)
First base is McMahon's best defensive home. He's playable at second base, thanks to his arm strength and body control, but not an asset, according to scouts. He's solid to average at third base. (John Manuel - Baseball America - 8/11/2017)
In 2018, Ryan improved his versatility. He rotated between first base, second base, and third base all year at Triple-A.
McMahon was drafted as a third baseman. But in 2018, he played mostly a first base during his debut season and he held his own statistically. McMahon finished with three Defensive Runs Saved at second base, according to Fangraphs. Under Statcast’s new Outs Above Average, which tracks infielders in shifted positions, he ranked in the middle of the pack at his position at minus-2, with range strength toward first base (2 OAA) and back (1 OAA) as opposed to toward the middle (minus-5).
It helped having the middle covered by shortstop Trevor Story, who finished fifth among MLB infielders at any position at 15 OAA. And Bridich noted that McMahon’s range toward the line could allow less-rangy first baseman Daniel Murphy to play closer to the bag.
- Ryan's speed is not a factor. He is a near-average runner, though. Scouts put a 40 or 45 grade on his speed.
- April 6-18, 2019: The Rockies placed McMahon on the 10-day injured list with a left elbow strain.