James McDonald Makes Pirates Debut Tonight

The Post-Gazette has a nice piece on James McDonald, who makes his Pirates debut tonight:

He will do so with a three-pitch repertoire -- fastball up to 95 mph, curveball and changeup -- plus a slider in progress. He also will do so with a 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame that is lankier than that of most starters. Neither of those fits the prototype, but ...

I've seen McDonald pitch several times, but I was still surprised when I went to FanGraphs to check on that 95 MPH thing. Too often, "up to 95 MPH" might be true, but what it really means is "...but he throws 88 most of the time." I'd had the idea that McDonald wasn't a soft-tosser, but that he sat at about 90-91. It turns out that his fastball averaged almost 93 MPH in 2009, when he spent most of his time coming out of the bullpen. He might take a mile per hour or two off that tonight, since he'll be starting and not relieving.

The more I think about the Octavio Dotel trade, the more I like it. Looking over McDonald's stat line, there's really no reason to view him as a disappointment or a busted prospect. He pitched badly in L.A. this year, but that was in four appearances. He pitched well in the Dodgers' bullpen last year and was very good at Class AAA both this year and last, when you account for how hard it is to pitch in Albuquerque.

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