College seniors who walk 131 batters in 134 innings pitched generally don’t get drafted by MLB teams, let alone become a fifth round pick. But something was different about Griff McGarry.
According to University of Virginia pitching coach Drew Dickinson in an article by Matt Gelb of The Athletic, “the ball explodes out of his hand.” McGarry’s stuff and athleticism is “Exactly what you dream on… [He’s] the best arm talent I’ve ever been around and coached”
Looking at his strikeout rate in college, it’s easy to see in the stats what Dickinson saw in McGarry. Through those 134 innings at UVA, he struck out 186 batters for a K/9 of 12.5. The raw athleticism and talent is there for McGarry, but Dickinson, and now the Phillies have needed to hone that into projectable talent.
In the middle of McGarry’s senior year at UVA he struggled mightily. Even after being demoted to a mid-week rotation slot, McGarry faced only five batters in a game on April 20. He walked three, hit one, and failed to record an out. He hit rock bottom, now McGarry could only get better.
Following that game McGarry didn’t pitch competitively for 24 days. He took a break to find his form and find his confidence. He came back May 14 against Wake Forest, coming in as closer to preserve a UVA no-hitter.
McGarry struck out the side, walking only one. Then he came back in his next start and struck out the first six batters he faced against Old Dominion. Following that game he carried a no-hitter of his own into the seventh against Dallas Baptist.
Finally, in the College World Series, he no-hit eventual champions Mississippi State for 7.1 innings, walking only two and striking out eight.
McGarry was back.
He finished the college season with a 5.44 ERA in 11 starts, but McGarry’s raw potential and blistering finish to the season meant he was selected in the fifth round by the Phillies in MLB’s Amateur Draft.
From there he went to single-A Clearwater Threshers and high-A Jersey Shore BlueClaws. Then, under the tutelage of a professional farm director, did McGarry begin to thrive.
In 24.1 innings pitched McGarry allowed not one home run. His walk rate remained high, yet manageable at 5.2 BB/9, but his strikeout rate soared even higher. McGarry finished the 2021 minor league season at 15.9 K/9 and a 2.96 ERA.
Suddenly, evaluators began to take notice. Teams that had passed over McGarry in the draft due to his volatility became interested in what could be a budding star. According to Matt Gelb, “McGarry’s name surfaced in cursory trade talks. The Phillies suspected they had stumbled onto something. Then when others noticed, it was affirmation.”
It wouldn’t be crazy to see McGarry included in future trade deals for big name centerfielders or relief stars. His ceiling is so high that even with a low floor, McGarry would be enticing on the trade block.
However, that high ceiling may make the Phillies hesitant to move him in a deal. Would it really be worth it to deal a future ace, even if the chance that player reaches his potential is almost impossibly low?
That’s a question for Phillies President Dave Dombrowski and General Manager Sam Fuld. It’s also a question for brand new Farm Director Preston Mattingly, who has certainly taken notice of McGarry’s blossoming potential.
“Pure stuff... We have to work from a development standpoint of getting him going in the right direction. But we’ll get there,” Mattingly said. “The guy that has four pitches that can all grade out as plus. That’s Griff McGarry.”
It hasn’t been a full year since McGarry was a below average pitcher in college. Now he’s a legitimate prospect in the Phillies system and a potential deal maker should Philadelphia require extra value in a trade for that final piece of the puzzle.
The fifth rounder pick that every other team in MLB glossed over four times, could become a shining star in the Phillies new system.
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