Then & Now: Mike McDade

Then & Now is a weekly feature at Indians Prospect Insider during the offseason that takes a look at a prospect’s past and present while also offering a possible glimpse into the prospect’s future.

This past offseason has seen a handful of new faces join the Cleveland Indians, both via free agency and through some wheeling and dealing. The team has also grabbed a few players via waivers, and one of them is first basemanMike McDade.

The 23-year-old first baseman joins an Indians club that has desperately been in search of first-base help in recent years. McDade, who stands 6-foot-1-inch and weighs 250 pounds, certainly has the desirable size of a slugging first baseman.

He also has had some decent success in his first six years in the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league system. Now it’s just up to him to bring that previous success to Cleveland.

He certainly has a number of desirable traits and since the Indians currently have no full-time designated hitter, McDade’s path to the Majors could become all the easier.

Then:

McDade was drafted by the Blue Jays in the sixth round of the 2007 Draft out of Silverado High School in Las Vegas, NV. His professional career started slow (and somewhat poorly) as he played in only 39 games with Toronto’s rookie team in the Gulf Coast League in 2007. It would almost be an understatement to call McDade’s numbers underwhelming as he posted a .221/.291/.287 line with one home run over that span.

In 2008, McDade spent time with Low-A Auburn of the New York-Penn League and Single-A Lansing of the Midwest League. Once again, McDade was unimpressive. He got off to a decent start in Auburn (.257/.333/.689 line in 52 games), but then struggled mightily once he was promoted to Lansing (.194/.236/.282 line in 60 games).

Also, part of the reason McDade was drafted so highly in high school was because of his power potential, but it had basically been nonexistent up until this point. In 151 games in 2007 and 2008, McDade totaled only six home runs.

But there is one intangible to consider when analyzing the early numbers of McDade’s career — age. At just 19-years-old, the switch-hitting McDade already found himself in the Midwest League. The step from high school baseball to professional baseball isn’t really even a step at all — it’s a leap. Thus, it was understandable to believe that McDade might have some trouble adjusting.

That theory seemed to be partially proven in 2009. In a repeat tour with Lansing, McDade hit .277/.336/.466 with 27 doubles, 16 home runs and 57 RBI. The one area where McDade still lacked was plate discipline as he struck out 109 times and drew just 32 walks, but the visible progress was incredible.

In 2010, McDade made the jump to High-A Dunedin, and he once again impressed. In 128 games, he hit .267/.315/.448 with a career-high 21 home runs. The plate discipline took a turn for the worse (27 walks, 141 strikeouts), but that should be expected when a player makes a jump to facing better competition.

McDade then spent the entire 2011 season with Double-A New Hampshire, and again, he did not miss a beat. In 125 games, McDade hit .285/.360/.445 with 16 homes runs, a career-high 74 RBI and an astonishing 37 doubles. The early struggles of a young teenager in the Midwest League seemed to now be a distant memory.

Now:

The 2012 season ended up being the finest year of McDade’s professional career. Not only did McDade enjoy tremendous success on the diamond, but he also enjoyed a homecoming of sorts.

The Las Vegas native started the season back with New Hampshire where he posted a .275/.354/.437 line with 15 home runs in 100 games. For his efforts, McDade was then promoted to the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate, which just so happened to be his hometown of Las Vegas.

While McDade only spent 18 games in Las Vegas, he really made the most of them. Perhaps it was because of the comfort that comes from being home or maybe it was because he was able to once again enjoy some home-cooked meals, but needless to say, there is no denying that the 18 games were the best stretch of McDade’s young career.

In 79 plate appearances over that span, McDade hit .338/.392/.493 with two home runs and 18 RBI (an average of one RBI for each game he played). His final line between the two affiliates ended up being .285/.360/.445 with 17 home runs and 67 RBI in 118 games.

McDade’s offseason started out on a sour note as the Blue Jays designated him for assignment in late November. However, he was claimed by the Indians on Nov. 30 and became an official member of the team’s 40-man roster.

Future:

There is some underlying evidence that suggests that McDade’s future in a bright one. While Indians fans obviously like some of the tools that he offers, it seems as if it can be concluded that the Indians front office feels the same way.

For instance, as the Tribe continued to acquire players this past winter, it was thought that McDade might be one of the first casualties to be designated for assignment. But it never happened.

Instead, Russ Canzler (a similar player to what McDade might ultimately profile as) was designated for assignment on two separate occasions, and the Indians also designated Thomas Neal for assignment. There has to be a reason as to why the team chose to spare McDade, right?

The reason is probably simple and likely has to do with some of the skills that McDade can provide. At 23-years-old, he is still quite young, but is now almost a finished product. Also, he’s a switch-hitter and provides some pop, which are two traits that are appealing to any Major League club.

McDade will likely open the season up at Triple-A Columbus, and could be on the fast track to the Major Leagues if he continues to perform well. He may best profile as a Canzler-type player, but unlike Canzler, there is still some mystery surrounding McDade and what he might provide at the Major League level.

Hopefully we’ll be able to find that out in 2013.

Previous Then & Now profiles:

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