Casey McGehee: A Quad-A Player Succeeds Upon Finding an MLB Job

Nathaniel StoltzSenior Analyst IJune 27, 2009

I hate the Quad-A stereotype, particularly with hitters.

If you didn't know that before, you should check out my Quad-A/GPP article from last year. It's one of my best.

A consequence of my hating the stereotype is my loving the players who are labeled with it. You can't help but root for them.

They've been unjustly declared unfit to the majors, and you hope someday they come up and stick it to whoever doubted them.

Being an avid follower of the minor leagues, I keep a mental list of the Quad-A guys who deserve to be in the majors, and every so often I'll go looking through Triple-A and Double-A rosters to see who's still hitting at an MLB-level, who's fallen off a bit, and if there are any other AA/AAA guys putting up big numbers but not getting an MLB look, so I can add them to my mental list.

One guy who I've followed for years in this manner is Casey McGehee.

McGehee was a bit of an unusual Quad-A player; he wasn't your typical hulking slugger kept down on the farm because of strikeouts and defensive issues. McGehee wasn't really a slugger at all.

Most Quad-A players who deserve to be in the majors are .280/.410/.550-type hitters. McGehee hit just .282/.335/.410 in three years at Triple-A.

Now that's not a bad line by any means, but it's just about average. What could I possibly see in McGehee and his .745 OPS?

Well, defensive scouting reports said he had one of the best third-base gloves in baseball, and that he could provide average defense at short or center, plus defense at second, and plus-plus defense everywhere else but catcher.

He even has some minor league catching experience, so he could be an emergency guy there.

This interested me because there are plenty of defense oriented guys in the majors with Triple-A lines far worse than .282/.335/.410.

If McGehee could be, say, a .260/.325/.400 major league hitter, his glove would make him good enough to start at second on some teams, or platoon at second or third, or at least be a backup.

I thought he could at least hit .260/.325/.400, and perhaps duplicate his Triple-A numbers if given an extended look in the bigs. But the Cubs, his organization at the time, never really gave McGehee a shot. 

In fact, after a fine .280/.336/.406 performance at AAA Iowa in 2006, the Cubs sent McGehee down to Double-A for most of 2007. Clearly they thought little of him.

To be fair, the Cubs did give McGehee a quick September look last year, after his .296/.345/.429 Triple-A season. He went 4-for-24, which seemed to back their views on him, not mine. He also K'd 8 times without walking even once.

However, McGehee saved two runs with his glove in just 41 innings in the field, according to UZR.

The Cubs wanted him off the 40-man roster, so they designated him for assignment after the season. The rival Brewers snapped McGehee up, and a .370/.370/.722 spring netted him the 25th man job on the team.

At the end of every spring, I look around and see if any Quad-A guys made rosters. I was happy to see Joe Thurston and Brian Barden on the Cardinals, Ryan Roberts on the Diamondbacks, and a few others, including McGehee making the Brewers. I'm not a Brewers fan, but you just hope these guys find a spot somewhere, whether it's on your favorite team (the A's, in my case) or not.

Well, here we are, three months into the year, and my man McGehee's hitting .340/.398/.520.

Told ya so.

Now, to be fair, I would never have predicted McGehee would hit .340. Then again, I wouldn't really predict anyone (Ichiro, Mauer, Pujols, you name 'em) to hit over .330. I just thought he could carry his .282/.335/.410 line to the majors.

Of course, McGehee's needed a bit of luck to hit .340 (.395 BABIP), but he's stinging the ball; his 23.5 LD% ranks in the top 30 in the majors of players with at least 100 PA. His 109 PA season isn't a big sample, but it's certainly big enough to mean something.

His LD% means McGehee's BABIP should really be around .360, which would make his true performance something like .310/.370/.470.

That's still very good.

McGehee's been playing second for the Brewers, and he's given them plus defense, with a UZR/150 of 3.8, coming in a bit above average at second. Anyone want a .310/.370/.470 second baseman with plus defense for their favorite team?

Obviously, McGehee may or may not continue this hitting, but the odds of me being right that he's really a .280/.340/.420-ish hitter or better seem pretty high right now.

Add his excellent defense and versatility to the equation, and you get a player worth giving 100 starts to every year. McGehee could be the next Mark Loretta, with less average and more power. 

It certainly looks like he's here to stay: he's been hitting leadoff, second, and fifth in the Brewers order of late, so he's acquired not only a starting role, but a prominent position in the batting order. Players with good gloves stick around for a long time, and McGehee's got a very good glove.

So congratulations, Casey McGehee. You've broken out of Quad-A and proved me right about the stupidity of the stereotype again. Best of luck on keeping up the hot streak; even if you don't, you'll still be a worthwhile major leaguer.


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