MacPhee is small in stature, but hopes for big things
The Indians organization prides itself on building around guys who bring a winning attitude to the ballpark each day. In the 13th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft, the Tribe found itself another one of those players in the form of Arizona State second baseman/outfielder Zach MacPhee.
The 5’9” switch hitter is getting his first taste of pro baseball this season at Lake County after playing just six contests for Mahoning Valley last summer. In irregular playing time, the Phoenix, AZ. native is hitting .230 with two home runs, 18 RBIs, and has also swiped two bags.
For MacPhee, with the collection of outfielders at Lake County, it has been hard to acquire consistent playing time. However, when he gets his chance, the Captains know that Zach MacPhee will do everything in his power to help the team win ballgames.
“It’s tough not getting to play every day and not getting consistent at bats,” said MacPhee of the logjam that is the Lake County outfield. “I am just trying to make the most out of it right now and do what I can to get out there and help the team win. When I get an opportunity, I hope to take off and run with it.”
That winning attitude was instilled in MacPhee as a young man and solidified during his time as an Arizona State Sun Devil, when he played for the #1 ranked team in the country.
“It’s a great program,” said MacPhee of Arizona State, where he played three seasons. “You learn how to win and you get to play on the biggest stage. I have played some pretty big games and coming to pro ball, I feel I am ready to go.”
After a solid freshman campaign at ASU, MacPhee put himself on scouts’ radars with an incredible sophomore year. He ended 2010 with a batting average of .389, putting him second in the PAC-10, while swatting nine home runs and notching 64 RBIs. The 22 year-old also showed off his speed by stealing 20 bases and setting an Arizona State record with 14 triples. The incredible year earned MacPhee PAC-10 Player of the Year Honors, along with being unanimously named to the All-American First Team.
One thing that vaulted MacPhee to new levels in 2010 was his conversion from a natural right-handed hitter to a switch hitter.
“I just talked to my coach and [said,] ‘Hey, I practiced it before, I think I need to switch hit because it will help me a lot,” said MacPhee of the change. “It’s tough being a switch hitter, but I love it and I feel more comfortable now left handed than I did right handed so it worked out well.”
The success that MacPhee enjoyed during his sophomore campaign, however, did not carry over to his junior year. In 2011, he posted a .279 batting average and struggled in the power department, only driving one ball out of the yard.
“My junior year I felt like I never got in a groove,” said MacPhee. “But, I know that I am still the player I was in 2010 and when I get an opportunity, I am going to run with it.”
After being selected by the Indians following his junior year, MacPhee was forced to make another change. Along with playing baseball outside of his home state of Arizona for the first time in his life, Cleveland also decided that it was best for MacPhee to convert to the outfield from his natural position of second base.
Although he believes that the adjustment has been relatively simple, the Arizona State product still feels that his home, as it was when he was a Sun Devil, is in the infield.
“I definitely consider myself a second baseman,” said MacPhee. “But, anything I can do to help the team win, if they need me to play outfield, I will play outfield.”
In his first full season as a professional outfielder, MacPhee knows that he has a lot of work to do in all aspects of the game to return to his 2010 form. When he is not seeing time on the field, the outfielder spends his time in the batting cages or the film room trying to improve so he is ready when his number is called.
“I just have to make sure I am ready to play every day when I get the call,” said the 22 year-old. “I have been in and out of the lineup, have sat for days, and then gotten in the lineup. But when I get in, I just try to play hard, take advantage of the opportunity, and try to help the team win.”
Although short in stature, MacPhee has flashed some of the power that earned him PAC-10 Player of the Year in 2010 in batting practice, but it has only translated to six extra base hits during the games. One reason for that, according to MacPhee, is the fact that he is trying to use the season to gain a better understanding of himself as a player.
“I am trying to know who I am,” said MacPhee of his approach at the dish. “I am trying to hit gaps and if they go out [of the park], they go out. I am just trying to hit the ball hard consistently and put a barrel on it [each time.]”
Zach MacPhee’s numbers have yet to touch his peak performance in 2010, but with consistent playing time, he feels that he can get back to the level that put him on scouts’ radars his sophomore year.
The former PAC-10 Player of the Year even drew comparisons to former Arizona State and current Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who happens to be his work out partner in the offseason.
“We are both small and he swings hard,” laughed MacPhee at the praise. “He does everything right and plays the game the right way. If I can be like him that would be awesome.”
In the meantime, MacPhee will continue to bring his all to the ballpark day in and day out to help Lake County put wins on the scoreboard. As a little guy who does the little things, MacPhee can only hope for big accomplishments to be a significant part of his future in the game of baseball.