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Checking in with Jack McGeary

This is the toughest part of the year for Jack McGeary. "Definitely," he said.

From noon to 4:30 p.m., he worked out with the rest of the Nationals' accelerated camp, which was normal enough. But here's guessing McGeary is the only player who went home tonight and cranked out a paper on "King Lear" for his Masterpieces of English Literature course.

McGeary, a 20-year-old left-handed pitcher, is nearing the end of the unique arrangement that has him attending Stanford on the franchise's dime while he attempts to move up the Nationals' farm system. After he finishes writing three final papers - he's also got ones on ancient Greece and Google due for other classes - McGeary will conclude his winter quarter. He'll take the spring quarter off, but he needs to complete only two more quarters to finish his degree.

"Hopefully," he said, "I can bang it out soon."

With the end of his experience in sight, McGeary remains satisfied with his decision to accept the uncommon proposal Jim Bowden crafted in 2007. The conclusion will bring relief, he said, but he also has no regrets.

"It was a no-brainer," McGeary said. "Looking back, it's better than I thought it could have been. It's been pretty smooth. It's been nice. There's definitely a separation between school and baseball. It's not like there's a lot of overlap where everything is just overwhelming. I'm excited with the choice I made."

Last year, between Vermont and Hagerstown, McGeary put up a 5.54 ERA and a 1.83 WHIP over 112 innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio dropped from an impressive 4.31 in 2008 to 1.03 in 2009. McGeary figures he'll start this season in high Class A Hagerstown. He wants to focus on "just keeping it simpler," he said. "Just going back to the basic mechanics, not trying to over-think anything. Just let my athleticism and talent get results."

Toggling between school and baseball has not always been easy, but McGeary thinks it has been beneficial. In the end, he believes it will help him balance priorities as his career steams along.

"Obviously you're going to be busy," McGeary said. "But who's not busy?"

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 3, 2010; 7:30 PM ET
 
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Comments

"Obviously you're going to be busy," McGeary said. "But who's not busy?"
***********
Joe Beimel.
Braden Looper.
Pedro Martinez.
John Smoltz.

To name a few.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 3, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

In the end, the kid will get a degree from Stanford University.

The Nationals will get the satisfaction knowing that they helped a kid get an education.

Aside from that...I don't see much else coming from this "uncommon" arrangement.

Prove me wrong kid.

Posted by: TimDz | March 3, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

What is it with this Stanfurd-Nats connection (Stroen, McGeary)? I don't like it. I'm sure McGeary will get an "A" in that class--it always seems to "work out" that way out there at The Farm. As a Cal grad, it already pains me that the Nats have red in their unis, although I happily make an exception here for never wearing that dreaded color. I only hope that our 2nd round pick last year from Cal ends up being our diamond in the rough (Kobernus). Jeff Kent will always be a better man than Mike Mussina.

Posted by: thelonghaul | March 3, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

This is nice that you're catching up with guys like McGeary, Adam. Next time though, maybe you can let us know what the buzz around camp is with him, as well as Smoker, maybe Willems also, as opposed to just another quick-hit puff piece. Do any of these younger pitchers provide reason to be optimistic?

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | March 3, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

@TimDz -- The kid was going to get his Stanford education either way. What the Nationals did was craft a solution to keep big prospect draft pick from getting away. Whether he pans out as a prospect is an entirely separate question, but unrelated.

I have a question about the description of Hagerstown as "High-A". Do the Nats have 2 "High-A" teams? What makes Hagerstown "High-A", if it's clearly below Potomac in the Nats' system? I realize it's not a short-season league like the NY-Penn League, but is that the only distinction?

Posted by: fischy | March 3, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

"he's also got ones on..." Nice grammar. Speaking of college....

Posted by: kfisher32 | March 3, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

What's his GPA?

Posted by: nattydread1 | March 3, 2010 11:23 PM | Report abuse

@Fischy: Two points: You are right, Hagerstown is not high A. It is low A and is listed as such in Baseball America's prospect report.

Second point: "What the Nationals did was craft a solution to keep big prospect draft pick from getting away. Whether he pans out as a prospect is an entirely separate question, but unrelated." WRONG. What the Nationals DID was set a very bad precedent that players can get paid millions of dollars for something and then only devote half of their attention and effort to that pursuit. How foolish. UNRELATED? HA! They are two pursuits competing for his time, very likely resulting in slower development as a pitcher and thus wasted money by the Nats (he's still making the same money for only partial effort per year).

Posted by: kfisher32 | March 3, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

"What's his GPA?"

More importantly, is it higher or lower than his ERA?

Posted by: TBCTBC | March 3, 2010 11:42 PM | Report abuse

KFish, I don't agree.
He was going to Stanford regardless, so that's four years that don't count on the clock, for development. Would he have learned more baseball playing for Stanford than Vermont (or wherever)? Maybe, but he'd probably be learning it for some other team's benefit, not the Nats. And as the man said, that's a different question.
He gets the money for contractually obligating himself to the Nationals, not the fact that his effort (and by all accounts he's working hard at both gigs) is "full-time." Again, that's beside the point, since he would not be playing for them at all, otherwise, before or (likely) after graduation.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 3, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Bottom line: I don't know the figures, but say we signed Detwiler for $1 mil and McGeary for $1 mil. Detwiler is doing more to earn that money. McGeary would have gone to Stanford regardless? Sure, but I don't care. My point is we knew that before the draft (that he wanted to go to college) and we shouldn't have drafted him. Think of it as if you were the one writing the check. Personally, I would be insulted if I did not have his full, undivided, 100% effort. Especially for that kind of money. Bottom line. Another team can have is 5+ ERA and I would have drafted another pick (there were plenty of other solid prospects available at that stage in the draft).

Posted by: kfisher32 | March 4, 2010 12:11 AM | Report abuse

"In recent months, Cardinals overseas scouts have been busy, with 21 new players recently signed to contracts for the upcoming season and another five pending."
http://tinyurl.com/ybhthzx

Cardinals sign Dominican outfielder
17-year-old Amauris Capellan headlines 21 new signees from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic
By Brian Walton
St. Louis Globe-Democrat
*****************************

That's 21--as in *twenty-one*--new overseas signings. YanowatImean?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 4, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse

"Think of it as if you were writing the check."
Well, no.
He's not getting paid to work. He's getting paid to be the property--excuse me, "inventory"--of the Washington Nationals. If he wants to get paid serious money, he has to learn to be a big-league pitcher, which may or may not happen, just as with any draftee. But they're paying him to NOT play for anybody else, basically, when he gets out of Stanford.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 4, 2010 12:16 AM | Report abuse

Think of it as a relatively expensive dibs.

He's playing minor league ball--nobody getting six- or seven-figure bonuses is going to return that investment playing in the minor leagues, and yet almost all of them do, because that's not what they're getting paid for. MLB teams pay bonuses as a kind of commodity futures investment, not as salary, tho that's what it looks like on the outside.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 4, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse

After we drafted McGeary (LHP), two of the next three picks were also LHP. They both made it to high A last year (McGeary hasn't), both had ERAs under 3 and both were right at 9 Ks per 9 innings (one just over and one just under). But no, Bowden takes the part-time player who demands we pay for his college or he won't sign. Makes sense. He then proceeds to post an ERA over 4 and then an ERA over 5.

Posted by: kfisher32 | March 4, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse

2009 was disappointing, no doubt, but I doubt they'll give up on him before he's even out of school, barring injury. Remember, he is still in college, he's what, 20, 21 years old? Lots of time to get better.
Could you, in hindsight, find somebody else you'd rather have? Sure, you and about 35 current and former GMs. He was a good risk, and remember, at the time, they couldn't afford to sign anybody who was obviously much better. They didn't have so many options as now. If Strasburg were in that class, they never could have drafted him, because there was zero chance they could have paid him. So they had to get creative, and this was a good job.
Will he pan out? Who knows? Almost nobody, especially pitchers, is genuinely "can't miss."

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 4, 2010 12:28 AM | Report abuse

High A--good for them. I wish them well, whoever they are. (Who are they, btw?)
But it's not about who gets to AA first. It's not a short-term payoff.
Virtually everybody in MLB, from what I recall, had McGeary as a high-pick talent who was absolutely not going to sign, so they wouldn't pick him. This is not my opinion of his talent, it's the smart guys' opinions. Hindsight is easy.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 4, 2010 12:33 AM | Report abuse

I heard a lot about what a great prospect McGeary was too... of course we were hearing that from Bowden and the Nationals. Hmmm.. It's not about who get's to AA first. It's about who really has the desire to play baseball and can actally put up an ERA under 5. It is hindsight sure, but at least have the sense to admit, in hindsight, it might have been a bad call to draft him.

Posted by: kfisher32 | March 4, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and you can find that round of the draft and links to their stats here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?year_ID=2007&draft_round=6&draft_type=junreg&query_type=year_round

Posted by: kfisher32 | March 4, 2010 12:43 AM | Report abuse

Everything that doesn't work out wasn't a bad idea. You can make no mistakes, and still lose.
Sure, Bowden talked him up--Bowden talked everything up. But McGeary was ranked in the top 20 players drafted that year (17th, in fact--just looked it up, and we know how much I hate having to do that). He was a consensus first-round talent. Everything else is hindsight.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 4, 2010 12:48 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't be so hard on McGeary at this point.

He was a sure first-round pick but teams were so sure he was going to Stanford that they didn't waste a high draft pick on him.

Bowde gambled with a late-round pick and signed him with first-round(ish) money.

It's difficult trying to pitch professionally and attend a school like Stanford.

I bet he's going to come out of nowhere this summer and be one of the Nationals' most impressive young pitchers.

Posted by: rushfari | March 4, 2010 12:53 AM | Report abuse

My left-handed pitching cousin signed with the Dodgers out of high school in the 70's. He opted out of college, got a fat bonus and bought a Porsche. Then he threw out his arm in single A and ended up out of work.

McGeary has a much more forward-looking career path. Kudos to him.

Posted by: nattydread1 | March 4, 2010 7:06 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure who is being bashed above, the kid for taking the money and going to Stanford - which he was going to do - or the Nats for giving him money to take a flier on him. For a board that almost universally calls the Nats cheap I'd think this was an example of the team taking a $1 M chance on a prospect who has (had?) a large upside.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 4, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

I almost always disagree with the argument that a GM made a mistake when they drafted player X. And this is no exception. The falacy of the argument is that somehow the Team is supposed to devine how the player they drafted will turn out AND how the players they don't draft will turn out. How good, how fast, how long. Did the Cubs make a mistake drafting Mark Prior? Mike Pizza was selected in the 64th round. How can 2008 top pick Tim Beckham not be in Baseball America's top 50 prospects in 2010?

What the Nationals saw in a high school prospect in 2007 was a boy who at 17 had a chance to develop into a strong pitcher by age 24. (He turns 21 this month). Maybe he never matures physically as they hoped, but that's the way player development works. If it was guaranteed, they'd call it player readiness instead of development.

Posted by: natbiscuits | March 4, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

kfisher32:

I'm assuming you subscribe to the belief that a higher ranked prospect will always turn out better than a lower ranked one?

Out of curiosity, could you look up how the 10 (or 100...) or so draft picks ahead of Albert Pujols are doing right now and what strategic mistake or character flaw is responsible for them not doing as well? You could repeat the same process with Lannan as well, I imagine.

Just cause McGreary has a unique contract and has been something of a disappointment so far does not mean that those two facts are related. We have no idea how he'd develop without going to Stanford. For all we know he'd be in just the same place as he is now.

The Lerners were willing to pay over slot and Bowden somehow worked out an inventive contract. That was a very good thing. Not all expirments work out, but at the time, it certainly had more chances of working than taking someone for slot. Now sometimes an eight-sided die will roll higher than a twenty-sided die, but I'm happy the Nats chose the twenty.

Posted by: cassander | March 4, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

McGeary was ranked the 24th best prospect in the 2007 draft by Baseball America. The Nats got him with the 190th pick. Whether he worked out or not, that was a steal.

Here's a link to some pre-draft buzz about him:
http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2007/05/draft_spotlight.php

Posted by: cassander | March 4, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

What the Nationals DID was set a very bad precedent that players can get paid millions of dollars for something and then only devote half of their attention and effort to that pursuit.

Posted by: kfisher32 | March 3, 2010 11:38 PM

******************
What precedent? Being a little alarmist, aren't we? That was 3 years ago. Have the Nats done such a deal since? And I'm pretty sure they knew that he'd have to devote "half his attention" when they offered him such a deal. Besides, doesn't this post say he's improving anyway?

I wouldn't worry about McGeary being a waste of money and I wouldn't worry about the Nats setting some kind of precedent with him. The Bowden years gave us wayyyy more to worry about with precedent setting than this.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 4, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

**DING**
Time's up! As is the New Post...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 4, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Adam,

Thanks for the McGeary update, I think this will be a breakthrough year for him. I think we would love to hear more stories out of the accelrated camp, maybe a story on Kobernus and his progress since his injury. Maybe pieces on Marrero, Burgess and Destin Hood too.

Thanks for your insight.

Posted by: markfd | March 4, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

The only good scenario would be if his GPA is higher than his ERA, right?

After all, in normal cases, his GPA can't get higher than 4.0.

-----

"What's his GPA?"

More importantly, is it higher or lower than his ERA?

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 4, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

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