McGeary shows he's a crafty lefty
With his makeup, high school product rates high in Draft
BOSTON -- Roxbury Latin High School pitcher Jack McGeary is left-handed, and you know what that means: right-brained, creative and, as only southpaws know, browbeaten.
"The only thing that stinks," McGeary said, using the language of the oppressed, "is desks, scissors, appliances..."
Little else about McGeary, a product of Newton, Mass., and one of the elite high-school pitchers in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft on June 7-8, says "counterculture," Bill Lee, Barry Zito or any other phrase for baseball's class of "different" lefthanders.
The 17-year-old left-hander, who committed to Stanford University in the fall, applies himself equally to academics and athletics. McGeary loves Civil War history; he works hard. On monthly Monday nights, McGeary and three or four classmates travel to the Epiphany School in Dorchester, Mass., to cook dinner for disadvantaged students.
"If you work hard, it's going to carry over," McGeary said.
But McGeary is no ordinary prospect. Behind his exceptional control, a 92-mph fastball and a hard, diving curve, which is widely considered as one of the Draft's best, is an intricate pitching mind. Behind the glitz of McGeary's first-round talent is the approach of a lefty.
"It kind of goes with just fooling around with pitches," he said. "Two-seamers, dropping the arm a little bit. I'm not afraid to do some goofy stuff as far as pitch sequences go."
The easy mistake would be to confuse unorthodoxy with apathy. For McGeary, experimentation is good work. It's an expression of confidence in what he's already got.
"I'll lower my arm, raise my arm angle and see what produces the best pitch," he said. "I do that all the time."
It's not wasteful to experiment when you've got advanced command of three plus pitches: a fastball, curveball and changeup. At a lithe 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, McGeary gives scouts -- of whom "20 to 40" will show up at any of his starts, according to Roxbury coach John Lieb -- plenty to rave about.
Against Thayer Academy on May 16, an area team that had lost just once, McGeary mixed in his offspeed offerings with equal aplomb, striking out 15 overmatched batters in 7 1/3 innings and allowing only one hit.
McGeary endured his first loss in his last start against St. Sebastian's on May 23, but he still finished the 2007 season with a 5-1 record and an ERA under 1.00.
In 2006, Alan Matthews of Baseball America, a publication that recently ranked McGeary No. 27 out of its top 200 Draft prospects, saw a younger, less well-known McGeary pitch for the East Cobb, Ga., Braves summer-league team. He "automatically liked him."
"Because his delivery is so smooth," Matthews said. "The first thing you want to see is a good delivery: to stay balanced over the rubber and repeat your arm motion."
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
McGeary is so skilled, in fact, that he looks like a prospect before accounting for his projectable frame. Because of his youth and picture-perfect mechanics, Matthews said, McGeary could add "two to three mph to his fastball and more bite to his breaking ball as he gets bigger and stronger."
"You look at his body and consider his athleticism," Matthews said. "He can get a lot better."
McGeary most often hears comparisons to lefties like Andy Pettitte and Tom Glavine: Pettitte because of his "similar stuff" and Glavine, he suspects, because he's a fellow left-hander from Massachusetts.
For the moment, McGeary sees the most of himself in White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle, who tossed a no-hitter on April 18. He studies Buehrle during his starts and appreciates his similar repertoire of breaking pitches.
In the end, McGeary is a Boston boy. He lives just eight miles away from Fenway Park, right down the Massachusetts Turnpike. The Red Sox, who currently boast the American League's second-best ERA, are almost always on TV.
"It's been a treat to watch those guys, night after night," McGeary said.
McGeary particularly admires Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Japanese import who has made waves around baseball with his ability to throw any pitch in any count. Another example is Pedro Martinez, who flummoxed hitters and thrilled fans as the Red Sox's ace during his tenure. Martinez was just as likely to throw a 3-1 changeup as a first-pitch fastball.
"That's something I try to implement in my pitching style," McGeary said.
"I think he's mature enough to know that to be the best pitcher he can be, he's got to be able to throw different pitches at different times," Lieb said. "He likes to do that. He's not just trying to rear back and throw 100 fastballs by a team."
At the prestigious Roxbury Latin High School, Lieb doubles up his coaching duties by teaching algebra II, geometry and pre-calculus. During McGeary's junior year, Lieb wasn't surprised to see his best player thrive in a challenging section.
"He did honors-level work," Lieb said. "He took it seriously, like everything else he does."
Thus, McGeary has earned himself a difficult choice. During a visit last year, he fell in love with Stanford, an institution with a baseball reputation to match its academic renown.
Matthews would be "surprised" if McGeary fell out of the top 35-40 picks in the First-Year Player Draft because of questions about his signability, but concedes that it is possible.
Otherwise, it is difficult to see what could hold back Massachusetts' best prospect.
"Based on his potential and talent," Matthews said. "He's a no-brainer for the first round."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.