I spent yesterday, after recuperating from the whirlwind that was the Rule 5 Draft, watching video of new Cubs pitcher Trevor Megill. I chose ten 2019 outings, all of which had a radar gun on the broadcast, to begin to form an opinion about Megill.
I expect Megill has a real chance to break camp with the 2020 Cubs, but I wanted to preview what he’ll look like on the mound if he does.
Biographical Information: The Cardinals, then led by now-Cubs scouting director Dan Kantrovitz, drafted Megill in the third round of the 2014 draft. Megill had missed his junior season due to Tommy John surgery, and he and the Cardinals could not find a common ground. Megill returned to Loyola Marymount for his senior season (incidentally where he was joined on the pitching staff by future Cubs prospect Cory Abbott).
The Padres grabbed Megill in the seventh round the next year (high for a senior), and he had a nice pro debut. Megill then missed the 2016 season with bone spurs, and was able to pitch only 27.1 innings in 2017 and 37.2 innings in 2018. Megill missed much of the first two months with injuries in 2019, but rebounded to throw 60.2 total innings, and has thrown nine more in the Mexican Pacific Winter League. Thanks to the injuries, though, you can see why he was available in the Rule 5.
Pitching at AAA last year, Megill posted a 4.47 ERA, propped up by a huge BABIP and a tiny LOB rate. His peripherals – including a 32.3% K rate against an 8.6% BB rate – were much more attractive.
Body and Delivery: Megill is a mountain on the mound, 6-foot-8 and filled out. He has long and strong legs, a big pitcher’s butt, and broad shoulders. He seems to lack a little fluidity, but repeats his delivery just fine. He emphasizes extension with a long arm action and over-the-top release point, combining to make his fastball play above its velocity. In this sense, he reminds me more of Dakota Mekkes than any other player the Cubs organization has employed recently.
Fastball: Expectations probably need to be set appropriately here. Megill, generally speaking, pitched in the 91-93 mph range over my ten viewings. The Draft offered better options in the velocity department. That said, there is some reason for the Cubs to think he can play higher up than that. Megill routinely is able to ramp up his velocity in high-adrenaline situations.
The highest fastball velocity I recorded was on July 28, when he struck out the final batter he faced on a 97 mph fastball. He routinely proved able to reach back for 94-95 when necessary, and often throws harder with two strikes than zero, harder with two outs than to the leadoff hitter. I expect the Cubs will encourage Megill that, against Major League hitters, he needs to maintain that urgency as best he can at all times.
I will say that in mid-June, it did appear that Megill fought a dead arm phase. His fastball languished in the high 80s, and it’s not a surprise his worst stretch came in that part of the season. The Cubs will need to see if they can help Megill find better consistency. I would say his fastball movement is not significant, but he does show solid enough late life up in the zone.
Megill’s control far outpaces his command, as he’s consistently able to pitch in the zone, but far too often misses from the corners back to the middle of the strike zone. This was the major cause of his 33.3 line drive rate in the PCL, and it’s something he won’t be able to get away with at the next level. Still, he probably didn’t deserve that absurd .415 BABIP.
Presenting my favorite curve, my favorite slider, and the my favorite fastball that Cubs Rule 5 pick Trevor Megill threw in 2019. Note: they aren’t all like this! Fastball is usually 91-93, not the 97 here. Curve is usually a strike pitch, not a chase pitch. Still these are fun. pic.twitter.com/zh7QeNnhRf
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) December 13, 2019
Breaking Balls: Megill throws two different hooks, a curveball and a slider, and you’ll hear that they blend in together. This is true, as the shape of both are pretty similar. He has a good feel for spin, and commands both breaking pitches generally well, both as chase pitches and early-count strikes.
Most often, Megill turns to the curveball early in the count, a pitch in the 76-80 mph range, to get a strike. In one outing, I saw him experimenting with a slower curveball, dropping down to a loopy 73 mph.
Megill’s slider is almost surely what most interests the Cubs. He shows the pitch everywhere from 80-86 mph, and it’s going to really come in at a good number in vertical drop. It doesn’t have much horizontal action, but instead falls off the table more than hitters expect. His comfort grew and grew as the season went on. In early outings, it was something he showed mostly when ahead in the count. By late July and early August, he would throw it multiple times in a row to start at-bats. He does have to be careful about hanging the pitch, especially middle-in to left-handed hitters.
Projection: It’s going to come down to consistency, and for Megill to stick in the bullpen of a wannabe-contender, he won’t have any wiggle room. The biggest question is whether Megill’s arm can handle the workload of a full max effort season. The next biggest question is what the Cubs can do in the Pitch Lab to take his breaking balls to the next level. Megill flashes the look of a big league reliever, but I do have my doubts if he’s had enough developmental time to be able to do that for six straight months in the big leagues, per the Rule 5 requirements for keeping him. (Though he is permitted to spend some of the year on the injured list – he needs at least 90 days on the active roster to stick with the Cubs.)
Ultimately, if he’s not lining up to win a bullpen job out of the gate in Spring Training, I expect the Cubs and Padres to be in talks to make a trade for Megill’s complete rights, which would allow the Cubs to move Megill back and forth from Chicago to Iowa, allowing him to get through the rough spells in a less damaging environment. It’s a pretty good bet that, either way, Megill is here to stay in the organization for a while.
Indeed, after the Draft, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer conceded that the Cubs had tried to get Megill from the Padres last month at the rostering deadline. They got him anyway – albeit with some added restrictions – and it’s clear that they’ve liked him for a while.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.