ANAHEIM ― Before his senior year at the University of Hartford, David MacKinnon heard the same complaint from multiple major league scouts: he did not hit for enough power.
MacKinnon’s numbers weren’t horrid as a junior: four home runs and a .544 slugging percentage in 55 games. But it would take more than that for a kid from a small school in the Northeast, who played soccer in the offseason, to hear his name called in the draft. Nobody called MacKinnon’s name after his junior season, so he returned to college for a fourth year.
“I went back to the drawing board a little bit,” MacKinnon said Tuesday. “I tried to hit for more power. I hit for less power and average. So I was like, ‘well that didn’t work at all.’”
The Angels took a flier on MacKinnon in the 32nd round of the 2017 draft. To call him a longshot would be an understatement; all but the first 20 rounds of the draft were eliminated last year. On Saturday in Seattle, MacKinnon made his major league debut against the Mariners.
The last five years have seen MacKinnon, 27, hit for more power in increments. He was slugging .633 at Triple-A Salt Lake, with 13 homers in 56 games, when the Angels added him to their taxi squad last week. There’s a touch of irony to how he finally became a slugger.
A knee injury limited MacKinnon to 18 games with Class-A Inland Empire. The COVID-19 pandemic eliminated the 2020 minor league seasons. All that downtime allowed MacKinnon to study video of other hitters.
“I literally studied Mike Trout’s swing, which is crazy because now he’s my teammate,” MacKinnon said of the three-time American League MVP. “And Vlad (Guerrero) Jr.’s swing. I got to the point of, these guys are really good at holding the ground, using the force of the ground to further their power, getting to a consistent position when they land their front foot.
“I was like, if I can do that more consistently – I’m not trying to be like Mike Trout and do it as consistently as he does it – I think I can tap into a little more power.”
MacKinnon’s 13 homers in 2021 with Double-A Rocket City were a career high. His 30 doubles led the Southern League that year.
MacKinnon said his stepfather, former major league pitcher Matt Maysey, has helped transform his swing. He also credited two minor league hitting coaches who are no longer with the Angels’ organization, Tyler Jeske and Ryan Parker.
At some point, appropriately, he can yell across the clubhouse and thank Trout too.
Outfielder Mike Trout and designated hitter Shohei Ohtani were the second-leading vote-getters at their respective positions in the first American League All-Star voting update provided Tuesday by MLB.
Trout trails only New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, who has received more votes than any player in either league. The top six outfielders are eligible to receive votes for three starting spots when a runoff begins on July 5. Ohtani trails only Houston’s Yordan Alvarez; the top two DHs are eligible for the runoff.
Last year, Ohtani made history by starting both at designated hitter and pitcher at the All-Star Game. Manager Phil Nevin said it hasn’t been determined whether Ohtani will be able to perform his two-way act on July 19 at Dodger Stadium. The Angels have not mapped out his starting pitching assignments that far in advance.
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“I’m not going to alter anything (Ohtani) does here just to pitch him in the All-Star Game,” Nevin said. “The importance is for us to win games. As much as it was an honor for him to start the game last year, the important thing is being at his best for our club. If he wants to pitch, to throw an inning, we’ll have those conversations.”
Taylor Ward, fifth among AL outfielders, is the only other Angel in line to participate in the second round of voting.
The Angels’ 20th anniversary celebration of the 2002 World Series championship team on Wednesday is set to begin at 6:19 p.m., and last up until the usual pregame pomp and circumstance. A total of 35 players, coaches and staff from the 2002 team will be present. Mike Scioscia, Darin Erstad and Tim Salmon are scheduled to be the featured speakers. Troy Percival will throw the ceremonial first pitch.
Kansas City (LHP Daniel Lynch, 3-6, 5.19 ERA) at Angels (RHP Shohei Ohtani, 5-4, 3.28 ERA), Wednesday, 6:49 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM