Phillies Prospect Breakdown: Alex McFarlane, RHP, Clearwater Threshers, A

The Player

The 21-year-old righthander was born and raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to Baseball-Reference.com, just 15 players in MLB history were born in the Virgin Islands. McFarlane is determined to give children on the Islands more players to look up to. And the Phillies see some “untapped potential” there, in the words of farm director Preston Mattingly.

McFarlane is still young in his career. After spending three seasons at Miami, the 2022 fourth-rounder has just eight innings for Low-A Clearwater under his belt, in which he allowed eight earned runs and three walks with 12 strikeouts. 

Raw

He is raw but has already started making strides. The Phillies added a two-seamer to the 6-foot-3, 215-pound McFarlane’s arsenal. Which he says is now a “big part” of his game. They’ve been helping him repeat his mechanics—which has been a challenge at times because McFarlane throws out of a lower slot. But his biggest focus has been command.

“The sheer velocity, it’s 95-97,” he said. “The two-seamer has horizontal movement. He also has a slider and a split-change that kind of mirrors the track of his fastball, from a movement standpoint, and the slider is sharp and firm, too.” Preston Mattingly said.

McFarlane worked out of the bullpen for most of his junior year in 2022, and after signing, the Phillies started moving him to the rotation, a role that continued into early 2023. The reports out of Spring Training were very good, and he came out firing when the FSL season started.

He averaged 98 mph on his fastball in his first start, throwing 4 of them over 100mph and peaking at 100.5. He averaged higher than 96 mph in every start until mid-May. When his average velocity on each start kept decreasing sharply. The Phillies eventually shut him down in late June. He came back briefly in August before then being shut down again and eventually having Tommy John surgery.

Not surprisingly, given he had been a reliever, McFarlane did tend to lose velocity deeper into starts, and it is a real concern if the Phillies try to have him start post-recovery.

Role

As for the pitch itself, McFarlane throws a high spin (averaged over 2600 RPM on the season) sinker that has a large amount of drop and arm-side run. He throws a high spin slider (RPM>2800) with good verticality that sits in the mid-80s.

He then will infrequently throw a high 80s changeup that has a good amount of drop off the fastball with a similar run. He generally struggled to throw strikes, and, despite the velocity, the movement of his fastball made it a good, but not elite pitch.

His changeup generally had poor results, and he struggled to throw it in the zone. The special pitch is his slider, which he posted a 56% whiff rate on for the year, and a 42.4% CSW% thanks to also landing it in the zone for called strikes at a high rate (for reference Orion Kerkering’s slider with Clearwater was at 52% whiff rate and 52.9% CSW% due to his elite ability to throw it in the zone).

Given the injury, the control problems, and the lack of a usable changeup, McFarlane looks like a reliever. The Phillies have not always been quick to make those sorts of changes, so they could run him back out as a starter.

If he can throw the fastball and slider in the zone enough to not walk the world, he potentially could be a high-leverage, late-inning arm. Due to the injury, he will miss all of the 2024 season and will likely be limited in 2025 as well.

Projection

McFarlane had Tommy John in the fall and will miss all of the 2024 season. There is a possibility we hear about him throwing bullpens next fall, but he won’t appear in a game until spring 2025.

Dolans Wiffleball 2024
Matt Bednarczyk
Matt Bednarczyk

Matt Bednarczyk is your host of Talking Philly Sports With Matty B. He is a proud retired US Army Sergeant First Class, he is also a combat veteran with over 80 months served in Afganistan, and Iraq . Huge Hockey Fan. Matt is a lifelong 4 for 4 Philly sports fan. Born and raised on the Mayfair and Tacony neighborhood lines of Northeast Philly. He brings over 40 years of Philadelphia Sports passion and provides a realistic look at our Major Sports Teams and the most passionate sports fans on the planet. Look for his show live on Edge of Philly Sports.

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