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Tournaments  | Story  | 11/12/2021

PA's McGonigle just cranks out the hits

Jeff Dahn     
Photo: Kevin McGonigle (McGonigle family)

After Perfect Game National Scouting Coordinator-Northeast John McAdams spent the second week of October watching Pennsylvania 2023 shortstop Kevin McGonigle do what he does best at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., he set down at his keyboard and tapped out his thoughts.

McAdams had, after all, spent the previous week scribbling down his observations on McGonigle’s Most Valuable Player performance at the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship across the state in Fort Myers, so his notebook was full. He was, however, able to sum up those thoughts quite succinctly during “The Next Wave” segment of the final collective Jupiter top prospects scouting report.

Kevin McGonigle,” McAdams wrote, “just hits and then hits some more. The left-handed hitting middle infielder has seemingly hit at every stop along the circuit and continued that in Jupiter.” The ability to “hit and then hit some more” has certainly become McGonigle’s calling card since he really entered the national conversation during the pandemic summer of 2020.

A resident of the Philadelphia suburb of Glenolden, Pa., and a junior at Bonner Prendergast Catholic High School in Drexel Hill, Pa., McGonigle has risen to the No. 21 overall national prospect ranking (No. 8 SS) in the class of 2023 – he’s Nos. 1/1 in Pennsylvania – largely on the strength of his impressive hit tool.

Also a solid defender who takes a lot of pride in his ability to play the field, McGonigle attributes a lot of the success to his ability to believe in himself and rest assured that he belongs on the same field as the other elite players in his class – and even those a year or two older. He considers himself a particularly good two-strike hitter, a very important attribute for top prospect to possess.

“A lot of work off the field helps me with the confidence level,” McGonigle told PG during a recent telephone conversation. “But I don’t like thinking anyone else is better than me; I always like to think I’m the top guy and no one will beat me with any of their stuff. I love competing against the top (guys) in the nation so it’s definitely a great time doing that.”

His ability to hit on a consistent basis comes from a combination of his inherent skills, McGonigle said, and he really believes it starts with fouling off all those two-strike pitches until he gets what he called “my pitch.” The key is forcing the pitcher into making a mistake and when that happens, he’ll just drive that pitch into the gaps and let his legs do the rest.

And, as noted, he hits just about everywhere he goes. In 37 games in 2021 he went 46-for-96 (.479) with 22 extra-base hits (5 HRs), 29 RBI, 33 runs scored and 20 stolen bases; his OBP was .567, his OPS 1.442. One PG scouting report spoke to his “short, direct left-handed swing with plenty of quickness and bat speed” while also being able to put his power tools on display; McGonigle is a career .424 hitter in 96 games and 304 plate appearances throughout his PG career.

So, what’s the secret? How is this 17-year-old who is really just beginning to come into his own able to figure out some of the top pitchers in the country more than 40 percent of the time he takes an at-bat?

“I just want to have a clear mind,” McGonigle said of his approach at the plate. “I always think first-pitch fastball and then adjust to the off-speed; that’s always been the way I do it. But I think the big part of my at-bats is definitely two-strike hitting. A lot of guys struggle with that but I feel like I’m confident enough to get up there with two strikes and know the pitcher’s not going to beat me – I’m better than the guy out there on the mound. Just the confidence level definitely helps me out with the swing.”

An athletic 5-foot-11, 185-pound left-handed hitting middle infielder and an Auburn commit, McGonigle has been rostered at 38 PG tournaments since the fall of 2017 and earned 18 all-tournament team selections during that time, including seven times in 2021.

He’s a three-time MVP, picking up the honor at the 2020 PG 16u Mid-Atlantic Fall World Series playing with the Bronx Bombers; the 2021 16u Ultimate Baseball Championship with the Canes National 16u; and the aforementioned ’21 PG WWBA Underclass World Championship with the Canes National 17u.

McGonigle spent most of the 2019 and 2020 seasons playing with the local New Jersey-based Mid-Atlantic Show at regional PG WWBA and PG Super25 tournaments, and he thrived in those environments.

He accepted an invitation to play with the Canes National 16u for the first time at the 16u Ultimate Baseball Championship and helped lead them to the co-championship with the East Coast Sox 16u Franchise at the exclusive event.

“I was going to play with another team but I decided to play with the Canes. It was family; everybody picked each other up and it was a real cool thing to see,” McGonigle said. “It was just a real good time (and) winning the MVP was awesome. And the team played a real big role in that by winning the (co-) championship.”

But he also remains appreciative of the time he spent with the Show: “Mid-Atlantic Show was really where I (was playing) when I got recruited to go to Auburn...That organization will always have a place in my heart.”

The 2021 season was a revelation for McGonigle – evidenced perhaps by his seven A-T selections – while he split time between the M-A Show and the Canes. First of all, he was back traveling across the Southeast again, being reunited with top-tier prospects he hadn’t run into often in 2020.

“I was really excited to get back out and travel more because during that 2020 season it was more (regional) tournaments so I was really excited to get out and compete against the best in the nation,” McGonigle said. “I got on a great team like the Canes and it was a great time.”

Playing first at the Underclass World in Fort Myers and then at the World in Jupiter in consecutive weeks provided the perfect way to cap the 2021 campaign, and McGonigle didn’t disappoint at either stop.

He went 11-for-25 (.440) with three doubles, a triple, eight RBI, seven runs and five stolen bases helping the Canes National 16u to the championship and picking up MVP honors.

He was then off to join the Canes Prospects in Jupiter, an underclass team of top ‘23s and ‘24’s, including ’23s No. 28 Cole Eaton (Tennessee) and No. 38 Zach Wadas (TCU) and ‘24s No. 13 Chase Mobley and No. 26 PJ Morlando (Mississippi State).

More all-tournament recognition came at the prestigious event when he went 3-for-7 (.429) with a double and a triple, an RBI, two runs and four stolen bases while boasting a .556 OBP. The experience was eye-opening even coming off his stellar performance at the Underclass World.

“I definitely was confident but I definitely knew there was going to be a whole different level of talent there with the older kids there,” McGonigle said. “I was really excited to get after it with our team and play against some of the top 2022 teams that were there as well. I was focused on the game and I wasn’t worried about the scouts or anything. I was just trying to help my team win...

“That was my first time playing in that type of atmosphere with all the scouts there,” he added. “It definitely got my name out there a little bit more, hopefully, (and) I think I did pretty good. But there’s always room to do better and keep improving.”

Not long after the Jupiter event ended, McGonigle played in one more local tournament with his high school and then decided to take a break from both baseball and the weight room, which he avoided for only about two weeks before resuming his lifting program. He plans on picking up a baseball and getting back in the weight room again here in a matter of weeks.

“This is my first time (taking time off) and I miss it too much,” he said. “I think I have so much more to improve on. Of course I want to be a top guy in the class and I’m going to try my best to do what I can to get better and better each year. So I think this offseason is probably the biggest offseason so far.”

Kevin McGonigle has been playing baseball since he was 3 years old – he also played football until his freshman year – and while he’s never had a hitting coach, per se, he’s always bad his dad, also Kevin, by his side (he credits his mom, Tracy, for a lot of his development as a young man, too). He said he and his dad talk about hitting frequently and will often even study film together.

He’s definitely looking forward to his junior season at Bonner Prendergast Catholic mostly because the Friars return just about everyone from a team that finished near the top of the Philadelphia Catholic Conference during his sophomore year.

And then McGonigle will charge head-long into the summer of 2022, that all-important season leading into his senior year of high school. He has never attended a PG showcase event but said he is eagerly awaiting an invitation to the ’22 PG National Showcase and wouldn’t shy away from other showcase opportunities while continuing to play for the Canes National.

And McGonigle can look forward to the Auburn commitment he has in his back pocket, as well as the 2022 MLB Amateur Draft if he continues his climb up the PG prospect rankings. The Auburn opportunity is what is foremost on his mind at this time and in this place.

“I got recruited during the (2020) pandemic so there was a lot of film I sent out on (social media),” McGonigle said of his decision to join the Tigers program overseen by head coach Butch Thompson. “My first phone call with (assistant) coach (Karl) Nonemaker at Auburn was great. It was a FaceTime call and the first thing he did was he wanted to talk to my mother.

“I felt like that was a great way to start a phone call...and I ended up getting a chance to go there and visit. It was beautiful; I loved it the first time I stepped on that field.”

PG’s McAdams, writing after watching McGonigle perform at the WWBA Underclass World before both of them were in Jupiter, included the sweet-swinger in the  “Stars Being Stars” segment of the final top prospects scouting report.

He reported, almost matter-of-factly, that McGonigle “continued to show off the high level hit tool we have become accustomed to seeing from him. … (He) seemingly finds the barrel at will … (and) the overall hit and power tool continues to expand each time we get to see him.”

Yes, this is the kid who just hits and then hits some more. But there is definitely still a lot of work to do and Kevin McGonigle knows through his own experiences that hard work pays off in productive dividends. It would appear that he’s up to the task.

“I do think there’s a lot more for me to improve on at shortstop including my arm and getting to the ball quicker,” McGonigle said. “But that’s what the offseason is going to be for this year and I’m going to be working on a lot of things...I just want to go out and play the game and clear my mind off everything else. I just want to have fun because if I’m not having fun I don’t think I’d be as good as I am right now.”