For regular patrons of the Golden Arches, the McRib is the fantasy equivalent of an elite prospect. Rarely seen but highly sought after when available, the "specialty sandwich" is a conglomeration of unknown pig parts molded fantastically into a rib shape. Soaked in a high fructose corn syrup-based sauce, topped with onions and pickles and served on a six-inch Kaiser bun, the Frankensteinian treat is 500 calories of coronary-inducing ecstasy.
Hungover customers crave it. Arteries fear it. And the economy needs it.
Make the McRib available for purchase again, and the recession will end...
In fantasy, LA's James McDonald is the McRib personified.
Sure, consuming the talented hurler's fantasy value won't erase 50 percent of your daily saturated fat intake, but, like the sandwich, his availability on your league's waiver wire is a limited time offer. Take advantage.
In terms of body type, McDonald is the antithesis of Grimace (or Bartolo Colon). His slender 6-foot-5 frame has helped the youngster develop into a power pitcher. Over the past two seasons, his fastball's velocity has jumped several notches from around 90 to a blazing 93-96 mph. More impressive is his baffling 11-to-5 curve which Baseball America considers the best in the Dodgers system (His command also topped the list). He also offers a "heavy" change that generates plenty of sink.
In his brief audition with the Dodgers last season, McDonald's fearless demeanor greatly impressed Joe Torre. Specifically, his seven strikeouts and zero earned runs in 5.1 postseason innings forged a favorable reputation. This spring, his bulldog personality has captivated Torre and veteran catcher Brad Ausmus:
"He seems like a battler. When the situation gets more treacherous, his concentration goes up. That's impressive. He doesn't seem to get rattled. A lot of times emotions are the biggest enemy of young pitchers, so that's a big plus for him."
Prior to his cup of coffee with the Dodgers a season ago, the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in '07 was spectacular in stints at Jacksonville (Double-A) and Las Vegas (Triple-A). In 141 innings, the 24-year-old accumulated attention-grabbing numbers - 3.26 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 3.38 BB/9 and 9.00 K/9. Known as a fly-ball pitcher, he also posted a 46.3 FB%. Chavez Ravine will squash many of those skyward shots, but unkind surroundings could prove problematic. In other words, don't be surprised if his home/away splits are Chris Young-like.
Originally slated to open the season in the Dodgers bullpen or the minors, the L.B.C. product's spring efforts has him on the inside track to break camp as the fifth starter. Unless Jason Schmidt suddenly returns to form or McDonald struggles, he will likely net at least 140 innings this season. Consider him a more than acceptable stream option when scheduled to toe the rubber at home. In NL-only and deeper mixed leagues, he shouldn't be available. However, as with any inexperienced arm, rocky periods are forecasted.
Other pitching prodigies, David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Rick Porcello, Trevor Cahill, Tommy Hanson and Brett Anderson have undoubtedly overshadowed McDonald in March, but given his high-K potential, potent offensive support, LA's excellent infield defense and beneficial pitching environment, the six-percent owned hurler could rank near the top of the pack in fantasy relevance. Comparison: think Johnny Cueto pitching half his games on Jupiter.
For those of you, like the Noise, with a vested interest in McDonald, here's to hoping his end-season numbers are McRib delicious.
Fearless Forecast: 148 IP, 9 W, 4.32 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 129 K
Image courtesy of Getty