McGehee Headed to Mexico

Third base prospect Casey McGehee will look to build on an All-Star season at Double-A by joining the Mazatlan Venados, winners of the 2005 Caribbean Series, in Winter League action this year. Inside The Ivy caught up with McGehee and got his thoughts on the upcoming venture down to Mexico.

McGehee is scheduled to leave for Winter League action Tuesday, Oct. 4 and will begin play a week later on Oct. 11. McGehee is coming off the best year of his semi-brief minor league career. He was drafted in the 10th round of 2003 from Fresno State and hit .297 at Double-A this past season, leading the Jaxx with 72 RBIs in an All-Star campaign.

This will be McGehee's first trip south of the border. Playing winter ball was something the soon to be 23-year-old lifelong California native wanted to do all along this year, and he says the Cubs were generous in helping him find a spot on a Winter League roster this season.

McGehee also recognizes the Winter Leagues aren't solely about development. Far from it, in fact.

"It's a different situation than ‘Instructs' and other leagues," McGehee said. "It's a big thing there. They don't have Major League Baseball, so this is their big thing. Each team will have a couple of major leaguers coming back to play, plus some local guys that are well known. From their point of view, it's not so much about development as it is winning. You have to keep in mind that you're not there just to work on development; you're there to help them win."

At the same time, there are of course certain areas that McGehee has committed to working on. One in particular is defense, where at third this season he committed 13 errors in 279 chances for a .953 fielding percentage.

At the plate, McGehee plans to focus more on staying back and connecting with off-speed pitches.

"From what I understand, they throw a lot of off-speed pitches there," McGehee said. "I'd like to work more on getting on top of the ball and driving it more."

With regards to his defense, McGehee said, "I feel like I had spurts where I was really pleased this year. I also went a few weeks where I wasn't satisfied as far as making a play, like not getting a good jump on it or not taking the best route. Defense is something I take a lot of pride in, because it used to be a weakness of mine.

"As a hitter, you'll go through streaks where you have a hard time, but I feel defensively it's a thing you can control for the most part. Sometimes you'll get a bad hop, but in the right position it's something you're in control of. If you save a run from scoring, it's as good as driving one in."

Each season, the Winter Leagues run from October through early February. For some, like McGehee, it's an ample opportunity to get additional playing time and focus on improving his game in front of jam-packed crowds and hostile environments. For others, typically those more advanced in age, it's a chance to feel young again, and perhaps cling to what was once a promising career. There are also current major leaguers who participate simply for the love of the leagues.

"It'll be neat in a couple of perspectives," McGehee said. "The different cultures and getting a taste of what other guys go through will be nice. The team I'll be with is first class all the way. They're taking care of me pretty well and making sure I have a nice place to stay. Hopefully I'll go down there to help our team win and get them into the Caribbean World Series again."

(EDITORS NOTE: McGehee will be sending updates from the Winter Leagues to Inside The Ivy readers over the next several months. Check in regularly to see what Casey has to say from Mexico.)

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