BOTHELL — Kyler McMahan’s talent as an elite, five-tool baseball player has never been in question.
But after strong performances at showcase tournaments last summer and fall, the Lynnwood senior shortstop’s stock rose higher than ever before.
McMahan, an Oregon State University signee, was named last November to Baseball America’s list of top 100 high-school prospects for this June’s Major League Baseball draft. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Royals standout checked in at No. 100 in the rankings.
“I was so happy and thrilled, and actually pretty surprised,” McMahan said. “I think one of my friends found out and showed me.”
McMahan’s spot among the nation’s top prospects, however, is no coincidence.
McMahan excelled at a high level throughout his youth career, winning a pair of national World Series tournaments with Woodinville-based Rijo Athletics before playing for the renowned Taylor Baseball Club the past few years. By age 15, he already was facing 18-year-old competition.
“Seeing live pitching at that speed helped me (later on) because I was just so used to it,” McMahan said. “So now, seeing hard pitching is just second-nature.”
McMahan, who has started for Lynnwood since entering the program as a freshman, has compiled a stellar career with the Royals.
He got off to a scorching start, batting a combined .406 in his freshman and sophomore seasons. Even after seeing his average drop last year, McMahan boasts an impressive three-season career stat line that includes a .371 batting average, a .576 slugging percentage, 23 doubles, seven triples, two home runs and 27 stolen bases.
“Kyler is obviously a very talented baseball player,” said Lynnwood coach Fraser Dizard, a former state Gatorade Player of the Year at Meadowdale who went on to play baseball for both the University of Southern California and the Chicago White Sox organization. “He’s a guy that would be called a five-tool player. He’s got good arm strength, he’s a good fielder, hits for average, hits for power and is fast.
“He has all the tools to be a great baseball player. I think that’s why he’s gotten a lot of press, that’s why he’s going to Oregon State and that’s why there are scouts looking at him.”
Dizard said if he had to pick one aspect of McMahan’s well-rounded game, it’s his fielding that stands out the most.
“He’s made some plays at shortstop where me and other coaches just kind of look at each other like, ‘Wow, that’s a big-league play. That’s something you might see on TV some day,’” Dizard said.
McMahan’s fielding prowess is a mix of extensive range, polished footwork and a rocket arm that’s been clocked at 90 miles per hour off the mound. McMahan is giving up pitching this season to concentrate on shortstop, but his arm strength is still no doubt a major asset in the field.
“He’s got a great arm,” Dizard said. “When he’s at shortstop, he can field the ball deep in the hole and still make a strong throw to get a guy out.”
McMahan has been training this offseason with Brent Lillibridge and Mitch Canham, a pair of former local standouts who went on to experience considerable success after high school.
Lillibridge, a Jackson alum, starred at the University of Washington before playing parts of six seasons in the major leagues. Canham, a Lake Stevens alum who later played in the minor leagues, was an All-American catcher at Oregon State, where he helped the Beavers to back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007. Canham is now a manager in the Seattle Mariners’ minor-league system.
“They played (professionally) and were very successful, so why not learn from the best?” McMahan said, later adding, “I’ve been hitting two times a week, and personal training and lifting three times a week. It’s been very hectic, but that’s what you have to do if you want a successful future.”
McMahan committed to perennial power Oregon State as a sophomore and signed with the program last November. But if he’s selected in June’s MLB draft, McMahan could be faced with a difficult decision between playing three seasons of college baseball or heading straight to the minor leagues to begin playing professionally.
“I’ve had coaches talk to me, and it’s a decision that I (may) have to make,” McMahan said. “I have to think of a (dollar) number and hope that what they think I’m worth and what I think I’m worth will match up.
“And if it does, then hopefully you’ll see me in the pros one day. But for right now, I’m blessed to go either way.”
Whichever path McMahan takes after high school, Dizard is confident his senior standout will be successful.
“I expect him to do well,” Dizard said. “I’m not sure if he’ll go professional or go to college. But for him, it’s just a matter of progressing and getting better — making sure that he’s doing something to get better, because it becomes very competitive. There’s kids from all over the world competing.
“But I expect him to be a top-level Division I player, or to go play in the professional leagues and be successful there.”
First, however, McMahan is focused on helping the Royals build on their back-to-back trips to the Class 3A state quarterfinals.
“I just want to win,” McMahan said. “I want to win as many games as I can and do whatever I can to help the team.”