Drafted in the 15th round by the Houston Astros, former Iowa baseball standout pitcher Cole McDonald put up great numbers in his first season.
As the unquestioned leader of the Iowa baseball pitching staff in 2019, Cole McDonald put together a quality season in which he tossed 89.0 innings in 15 starts. He struck out 23 percent of the batters he faced but he also walked 8 percent of them. McDonald put up a dominating performance over the number one seed Indiana Hoosiers in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. The New Hampton, Iowa native tossed 8.0 innings and allowed just 1 earned run while striking out 9 batters.
He put together quite the resume that attracted Major League scouts, including the Houston Astros who selected McDonald with their 15th round pick. Shortly after being drafted, he was assigned to Houston’s Rookie League where he made just one start to get his feet wet with professional baseball.
In that start, McDonald tossed 2.0 innings and struck out 2 batters with zeroes across the board. That was apparently all the Astros scouting department needed to see from him as he was promoted to Class-A Short-Season Tri-City Valley to finish out the year. He finished with a record of 1-0 in 3 starts (9 appearances) and tossed 24.1 innings while striking out 27 batters and limiting opponents to a 0.198 batting average.
McDonald struggled with his command a bit as he allowed 15 free passes and 3 home runs but the damage could have been far worse if we’re being honest. He actually performed much better as a reliever, limiting opponents to an absurd 0.169 batting average and striking out 20 batters in 17.0 innings of work. Perhaps his best performance came in long relief on August 5 when he tossed 3.0 innings and struck out 5 batters on 52 pitches.
It will be interesting to see how the Astros plan to use him going forward. Some guys just aren’t meant to be starting pitchers even after that’s all they did prior to being drafted. It happens and often it works out in the player’s favor. McDonald could be headed on a similar path and would actually allow him to reach the big leagues the quickest.
We’ll keep tabs on McDonald as he progresses but one could make a strong argument that he will begin next season at Class-A Quad Cities, which would allow for the hometown Hawkeye fans to have a chance to see him pitch.