All-star games have become an enjoyable habit for Ryan McBroom. The next goal for the Courtland High School graduate is an honor that has yet to come: a call to the major leagues.
For the fifth time in his six professional seasons, McBroom has been chosen to a midseason minor-league all-star team. He’ll represent the International League in Wednesday night’s Triple-A All-Star Game in El Paso, Texas after a routinely productive first half for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Pa.), the New York Yankees’ top farm team.
But that hasn’t seemed to get him any closer to the majors. Despite his strong numbers (17 home runs and a .310 average) and a plague of injuries to the big club (13 Yankees have spent time on the injured list in 2019), he’s had to continue to ply his craft and be patient.
“I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating,” McBroom said in a phone interview over the weekend, before heading to Texas. “I know there will be a right time for me to make that move. It just hasn’t happened yet. I think I will be in the right place at the right time.”
It’s looking more and more as if that opportunity may never come with the Yankees, his favorite team as a youngster. McBroom’s preferred position is first base, but when New York lost starter Greg Bird to a plantar fascia tear on April 13 and Luke Voit to a left abdominal strain on June 29, they looked elsewhere.
Veteran Edwin Encarnacion has played first recently (going 0 for 13 in his last three games), and the Yankees twice promoted McBroom’s teammate, Mike Ford, as a fill-in before returning him to Scranton last week. Voit could be activated after the Major League All-Star break.
Although he has spent part of spring training in each of the last two years with the big club, McBroom, 27, is not a member of the Yankees’ 40-man roster. He’s also not considered one of their top 30 organizational prospects by mlb.com. All of that suggests that his future may lie elsewhere.
For the first time, he’ll be eligible for December’s Rule 5 draft, in which another team can buy his contract for $100,000. That new team would be required to keep him on its 2020 major league roster or offer him back to the Yankees for $50,000.
Before then, the July 31 trade deadline is fast approaching. If the Yankees hope to upgrade their injury-plagued pitching rotation by acquiring Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer, San Francisco’s Madison Bumgardner or Toronto’s Marcus Stroman, McBroom could be included in a package offer.
If not, he’ll be a free agent after the 2020 season, when he may have more of a say in his future.
“With the trade deadline coming on July 31 and the Rule 5, I’ve got plenty of options,” he said. “Right now, I’m really trying not to look at that, because the season is such a grind, and it can become a distraction if your mind strays like that.”
McBroom admits that he occasionally checks into the rumors, but has learned not to dwell on them. “Thousands of things are said, and not many of them come true,” he said.
He’s convinced that the best way to force his way onto a big-league roster is to continue to produce.
Since being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014, he’s produced double figures in home runs each year, and he’s closing in on his career high of 22, set with Class-A Dunedin (Fla.) in 2016. (He was traded to the Yankees oganization in 2017.) His career-best .945 on base-plus-slugging percentage ranks 10th in the International League, and he’s gone more than two straight games without a hit just twice all season.
“It’s all come with experience: five years of professional baseball and winter ball, pretty much playing year-round,” he said. “It’s been a great experience. This is my second year in the league, so I know exactly what to do. I honestly think it’s more mental and confidence. I trust the work I’ve put in. It’s doing the same thing mechanically every time and believing in myself. ... Instead of going 0 for 40, I’ve cut it down to 0 for 15.”
It’s a step up from 2018, when McBroom pinballed his way between Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Double-A Trenton (N.J.), getting promoted and demoted three times each, largely because of roster needs. Still, he was named a Yankees organization all-star by milb.com after batting a combined .302 with 60 RBIs between the two levels.
“Last year was my toughest year in baseball,” he said. “You’re doing well, and then you get demoted. You have to realize that it’s just a numbers game. I didn’t take it personally; I just had to go out and play well and take pride in the numbers that I put up.”
He’s much more optimistic about this season, calling it “a really fun season.” At 52–37, the RailRiders enter the all-star break with a 5½-game lead in the IL’s North Division, and McBroom is an all-star again.
Someday, he hopes to be a major leaguer. If he achieves that goal, the wait will have been worth it.
“I was always a little bit of a late bloomer, even in high school and college,” he said. “It always took me a few extra years. I wasn’t really gifted like some guys, so I’ve always had to work for it.”