This has probably happened before, but it's the 1st time I've seen it. James Zeil McDonald was drafted in the 11th round of the 2002 draft. He didn't sign on until May of 2003, so his professional career did not start until the summer of 2003. He started in the rookie league for the GCL Dodgers and pitched reasonably well. In 48 innings, he gave up 39 hits and struck out 47 while walking just 15. His Dom was 8.69 with a whip of 1.11, and gave up 3 home runs. Now, normally when a pitcher does that well in the rookie league at the age of 18, he's left to be a pitcher, but the Dodgers moved him to the outfield.
I have no idea what precipitated the move, but it may have cost the Dodgers dearly. McDonald then spent the 2004 season and most of the 2005 season trying to be an outfielder. It was a waste of time as he posted terrible numbers. By the end of 2005, he was moved back to the mound and pitched in four games for Low A Ogden. Back to being a full time pitcher in 2006, McDonald pitched at Columbus, and did well enough to spark some interest as he posted strong K/IP and H/IP ratios.
Still his 2006 season did not show the skills that would explode in 2007. John Sickels gave him C rating and called his season "interesting". Sickels rated 35 Dodgers this season in his book and it would be fair to say that McDonald outperformed all of them except Kershaw. Baseball America did not even rank McDonald among our top 30 prospects. They did rank him as our 8th best RHP prospect, behind such stalwarts as Morris, Orenduff, Johnson, Wall, Hull, Guerra, and Castillo. Safe to say, Baseball America completely missed the boat on this one. You could give BA a pass, except for the fact a Canadian prospect hound called CanuckDodger placed McDonald as our 15th best prospect. Even that was low, but at least he was on Canuck's radar, as opposed to the people who do this for a living.
As the 2007 minor league heads into it's final month, James McDonald is squarely on the map. Baseball Prospectus has called him our biggest surprise. He dominated High A and led the league in strikeouts before he was promoted to Jacksonville (AA). Since his promotion, he has been the best pitcher in the Southern league. In five games, he won four, pitched 27 innings, given up 22 hits, walked 9, struck out 36, and posted a 1.30 ERA.
It is fair to say that James McDonald is now the number one RHP prospect on the Dodgers. Would anyone be surprised if he was brought up in Sept to help out the beleaguered staff? One is just left to wonder where he would be if they hadn't wasted time in 2004/2005 trying to make him an outfielder.