Nathan Richard McLouth
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 185 lb.
- High School Whitehall High School
- Debut June 29, 2005
- Born October 28, 1981 in Muskegon, MI USA
Outfielder Nate McLouth was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 25th round of the 2000 amateur draft, one round before they took Ian Snell in a productive late part of the draft. McLouth had been the Michigan high school player of the year, but dropped to the late round because of a commitment to the University of Michigan. In four seasons in high school, he stole 180 bases in 181 tries, a Michigan record for swipes. McLouth was signed by scout Duane Gustavson in August and made his pro debut the next summer.
Taken as a second baseman (he had twice been all-state in Michigan as a shortstop), he was moved to the outfield with the 2001 Hickory Crawdads and hit .285/.371/.464 with 21 steals in 26 tries. He slipped to .244/.324/.392 with 20 steals in 27 tries for the Lynchburg Hillcats that year and teamed for the first time with CF Chris Duffy; the two would be teammates for several years. In '03, Nate had a big year for Lynchburg at .300/.386/.411 with 40 steals, while only getting caught 4 times, and scoring 85 runs. He was fifth in the Carolina League in average and tied Ruddy Yan for the league lead in runs scored as Lynchburg just missed the pennant.
McLouth moved up to the Altoona Curve in 2004 and at age 22, hit .322/.384/.462 in AA with 40 doubles, 31 steals in 38 tries and 93 runs. He was fourth in the Eastern League in average and led the loop in doubles, runs and hits (166) but didn't make the All-Star team as Curtis Granderson, Val Majewski and Kevin West were the outfielders selected. In 2005, McLouth batted .297/.364/.401 for the Indianapolis Indians with 34 steals in 42 tries for the champion club before he was called up. Baseball America rated him as having the best strike-zone judgement and being the best baserunenr in the International League. When Duffy was hurt, McLouth became the regular in center and hit .257/.305/.450 in 41 games for the 2005 Pirates, a 94 OPS+ at age 23, not bad.
McLouth was slated to be Pittsburgh's 5th outfielder in 2006, behind Jason Bay, Duffy, Craig Wilson and Jeromy Burnitz, but Duffy struggled out of the gate. McLouth was used against lefties and tough pitchers to try to give Duffy a chance against lighter competition but Chris continued to struggle and Nate became the starting center fielder. He failed to capitalize on the opportunity and Jose Bautista grabbed the role from him. After Wilson was traded and Duffy was recalled, McLouth moved into the starting slot in right field as a defensive upgrade over Burnitz and a brighter hope for the future. He is at .230/.293/.371 through August 5 with nine steals in 10 tries.
McLouth began 2007 on the bench behind Duffy but began playing regularly later in the year after Duffy was hurt and Rajai Davis was traded. On September 10, he homered against Carlos Villanueva for the 1,000th homer in PNC Park history and the 21st to reach the Allegheny River on a bounce. McLouth lost playing time late in the year after Nyjer Morgan was called up.
McLouth and Morgan battled for the center field job in spring training for the 2008 Pirates with McLouth winning the role. He started the season with a bang, with a 19-game hitting streak, the longest to open the 2008 MLB season. He had hit .375/.444/.638 during the streak with 16 runs, 16 RBI and 10 doubles and was among the 2008 NL leaders in average, hits (second to Chipper Jones) and doubles (tied for the lead with David Wright) before his streak was snapped by Ricky Nolasco and a reliever. He was 1 for 4 in the 2008 All-Star Game after replacing Kosuke Fukudome in center field for the NL. He threw out Dioner Navarro at home in the 11th inning to keep the game going.
McLouth won a Gold Glove that season after having the best fielding percentage of any center fielder in the NL, second to Ryan Braun among NL outfielders. He was the first Pirate to win a Gold Glove since Jay Bell in 1993 and the 6th Pirate outfielder following Bill Virdon, Roberto Clemente, Dave Parker, Barry Bonds and Andy Van Slyke. For the year, McLouth hit .276/.356/.497 with 46 doubles, 26 homers, 23 steals in 26 tries, 113 runs and 94 RBI (despite usually hitting leadoff) for a 126 OPS+. He tied Chase Utley and Jose Reyes for 5th in the 2008 NL in runs, tied Lance Berkman for the most doubles and tied J.D. Drew for 8th in extra-base hits (76).
McLouth fell towards Earth in the first two months of the 2009 Pirates season, hitting .256/.349/.470 with 9 homers and 34 RBI in 45 games. He was then dealt to the Atlanta Braves for Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke. The trade opened up a starting spot for Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh's #1 pick four years prior.
In spite of having no hispanic roots at all, McLouth learned Spanish in high school and speaks it fluently, something he considers a great advantage given the high percentage of Hispanics in professional baseball. Having three Dominican roommates while playing Class A ball gave him a complete immersion in the language, and he then played winter ball in the Dominican Republic. He has since interpreted for teammates on a number of occasions.
Sources include 2001-2006 Baseball Almanacs
- NL All-Star (2008)
- NL Gold Glove Winner (2008)
- NL Doubles Leader (2008)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2008 & 2009)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (2008)