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Top 75 Prospect Profiles #20: Billy McKinney


The 2013 MLB draft class is highlighted with names like Kris Bryant, Jon Gray, Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier.

However, one name that not too many baseball fans know is Billy McKinney.

McKinney was a centerfielder out of Plano West Senior High School in Plano Texas who was taken by the Oakland Athletics with the 24-overall pick.

As McKinney has journeyed through the minors, one thing has always been clear. He can swing the bat.

“There are few, if any, high school bats better than McKinney’s.” MLB.com draft player info said. “With a balanced approach and a smooth swing from the left side, he projects to be a plus hitter with above-average power.”

While McKinney has not found that home run stroke yet, hitting only 41 in his career, he has indeed shown the ability to hit, a skill that will always have a place in the MLB.

2013

McKinney made in professional debut on June 20, 2013, in Arizona Rookie Ball as he collected three hits in six plate appearances.

In 46 rookie ball games, McKinney tore it up slashing .353/.405/.559 in 46 games. He also showed off his plate discipline drawing 17 walks for an OBP of .383.

The Athletics were very impressed with McKinney’s performance and decided to reward him with a promotion to short season A ball.

McKinney played nine games in the New York-Penn League with the Vermont Lake Monsters.

In his short time with the Lake Monsters, McKinney picked up 12 hits in 34 at-bats while launching a homer and knocking in six runs.

2014

Entering his second season as a pro, McKinney started the season in the California League with the Stockton Ports.

The Athletics liked what the saw from the young outfielder in 2013 and Spring Training of 2014 which is why they felt comfortable promoting him to high A even though he was only 19 at the time.

McKinney hit his first road bump in his professional career as he struggled out of the gate hitting .241/.330/.400 in 75 games.

In early July, McKinney’s career took a turn as he was traded from the Athletics to the Chicago Cubs along with infielder Addison Russell and pitcher Dan Straily for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

The Cubs decided to keep McKinney in high A placing him with Dayton Cubs in the Florida State League.

Despite playing only 51 games in the Florida State League McKinney fared much better there than in the California League as he slashed .301/.390/.432.

McKinney had an excellent season as he laced 24 doubles, 11 home runs and drove in 69 RBIs between the two teams.

2015

After a tale of two halves in 2014 McKinney began 2015 in high A with the Carolina League’s Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

McKinney only played 29 games with the Pelicans, but he dominated while there driving in 25 runs on 35 hits, all while slashing .340/.432/.544.

Those numbers caught the eye of the Cubs who promoted McKinney to double-A and on May 14, the outfielder made his debut for the Tennessee Smokies in the Southern League.

While McKinney continued his success at double-A, it wasn’t to the level that he found at single A as he hit .285/.346/.420 with the Smokies.

The outfielder also 39 RBIs and 27 walks in the Southern League showing the Cubs that he was able to make the transition almost seamlessly.

Around the middle of August, McKinney fouled a ball off of his right knee and did not play another game after August 13.

2016

It seemed that the issue was somewhat serious as even though McKinney had a prosperous 2015, the Cubs choose to keep him at the double-A level.

Even though McKinney started the season on time with Smokies, he did not seem like himself from the get-go.

In the 88 games that he spent with Tennessee McKinney struggled to find his stroke hitting .234/.310/.375. This is over 40 points below his professional career average.

On July 25 of 2016, McKinney was traded to the Yankees in the second blockbuster trade of his career. McKinney was sent to the New York along with pitcher Adam Warren, infielder Gleyber Torres, and fellow outfielder Rashad Crawford. All in exchange for Aroldis Chapman.

However, the change of scenery did not do much for McKinney. The Yankees kept him at the double-A level, but he continued to struggle with the Trenton Thunder as played the last 35 games of his season with them.

He finished the year with .246/.342/.338 between the two teams with a total of 44 RBIs and four home runs.

2017

Entering the fourth full year of his professional career, McKinney it was a crucial time. As if he was not added the Yankees 40-man roster by the end of the year, he would be eligible for the rule five draft and possibly change teams yet again.

McKinney started the year with the Thunder again and struggled to return to his pre-injury form. Through 69 games with the team, McKinney hit .250/.339/.431.

Despite the fact that his average is down, McKinney displayed a knack for making his hits count as 45 percent of them went for extra bases.

Even though his average was still low, the Yankees decided that it was time to see if McKinney could handle the next level and promoted him to triple-A.

McKinney responded to the promotion by stepping up his game by slashing .306/.336/.541 with Scranton/Wilks-Barre RailRiders over 55 games.

The outfielder knocked in 35 runs, and 41 percent of his hits were for extra bases.

After finally seeing a turn around in his numbers at the triple-A level, the Yankees wanted to see a little more from McKinney before deciding whether to place him on the 40-man roster. So, they sent him to the Arizona Fall League to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

In Arizona McKinney continued to rake for the Scorpions picking up 19 hits (32 percent of them for extra bases) in 68 at bats.

McKinney had an OBP of .373, a slugging percentage of .426 and knocked in 20 runs throughout the fall league. He did this all while relearning first base, a position he has not played since his high school days.

In December, he was named to the Yankees’ 40-man roster.

Scouting Report

As mentioned above McKinney always has been good with the bat. Since high school, he has boasted a quick left-handed swing and shown good hand-eye coordination.

This has resulted in career numbers such as .277/.355/.423 along with 267 RBIs throughout his minor league career and a 50 hitting grade.

The question with McKinney has always been whether he can elevate himself beyond the status of a fourth outfielder as many of his raw skills are good, he doesn’t boast any stand out characteristics.

This could change now that he can play first base as he now can play four positions on the field which gives the Yankees options if they decide to play him.

Before he can reach the majors, McKinney must prove that he recent struggles with the bat were in large part due to a nagging knee injury which is now a thing of the past.

2018 Outlook

After finishing the year strong with Scranton/Wilks-Barre and the Arizona Fall League, it would not be a surprise if McKinney received an invite to big league spring training. Especially since he is now on the 40-man roster.

Don’t expect McKinney to crack the opening day roster as the Yankees have some talented big league outfielders (and first basemen) in front of him on the depth chart.

McKinney will likely start the season at the triple-A level, but a continuation of his performance toward the end of 2017 could result in a September call-up, possibly even a mid-season call up.

 


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