As a late addition to New York Yankees spring training, outfield prospect Billy McKinney has upside that should hold your attention.
Shortly after utilityman Tyler Austin went down with a broken foot, however, the first-round draft pick of the Oakland Athletics in 2013 out of Plano West High School was presented with a showcase at George M. Steinbrenner Field with the big league club.
— Max Wildstein (@MaxWildstein) February 26, 2017
McKinney was once labeled as the No. 3 prospect in the A’s organization, but was traded to the Chicago Cubs on July 5, 2014, along with Addison Russell, Dan Straily and cash. Oakland received Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija in return.
During his first season as a Cub, the lefty-swinging outfielder started off with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High-A) and went 35-for-103 (.340) in 29 games before earning a promotion to Double-A, where he hit .285 and drove in 39 runs in 77 games.
Entering 2016, he was rated as BaseballProspectus.com‘s 74th best prospect in the game and would return to Double-A. He hit .252 leading up to the blockbuster trade that saw he, Rashad Crawford, Gleyber Torres and Adam Warren come to New York for the flamethrowing closer, Aroldis Chapman.
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McKinney slashed just .234/.310/.375 in 35 games in Trenton last season, but over his final 14 games, he went 14-for-53 (.283) with a home run and a .819 OPS. He was tabbed as the No. 5 outfield prospect in the organization last season and 16 overall by
Mason Williams has been shut down through at least the first weekend in March due to an inflamed left patella and Austin, who could have been an option as a corner outfielder, is no longer in the picture until June.
Behind Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks the only healthy 40-man roster players who saw time in the outfield in 2016 are Holliday (644 innings), Rob Refsnyder (158.2 innings) and utility infielder Ronald Torreyes (four innings).
With the questions encircling Judge (whether or not he adjusts to major league pitching) and the unavoidable injuries that may occur down the stretch, that ETA of 2017 for McKinney may be accomplished.
Don’t get ahead of yourself after one home run, though. Even before the liner, this spring invite served as an excellent chance for McKinney to make his presence felt by his major league coaches.
He will presumably open the regular season up back in Trenton, but a promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and maybe a spot on the 40-man roster could be in store for a kid that was once regarded by scouts as one of the better bats in the draft — if he can translate that upside to results in camp.