Brendan McKay, 1B/LHP, Tampa Bay Rays (short-season Hudson Valley) In the leadup to the 2017 draft, McKay was on the short list of players receiving consideration to be selected first overall by the Twins. The Rays ultimately snagged him at pick four and are giving him the opportunity to both hit and pitch for the foreseeable future. Early results suggest he is presently more advanced on the mound. Through his first two professional starts (five innings), the left-hander has yet to allow a run and has compiled seven strikeouts. The athletic 21-year-old’s most impressive offering is his potentially plus curveball. It displays 11-5 action and should generate swings and misses at the major-league level. His fastball initially sits 90-94 before dropping to the upper 80s by the end of an outing. Despite the lack of elite velocity, the pitch flashes plus due to its movement and his ability to command it on both sides of the plate. His final pitch is a sparingly used and inconsistent changeup. McKay’s floor is a middle reliever, and he should become a mid-rotation starter once he learns how to sustain velocity deeper into games and gains confidence in his changeup.
As a hitter, McKay’s hit and power tools possess plus and average ceilings, respectively (think Eric Hosmer). At Louisville, his smooth, line-drive swing in addition to great hand-eye coordination and above-average bat speed enabled him to make hard contact to any part of the field. He is also a decent first baseman with solid range and a plus arm. However, through his first 82 plate appearances with Hudson Valley, he has hit for power (four homers) but is batting only .214 with 22 strikeouts. The primary issue has been surprisingly poor pitch recognition. For example, during his fourth at-bat in my viewing, he took a first-pitch fastball for strike one, fouled off a second pitch fastball with a check swing, and watched a third pitch changeup float over the plate for the third strike (1:54 to 2:50 in the video). Yes, the sample size is small. Nonetheless, attempting to both pitch and hit at the professional level is rare for a reason and a longer developmental process than usual for a fairly polished college prospect should consequently be expected. The highly intriguing best-case scenario for McKay is a career as a mid-rotation starter and above-average first base regular. —Erich Rothmann
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