Prospect Watch: Cubs’ Billy McKinney

Supremely talented prospects are usually quite hard to find. Sometimes teams get lucky and have a few at the same time either at the Big League level, down on the farm, or perhaps even both. Other times, like in this particular case, a team like the Chicago Cubs gain multiple prospects in one seemingly average trade which ended up setting the table for years to come. The prospect in question here is Current Daytona (Cubs) A+ outfielder Billy McKinney.

McKinney, 20, was a first round draft pick (23rd overall) by the Oakland A’s in 2013. As part of a deal that shipped the Cubs Ace Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland on July 5, 2014, the Cubs in return got not only McKinney but also Addison Russell, Dan Straily and cash.

The Cubs got Jason Hammel back in the offseason and Addison Russell has already been called up to the majors after short stay in the minors to begin 2015. Billy McKinney has a bit more time to go in the minors, but have no doubt, soon enough everyone is going to see what I already see in him.

A case can be made for many players in the Cubs’ system the likes of: Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant (who is learning the outfield), Eloy Jimenez and Mark Zagunis. And even with proven Major Leaguers on the roster like Dexter Fowler, when it comes down to it, the best outfielder on any level is still McKinney.

Since 2013, he’s hitting a slash line of .291/.373/.436. In that time, McKinney has also racked up 38 doubles, 11 triples, 14 stolen bases, 18 home runs and 120 RBI in only 210 games. Yes this isn’t the usual video game-esque numbers one would like to see in a hitter in the minors, but he’s more than just a solid plate appearance.

His defensive prowess is where he’s truly exceptional. Although he has committed a few errors (as he’s sporting a .976 fielding percentage in the same three seasons) don’t judge too quickly without also taking into account his physical abilities. His field awareness is exemplary as well as his closing speed. He can cover a lot of ground as he seems to hit his full stride in only a few steps. With these two talents put together, he’s able to make plays quicker as he doesn’t wait as long as some other outfielder for a play to progress. He can make a break faster therefore track the ball easier. This also affects the baserunners because the quicker you can get to the ball and hit your cut off man, the less time they’ll have to tag up, take an extra base or attempt to score.

All in all, McKinney is a fantastic pickup that no one saw coming. If the Cubs keep him around (which they should) he should find himself on the Major League roster in the next two to three years and challenging Albert Almora for time at Center Field.

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