Let’s Check in on Rays Two-Way Prospect Brendan McKay

Lost in the Shohei Ohtani madness in this young baseball season is a prospect who plays the same way. In any other season, this would be a daily story, but Tampa Bay Rays prospect Brendan McKay, known as the American Ohtani to many, has flown under the radar in his first full professional season.

McKay, a two-way player himself, hopes that Ohtani can pave a path for him to play first base and pitcher in the big leagues. So far, the Rays are grooming him to become exactly that. McKay. who throws and bats left-handed, is ranked as the 25th-best prospect in baseball by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, the third-best in the relatively deep Rays system, and the top first-base prospect in baseball.

In June 2017, the Rays drafted McKay fourth overall out of Louisville, where he famously Ohtani’d (that’s now a verb, by the way) with a .341 batting average, 18 home runs, 15 doubles, 57 RBIs, and a .457 on-base percentage in 63 starts as a hitter in 2017, in addition to an 11-3 record, 2.56 ERA, and school record 146 strikeouts on the mound during his final season with the Cardinals.

McKay has appeared as a pitcher, first baseman, and designated hitter in 2018 with the Rays’ High-A affiliate, the Bowling Green Hot Rods of the Midwest League. On the hill, the 22-year-old has pitched 14 total innings in four starts, going 1-0 with an ERA of 1.93. Striking out 24 of 49 batters he has faced thus far with just a single walk, McKay boasts a WHIP of 0.571.

If you're fascinated by Shohei Ohtani, you might want to keep an eye on @RaysBaseball two-way prospect @Brendan_mckay38.Click To Tweet

McKay is pitching every sixth day, throwing bullpen sessions, and playing first base whenever the ball isn’t in his hands. The Tampa brass apparently believe this is the right approach and have shown immense confidence in McKay’s ability to properly develop, handing him a record draft signing bonus of $7,007,500. It’s working.

As a hitter, McKay is batting .268 with 10 RBIs, 16 walks, and only seven strikeouts in 14 games appearing as a batter. He’s still searching for his first home run of the 2018 season, but with only 57 plate appearances under his belt, time is on his side. His .474 on-base percentage is a promising thing and points to his great discipline.

As far as media around McKay and the Rays know, the schedule for McKay could be for him to make his name known as a full-time MLB roster player in 2020. He projects to be a yearly .290 hitter with 20-25 home runs and a bounty of walks over a full MLB season, mostly at first base but potentially full-time at DH while pitching every fifth or sixth day.

As a pitcher, McKay has a consistent plus curveball and mature command with a fastball that tops out in the mid-90s. He could be a 12-15 win pitcher in the middle of an MLB rotation if he continues to pitch and hit at the higher levels of the sport. That, of course, is up to the Rays, but McKay is certainly up to the challenge.

Think of Jon Lester on the rubber and Adrian Gonzalez at the plate, then roll it up into one fine player, and you have Brendan McKay.

Scouting grades as a hitter (20-80 scale): Hit: 60, Power: 50, Run: 30, Arm: 60, Fielding: 50, Overall: 55.
Scouting grades as a pitcher (20-80 scale): Fastball: 55, Curveball: 60, Changeup: 50, Command: 55, Overall: 55.

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