Billy McKinney showed flashes in 2017 of what made him a first-round pick by the Athletics in 2013. He’s the kind of player who might not do one thing great, but does a bunch of things really well. Plus, he’s a pull hitter who profiles perfectly for Yankee Stadium’s short porch.
Position: OF and maybe some 1B
Weight: 205 pounds
Acquired: Drafted by the Athletics with the 24th overall pick in 2013 out of Plano West High Schoo in Plano, Texas. The A’s traded McKinney, Addison Russell, Dan Straily and cash to the Chicago Cubs for Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija on July 5, 2014. The Cubs then flipped McKinney, Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren and Rashad Crawford to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman on July 25, 2016.
Played first 69 games of the season in Trenton and put up a .770 OPS. But he really stepped it up once he moved to Triple-A. McKinney had an .877 OPS in 55 games with the RailRiders. He batted .306 and slugged .541. Overall, he had 29 doubles, 16 home runs and seven triples. McKinney wrapped up the year with 19 games in the Arionza Fall League, where he batted .279 and had six extra-base hits and 20 RBIs. He also played 11 of the games at first base.
This is something a little bit different than what’s been done with this list. Below, Donnie Collins and I discuss why McKinney comes in at No. 9, what we like about him and what might need some work.
CF: No. 9 is Billy McKinney. He’s a guy who continued to impress me as the season went on last year. And man is it fun to dream on how his bat would play in Yankee Stadium.
DC: He was a big prospect with the A’s a few years ago, but a few organizations now, them and the Cubs, have traded him as part of major trades. Very easy to think it’s a matter of right organization, right guy, right time. But he did something you never see a prospect do: He hit better in PNC Field than he had anywhere else. If you can pull the ball out of that place regularly, you certainly project to do it at Yankee Stadium.
CF: He was really good last year. And I’m sure a lot of that comes from confidence, of which he had plenty. I feel like he was a very consistent hitter with the RailRiders. He’d go through some hot stretches, but he never really got too cold for stretches. Just had a really, really solid year.
DC: He hit five homers at home in Triple-A, five on the road. Average was a quite a bit higher on the road (.337 to .279) which you’d expect because PNC is so cavernous. But yeah, he seemed to be a pretty steady presence everyday, and frankly speaking, Yankees Stadium plays a lot more like the road venues in the IL than it plays like PNC Field. I think we can talk all day about McKinney’s game, at least from what we saw last year, and not come up with any kind of evidence that he’s particularly weak in any one area on the baseball field.
CF: He feels like a sum-of-the-parts kind of guy. Good runner, but not great. Good fielder, but I wouldn’t expect him to win any gold gloves. Good hitter, but chances are there’s going to be a better hitter on his team. But then you add it all up and, yeah, you realize he’s a pretty good all around guy. And, he’s a really good clubhouse guy. Side note, but do you ever wonder why, when they re-did PNC Field with such an investment from the Yankees, that they didn’t replicate the Yankee stadium dimensions?
DC: I did wonder that, and i did ask. The short answer is that, structurally, they couldn’t make it work. But if they were able to do it, you’d see a guy like McKinney hit 30-35 homers in a full season here. The dimensions, for those who aren’t aware, are supposedly exactly what they were at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. The Phillies, when they moved here, asked for that. But I spent many an afternoon with old Phillies prospects back in the day looking through those things that amateur golfers use to measure distance to the pin, and they always insisted the actual dimensions were quite a bit longer than the posted ones. So you needed to be Ryan Howard or Gary Sanchez or Aaron Judge or Shelley Duncan to hit the ball out consistently.
CF: McKinney, Bird, Judge, Sanchez, Wade, Fowler, Cave … these past few RailRiders teams are already hitting more home runs than a lot of past SWB teams. If they changed the fences, the numbers would be crazy. That being said, the park plays a lot smaller than it used to since they took the upper deck off and opened up the concourse in the renovation. But yeah, if McKinney had a short porch, his prospect status would be through the roof. Because that’s really his game, the pull side. I can’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure teams started to shift on him last year.
DC: I think you’re correct on the shifts. And that would be one area where I think McKinney could be better, using the whole field and making the defense play him honestly. That said, his game now, I think, is shooting for that porch and he has a perfect swing for it. He hits line drives that just carry. I personally thought a guy like Jake Cave started consciously trying to pull the ball over the wall late last year, and that’s not his game. It is McKinney’s game though.
CF: I’ve asked McKinney if he’s ever thought about the possibilities of what he could do in Yankee Stadium, but he’s never really followed me into that discussion. Too much of a pro to talk about stuff like that. But when you see what he does when he’s playing in Steinbrenner Field in spring, you know it’s crossed his mind.
DC: And it crossed the Yankees’ minds too, because they added him to the 40 and have kept him there. There have been chances to remove him (and a few other guys really), but you never get the sense that they will or should. He’s a guy that is one injury away from going up and doing a really good job. I can see him not being affected, like Tyler Wade was, coming off the bench. I can see him being a guy who capably plays three different positions. I can see him as a pinch hitter who can drive the ball out. There’s just a lot to like. He’s never going to hurt you. Like you said, he doesn’t do anything to a spectacular degree. He’s not Clint Frazier or Florial or Wade athletically. He’s just a consummate pro kind of guy. Great teams have guys like this.
The Top 15
15: Ben Heller
14: Jonathan Loaisiga
13: Dillon Tate
12: Domingo Acevedo
11: Thairo Estrada
10: Chance Adams
9: Billy McKinney
3: March 30
2: March 31
1: April 1
Associated Press and Times-Tribune photos