Yankees Land Potential Bargain in Outfielder Billy McKinney
While Gleyber Torres may be the big name in the Yankees return for Aroldis Chapman, outfielder Billy McKinney could be the real steal of the trade.
As a corner outfielder with little power or speed, it seems strange on the surface that Billy McKinney is considered a top prospect. Looking at his numbers this year certainly doesn’t solve the mystery.
The 21-year-old McKinney, who was recently acquired by the Yankees along with Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, and Rashad Crawford in the Aroldis Chapman trade, is hitting just .252/.355/.322 (101 wRC+) with a solitary homer in 349 Double-A plate appearances on the year.
However, it seems likely that his sub-par production this season is the result of lingering effects of missing the last two months of 2015 with a hairline fracture in his knee after fouling a ball off of his leg.
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Prior to the injury, McKinney had been raking. He hit .300/.371/.454 (135 wRC+) in 433 plate appearances split between the Cubs’ High-A and Double-A affiliates. Keith Law of ESPN saw enough of McKinney last year to rank him 69th in his preseason Top 100 Prospects list (subscription required).
In his write-up, KLaw notes that while McKinney’s tools are limited, “if nothing else, the kid can hit.” He goes on to say:
"McKinney has a beautiful, fluid, left-handed swing, very easy to repeat, geared toward line-drive contact but without a ton of leverage in it, so he projects as a high-OBP, high-doubles guy, but his ultimate power ceiling might be south of 20 homers as a result."
That’s probably not a star player, but assuming he can bounce-back from this knee injury, there’s a solid chance McKinney can be a solid regular in the majors relatively soon.
Following the Chapman trade, MLB Pipeline slotted McKinney in as the fifth best prospect in the Yankees organization. That may be partly due to James Kaprielian missing most of the 2016 campaign and Wilkerman Garcia‘s struggles with the Pulaski Yankees, but it speaks highly of his promise nonetheless.
MLB Pipeline gives a 2017 ETA for McKinney. With Carlos Beltran most likely departing as a free agent after the season and Brett Gardner‘s name continually in the trade rumor mill, there should be one or two vacant spots up for grabs in the Yankees outfield next season.
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If McKinney can put together a strong performance down the stretch with Double-A Trenton, or earn a look with Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, he might be in a good position to take advantage of those openings.