Brendan McKay – the most-heralded two-way prospect in the game – took the mound for the Rays today in his big league debut. He didn’t disappoint.
As the All-Star break nears and trade rumblings gaining traction, the Rays are taking the opportunity to evaluate the weapons already in-house. Today unleashed a significant one as highly-touted prospect Brendan McKay took to the hill to start Saturday’s ballgame – his major league debut.
Or at least half of it.
McKay, the 4th overall pick of the 2017 MLB draft, is regarded as the closest comp for two-way virtuoso Shohei Ohtani, who blew up the league last year by becoming the first regular two-way player since Babe Ruth (all due respect to Brooks Kieschnick).
Brendan McKay emphatically checked one of his prospect boxes this afternoon, debuting with a win against the Rangers at Tropicana Field. As efficient as he was crafty, McKay used only 81 pitches to make it through 6 spotless innings. His final line: 6 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk.
The rotation spot isn’t his for the keeping, but the Rays let him use it today and boy did he make the most of it. He’s likely to get a second start before the All-Star break, during which the Tampa brass can reevaluate and decide whether to make McKay a regular attraction at the Trop.
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In the meantime, expect the second portion of McKay’s debut soon. The Rays plan on giving McKay an at-bat here or there, though he’ll not be much good to him in the field for a bit. He could get a start at designated hitter before the All-Star break, but this time is really about his pitching.
If McKay does claim a rotation spot, it would help ease the pain of losing Tyler Glasnow– both in terms of production and entertainment. Glasnow, as a towering flamethrower, was no doubt one of the Rays most popular players, the type of primetime player rarely seen around Tampa.
Having Glasnow, McKay, and Charlie Morton ready come playoff time will be the ultimate goal for the Rays, however, as that’s a playoff rotation that could challenge the big bats in Houston, New York, and Minnesota.
Still, if the Rays are anything, they’re judicious, and they’re not likely to push McKay. Tempering expectations is a safe bet, as the organization probably has some idea of how many innings they’d like McKay to throw this season, and that number probably isn’t as high as fans would like. He now has roughly 72+ innings under his belt for the year, so there should still be some room to put his arm to use for the stretch run.
And yet a return to Triple-A after the All-Star break could ver well be in the cards – which would be unfortunate. There’s really nothing left for him to prove as a hurler in the minor leagues. Between Double-A and Triple-A this season, Brendan McKay has been ruthless: 6-0, 1.35 ERA across 66 2/3 innings with 11.9 K/9 versus 2.0 BB/9.
His K-rate did fall from 13.4 K/9 to 9.4 K/9 (from great to good, yes) when he made the jump to Durham, but both stints were ultimately small samples. Besides, his hits per nine also fell in that time, so it’s not like he became suddenly ineffective.
He’s ready. He owns a 1.85 ERA across his three minor league season with 6.24 K:BB. These aren’t wait-and-see numbers – this is bring-me-to-the-show-you-fools dominance.
He’s not quite as advanced as a hitter, and it’ll be cute to see him snag an at-bat or two. One day, he very well make devastate his pitching brethren at the dish as well, but if anything, McKay’s hitting is overshadowing the fact that he’s one of the most promising pitching prospects in the game. Not for long.
The focus on McKay’s two-way playerness will continue to be a factor as he enters the national spotlight, but the offensive part of his game may need more development time before he’s ready to debut as a full-time hitter.
Brendan McKay’s two-way playerness is not in question, it’s just brand new. There’s no need to take it out of the box and ruin it. As a pitcher, however, he has arrived. Let us play with that for awhile.