When outfielder Billy McKinney came to New York in the famed Aroldis Chapman deal, it was somewhat perplexing. Sure, McKinney was once a more highly touted prospect in that system, but he wasn’t no one and still had good results, and the Cubs had already given up a ton in sending Gleyber Torres. That led a reasonable observer to see that Theo Epstein and company did not see much in McKinney’s future.
You can’t say he hasn’t made a case to prove otherwise through his 2017 campaign, making the jump to Triple-A and putting up excellent numbers. He hit .306/.336/.541 (140 wRC+) with 10 home runs over 55 games, despite just a 4% walk rate.
He has also started to put together a great performance in the Arizona Fall League, and he has been catching the attention of scouts just as much as actual top prospect Justus Sheffield. Here are a couple of interesting shots:
He has also been working on his first base during the AFL, meaning he could add another layer of versatility similar to how they’re deploying Tyler Austin.
Of course, McKinney is not perfect, and he’s in the awkward position of forcing the Yankees to make a decision regarding his future. He will be Rule 5 eligible this year, meaning that the Yankees will have to add him to the 40-man roster or possibly sacrifice him to a competitor. Considering everything we’ve seen—some more power combined with actually showing off the possible plus hit tool—it is very possible they make room for him. If they choose not to, another team will surely scoop him up and give him a chance.
The roster situation also does not favor him going into 2018. With Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Tyler Austin all theoretically above him on the depth chart, it’s hard to see him getting playing time. In the case of a few injuries, though, and you could see that as a possibility. In all likelihood, he will reside at Triple-A to hone his craft further. I wasn’t convinced he could be good when they traded for him, and I’m still not sure of him now, but he’s already proven us wrong before.