The 2017 season was a special one for the New York Yankees. The team received an injection of youth that had been missing in years past.
The Baby Bombers, a group consisting of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and more, exceeded expectations. So did the Yankees. A team playing well beyond its years came within one game of the World Series. The kids, as they say, are alright.
The scary thing is, there are more coming. As though the future didn’t look bright enough in the Bronx after a surprising 2017 season, the Yankees still have one of the best farm systems in baseball. With so many more Baby Bombers in waiting, we at FanRag Sports thought it would be fun to take a look at one each week to pass the offseason.
The last profile focused on adolescent flamethrower Luis Medina. This week we’ll get to know a prospect with a little more seasoning in Billy McKinney.
McKinney, 23, ranks 2oth in the Yankees’ farm system. The 24th pick in 2013 by the Oakland Athletics, he has been traded twice already in his young career.
The first time came when the A’s sent him, Addison Russell and Dan Straily to the Cubs in exchange for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. That was in 2014. Then, in 2016, Chicago dealt him, Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren and Rashad Crawford to New York for Aroldis Chapman.
Originally a center fielder, McKinney has mostly played in the corners since his first year of pro ball. He also began playing first base this past Arizona Fall League as a result of New York’s crowded outfield. He has been playing there a lot this spring as well.
Yankees prospect Billy McKinney's getting his feet wet at first base. pic.twitter.com/wAL5j1JaBQ
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) December 13, 2017
A left-handed hitter, MLB.com is fond of his skills and approach at the plate:
“McKinney’s best attributes are his smooth left-handed swing, bat speed and hand-eye coordination. He demonstrated a disciplined approach at lower levels of the Minors but his Triple-A hot streak came when he got more aggressive at the plate.”
What he has done
A minor leaguer of five years, McKinney split the 2017 season, his first full one in the Yankees’ organization, at Double- and Triple-A. All-around, it was his best season as a pro. McKinney slashed .277/.338/.483 overall with 16 home runs and 64 RBIs.
His stint at Triple-A was especially impressive. He slashed .306/.336/.541 with 10 dingers and 35 RBIs in 55 games. In total, McKinney didn’t walk as much as he had in previous years, but he did set career-highs in home runs, slugging and total bases.
Playing in the Arizona Fall League, McKinney had more RBIs (20) than games played (19) despite hitting just one ball over the fence.
Once a top-100 prospect, McKinney is no longer so highly regarded. However, his 2017 season, combined with his efforts to play first base, could land him in the Bronx this year.
Right now, McKinney is competing to be Greg Bird’s backup at first base. Also in the mix are Tyler Austin and recently-signed veteran Adam Lind. Brandon Drury can also play some first, though he is not expected to do much of that.
With Lind and Austin outranking him in experience, it is hard to view McKinney as the favorite in this battle. He put together a strong case, though, belting three homers this spring. With a lefty stroke, he could have success off the bench at Yankee Stadium.
With only a few Triple-A games under his belt, McKinney is a better bet to start the season in Scranton than as Bird’s backup. However, if he continues to connect with the ball, he should have no trouble working his way to the majors in 2018.