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The season that was: Billy McKinney

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A look at Billy’s 2019 season.

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Billy McKinney came to us in the J.A. Happ trade, along with Brandon Drury.

He was a first round draft pick of the Oakland A’s in 2013. In 2014 the A’s sent him to the Cubs in a big trade that had Addison Russell and Dan Straily go with him to the Cubs, for Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija.

In 2016 the Cubs traded him, Gleyber Torres and Adam Warren to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman.

Billy’s a former top 100 MLB prospect, Baseball Prospectus had him #81 before the 2015 season and 74 before 2016. But he had a down year in 2016, hitting .246/.342/.338 in 123 games in Double A in the Cubs system.

2017 went better, hitting .277/.338/.483 in 124 games split between AA and AAA in the Yankees’ system, but once you fall off those top 100 prospects lists, it is tough to get back on.

He started the 2018 season on the Yankee’s roster, and played in their 2nd and 3rd games of the season and then went on the DL with a shoulder strain and never made it back to the Yankees.

After the trade to the Jays, and a less than excellent 20 games in Buffalo, he was called up to Toronto on August 18th. For the Jays, he played 36 games, and hit .252/.320/.470. He looked pretty good in left field.

This season:

Standard Batting
G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
84 276 37 54 14 1 12 28 0 2 19 73 .215 .274 .422 .696 83
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2019.

He started the season in Buffalo and made three trips up to Toronto with two trips back down. In Buffalo he hit .271/.383/.488 with 4 home runs in 36 games.

Baseball Reference has him at a 0.2 WAR. FanGraphs 0.0 WAR.

He had a .291 wOBA and a 79 wRC+.

Compared to 2018, Billy’s walk rate was down 6.9% (from 8.3%), and his strikeout rate up a bit too 26.4% (25.0%).

Batted ball rates: Line drive was down, 20.7% (24.1), ground ball rate down 38.5% (43.2) and fly ball up 40.8% (39.1). 16.4% of his fly balls left the park (17.6).

Hard contact rate was up 18.1% (from 16.1) and so was soft contact 37.4% (33.3). Both taken from his medium contact rate.

His BABIP was way down .250 from .296.

Like most lefties, McKinney hit RHP (.220/.285/.430) better than LHP (.196/.226/.392).

He was good with RISP (.268/.360/.415).

He hit better in the second half (.216/.277/.500) than the first half (.215/.272/.369).

Billy by month:

  • April: .229/.278/.337 with 1 home run, 5 walks and 19 strikeouts in 23 games.
  • May: .211/.262/.404 with 2 home runs, 4 walks and 15 strikeouts in 18 games.
  • June: .111/.273/.444 with 1 home runs, 1 walks and 7 strikeouts in 5 games.
  • July: .194/.242/.548 with 3 home runs, 2 walks and 10 strikeouts in 9 games.
  • August: .267/.290/.533 with 2 home run, 1 walks and 5 strikeouts in 11 games.
  • September: .195/.292/.439 with 3 home run, 6 walks and 17 strikeouts in 18 games.

Defense? He played 320.2 innings in right field with a 8.7 UZR/150 and 223.2 innings in left field -6.9 UZR/150. Together he had a 2.8 UZR/150, which is likely a fair valuation of his defense. Generally left-handed throwing players play in right field.

He made 4 errors in the outfield for a .966 fielding average.

And he played 23.2 innings at first base. He didn’t play enough there for me to have an opinion on his defense.

FanGraphs has him at -0.4 runs on the basepaths. He was 0 and 2 in stolen base attempts.

The Blue Jays were 29-36 in games he started.

His longest hitting streak was 6 games and longest on base streak was 8 games.

Where Billy started in the batting order:

1st: 11 games.

2nd: 2 games.

3rd: 1 game.

6th: 11 games.

7th: 16 games.

8th: 19 games.

9th: 5 games.


First round draft picks will get many chances to show what they can do (Justin Smoak is an example, though not every one will work out like that). Personally, I’d rather they give his MLB at bats to Anthony Alford.

Billy isn’t arbitration eligible until 2022. He still has an option year, so he’ll likely be driving back and forth between Toronto and Buffalo a fair bit again next year.

Billy is 25 (a few days younger than Alford) now so he’s still young enough to get a few more chances to show what he can do (especially since he can’t get arbitration money for a couple more years). Generally I’d say bet on the guy who has played the most in the majors. That’s the safer bet. Of course safer bets don’t always work out.

I’m not against giving guys like McKinney chances. There was a reason he was a top 100 prospect. Given enough time he might show why at the major league level. For the Blue Jays, I’m thinking he is going to have to show it this year.