Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays call up two-way prospect Brendan McKay

It seemed to be coming soon anyway, but the Tampa Bay Rays have called up top prospect Brendan McKay for his major league debut this weekend.

It seemed to be on the horizon, with how well he has pitched this season, but an 18-inning marathon on Thursday pushed the move. According Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Tampa Bay Rays have called up top prospect Brendan McKay and he will start Saturday against the Texas Rangers.

McKay was a two-way star at Louisville, as a pitcher and a slugging first baseman, and the Rays drafted him third overall in the 2017 draft. He has done both early in his pro career, but he has progressed faster as a pitcher and that will be his clearest path to immediate impact in the big leagues.

McKay has a 1.85 ERA, an 11.6 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 over 165 minor league innings, compared to a .216/.348/.356 total slash-line  as a hitter with 14 home runs over 541 plate appearances. He has shifted exclusively to DH when he’s been in the lineup this year, and for what it’s worth he registered a .951 OPS and 10 RBI over 15 games after being promoted to Triple-A Durham.

McKay posted a 2.41 ERA with a 11.8 K/9 and a 1.6 BB/9 over 19 total appearances (17 starts) last year. He has followed that up by being a notch or two better on the mound early this year, with a 1.22 ERA, an 11.9 K/9 and a 2.0 BB/9 between Double-A and Triple-A (66.2 innings).

It’s unclear if the Rays will use McKay as a two-way player. But he might enter the mix for at-bats as a DH, as a nod to manager Kevin Cash using multiple players in that spot as part of an effort to keep guys fresh. Last year, before Tommy John surgery took him off the mound for this year, the Angels offered a potential model to follow as they deployed Shohei Ohtani as both a starting pitcher and a DH.

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The Rays have three regular starters in Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Yonny Chirinos right now, with openers and bulk relievers filling out the other turns in the rotation. McKay will bring another useful arm to that mix, and if he delivers quality innings as a starter the Rays could fully shift their focus to bullpen arms as the trade deadline approaches.

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