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Rays option McKay to Triple-A Durham

No. 15 overall prospect returning to Minors when season begins
Brendan McKay returns to Triple-A Durham, where he made seven appearances last season. (Chris Robertson/MiLB.com)
March 26, 2020

On what was meant to be Major League Opening Day, one of the game's top prospects found out what his opening assignment will be once the 2020 season begins in earnest.The Rays optioned Brendan McKay -- MLB.com's No. 15 overall prospect -- to Triple-A Durham on Thursday. No. 17 Tampa

On what was meant to be Major League Opening Day, one of the game's top prospects found out what his opening assignment will be once the 2020 season begins in earnest.
The Rays optioned Brendan McKay -- MLB.com's No. 15 overall prospect -- to Triple-A Durham on Thursday. No. 17 Tampa Bay prospect Randy Arozarena was also moved to Durham along with Anthony Banda, Michael Brosseau, Nate Lowe, Brian O'Grady and Trevor Richards as part of the March 26 transactions.

McKay entered 2020 Spring Training as a legitimate candidate to crack the Rays Major League rotation, but the 24-year-old left-hander was slowed early in camp by shoulder stiffness. He eventually made his first 2020 Grapefruit League appearance on March 6, tossing one scoreless inning, but was roughed up six days later when he surrendered four earned runs on four hits (including two homers), one walk and one hit-by-pitch over 1 1/3 innings against the Phillies on March 12. That was the day Major League Baseball announced it was canceling Spring Training and delaying Opening Day due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thus eliminating McKay's additional opportunities to improve his chances of making the big club.
Instead, the 2017 first-rounder will head back to Durham, where he'll get the time to work on both sides of his game.
McKay burned through the Minors on the mound, going 6-0 with a 1.10 ERA, 102 strikeouts in 73 2/3 innings last season between Durham and Double-A Montgomery, but showed he still had some work to do at the plate. The left-handed slugger hit just .200/.298/.331 with five homers over 43 games and only received 10 at-bats during his time in the Majors. With Major League Baseball's 26-man roster rules including a designation for two-way players going into place in 2020, McKay could have even more value for Tampa Bay under the new system, and additional time for offensive development could be beneficial toward that end.
At the top of his game, McKay features two plus pitches in his low-to-mid-90s fastball and cutter, and two additionally solid offerings in his curveball and changeup. He makes the whole package play up with plus control. Offensively, the former University of Louisville star could be average when it comes to his hit and power tools in time, though the clock is ticking on that front.

Arozarena came over to the Rays on January 9 in a trade from the Cardinals that also brought José Martínez to St. Petersburg and sent left-handed pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore to St. Louis. The Cuban outfielder went 8-for-20 (.400) with a triple, a double, nine walks and three stolen bases in 12 games during his first spring in his new organization. Arozarena has the potential to show above-average hit, run and arm tools, but couldn't sneak into a crowded Rays outfield just yet.
Following Thursday's moves, Tampa Bay still has 28 players on its spring roster.
Yanks send Garcia to Thunder, trio to Triple-A
In other American League East news, New York sent Deivi Garcia, the No. 92 prospect in the game, to Double-A Trenton. The right-hander, the club's third-ranked prospect, went 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in three appearances spanning 7 1/3 innings this spring. Last year, Garcia was named a Yankees' organizational All-Star after rising three levels during the 2019 season. He sported a 4.28 ERA and struck out 165 in 111 1/3 innings.
The Yankees also optioned 25th-ranked Michael King, infielder Thairo Estrada and righty Ben Heller to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
Barrera, Bourque among Nationals' reassignments
Over in the National League East, Washington optioned catcher Tres Barrera and righty Erick Fedde to Triple-A Fresno. Barrera, the club's No. 19 prospect batted .143 over six games this spring. Righty relievers James Bourque and Kyle Finnegan were sent with infielder Adrían Sanchez and outfielder Andrew Stevenson to Double-A Harrisburg. Bourque, the No. 23 prospect, struck out a team-high 11 over 6 1/3 frames while limiting the opposition to a .167 average.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.