Rays moving McKay to Florida State League

No. 3 prospect, two-way threat had 1.09 ERA at Bowling Green

Brendan McKay is fourth in the Midwest League with 40 strikeouts, averaging 14.6 per nine innings. (Steve Roberts/Bowling Green Hot Rods)

By Vincent Lara-Cinisomo / MiLB.com | May 12, 2018 9:12 PM

It was clear to most observers that Brendan McKay needed a new challenge.

On Monday, he'll get it.

The Rays' No. 3 prospect will be promoted to Class A Advanced Charlotte, according to the Twitter feed of the Class A Bowling Green Hot Rods.

"He certainly earned it on the mound," Rays minor league pitching coordinator Dick Bosman said. "I'm not the hitting guy, so I don't know much about that part, other than nobody wanted to pitch to him. I guess his reputation there preceded him."

Tweet from @BGHotRods: BREAKING: On Monday, LHP/1B Brendan McKay will be promoted to High-A Charlotte.The Hot Rods would like to wish Brendan the best of luck moving forward with his career, and can't wait to see him play with the Rays one day soon!Take a look at his final stats with the Hot Rods! pic.twitter.com/ChpDef3oPw

The University of Louisville product had dominated on the mound in the Midwest League, going 2-0 with a 1.09 ERA in six starts. Over 24 2/3 innings, he allowed eight hits while recording 40 strikeouts. McKay pitched six scoreless innings in his most recent start on Thursday, throwing only 54 pitches.

"What's not to like? The kid shows four above-average pitches right now," said Bosman, the former Major League right-hander. "He has a wonderful demeanor on the mound."

As a hitter, the fourth overall pick in last year's Draft has an .817 OPS, having walked 28 times in 91 plate appearances. He struck out 13 times.

Hot Rods manager Craig Albernaz was impressed during his brief time with McKay.

"He just pounds the zone with his fastball. He spins it for strikes, he has a good breaking ball and has a good changeup," Albernaz said after McKay's previous start on May 4. "That's one thing with him -- he just continues to pound the zone and puts the hitters in swing mode, and then he can expand the zone with other breaking stuff and off-speed stuff."

Opponents hit just .096 against McKay at Bowling Green, where he spent just 21 games. The left-hander appeared in 36 games in his pro debut in 2017 for Class A Short-Season Hudson Valley of the New York-Penn League.

"It's just business as usual," Bosman said. "[Steve] Doc Watson is the pitching coach down there at Charlotte. Our pitching coaches prepare them for the next level, and he'll get him ready for Double-A and hopefully he'll see more pitches to hit and we'll get a better feel as for whether he'll continue to be a hitter and a pitcher."

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Before the Draft, the Golden Spikes Award winner said he would oblige if the team that selected him wanted him to choose between pitcher or position player. But the Rays gave the Darlington, Pennsylvania native the second-highest signing bonus ($7,007,500) under the current set of Draft rules and have embraced McKay's desire to pitch and hit.

"He's got good bat speed and big-time pop; he's got a real good eye," Albernaz said in April. "His contact rate is among the tops in the league and he has a chase rate that is one of the lowest in the league. That's a pretty good combination."

Albernaz credited McKay's talent, but also the organization's plan.

"On a day he's pitching, he's throwing a side," he said. "On the other days, he's a hitter; that's how simple we make it. There's no wishy-washy, no mixed messages."

For Albernaz, there's no reason this success on both sides won't continue.

"He's doing both, and to him and us, he's going to be in the big leagues doing both," the skipper said.

Vince Lara-Cinisomo is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @vincelara. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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