Hot Rods' McKay shows he can hit, too

Rays No. 3 prospect follows hitless start by driving in five runs

Brendan McKay had been 6-for-33 prior to his big night at the plate for Bowling Green. (Paul R. Gierhart/MiLB.com)

By Vincent Lara-Cinisomo / MiLB.com | May 5, 2018 10:59 PM

At this point, the Hot Rods are wondering what Brendan McKay can't do.

A night after the two-way player struck out nine over 4 2/3 hitless innings, the Rays' No. 3 prospect set a career best with five RBIs and hit his first full-season homer as Class A Bowling Green beat Burlington, 15-13, in a 10-inning slugfest at Community Field.


Gameday box score


"Tonight was impressive," Hot Rods manager Craig Albernaz said. "He hit a ball into the trees that's probably still going. He's got good bat speed and big-time pop; he's got a real good eye. 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."

McKay, the fourth overall pick last June, had been 6-for-33 entering Saturday's game. But after he flied out in his first two at-bats, the left-handed hitter came to life.

MLB.com's No. 25 overall prospect had the big hit in a five-run fifth, doubling to right to score three runs. McKay walked in the seventh, then clubbed his first Midwest League homer in the eighth, a drive to right-center field, as the Hot Rods scored five more times.

Albernaz is not at all surprised McKay was able to turn off the pitching side and succeed in the box the next day.

"He's a baseball guy," said Albernaz, in his first year with Bowling Green. "He understands what the pitcher is trying to do when he's at the plate, and he understands what the hitter tries to do when he's on the mound."

Even when McKay wasn't directly involved, the Hot Rods scored. After the Bees tied it in the ninth on a two-out double by Franklin Torres, Bowling Green took the lead in the 10th. With designated runner Jim Haley having moved to third on a sacrifice, a balk was called while McKay was batting, allowing Haley to trot home with the go-ahead run.

McKay hit four homers in his pro debut with Class A Short Season Hudson Valley and assembled a .232/.349/.376 slash line. He raised his average to .278 on Saturday and has 15 RBIs to share the team lead.

On the mound, McKay (1-0) has been stellar, allowing one run and five hits in his past three starts. The southpaw has fanned 33 and walked only two over 18 2/3 innings, holding opponents to a .109 average.

Albernaz credits 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."

Before the Draft, the Golden Spikes Award winner made it clear that if the team that drafted him wanted him as a pitcher or a position player only, he would go along with that plan. But he was regarded as the best two-way prospect since Dave Winfield in 1973, and when the Rays encouraged him to pitch and hit, he's embraced the opportunity after receiving the second-highest signing bonus ($7,007,500) under the current set of Draft rules.

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.

The University of Louisville product had plenty of help in Burlington. Emilio Gustave homered and drove in four runs, Ronaldo Hernandez doubled, singled and drove in two runs, and left fielder Carl Chester scored three times.

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For the Bees, Angels No. 5 prospect Brandon Marsh doubled and drove in two runs, while Torii Hunter singled twice and walked twice.

Bowling Green catcher Mac Seibert, who has made two appearances on the mound in his pro career, including a scoreless outing earlier this year, pitched the 10th and allowed a run but got his first save. He retired Marsh with the tying runs on base.

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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