Billy McKinney

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William Landis McKinney

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Biographical Information[edit]

Outfielder Billy McKinney was a first-round selection in the 2013 amateur draft and a year later was part of a blockbuster trade. He reached the majors with the New York Yankees in 2018.

He was taken 24th overall by the Oakland Athletics and scout Armann Brown in the draft, out of a high school in Texas. It was the second straight year the A's has chosen a high school position player in the draft, following SS Addison Russell in 2013, after shunning such players for over a decade. The youngster signed quickly and was assigned to the AZL Athletics of the Arizona League, where he hit .320 in 46 games. He finished the season in the New York-Penn League, where he played 9 games for the Vermont Lake Monsters and hit .353. His combined batting line between the two stops was .326/.387/.437 in 55 games, with 36 runs and 26 RBIs, as one of the youngest players in the affiliated minor leagues.

In 2014, he was assigned to the Stockton Ports of the California League, skipping a couple of levels. He hit .241 in 75 games, but slugged 12 doubles and 10 homers as one of the youngest players in the circuit, and scored 42 runs while driving in 33. On July 4th, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs alongside Russell and P Dan Straily in return for two top starting pitchers, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. He finished the season with the Daytona Cubs, where he hit .301 in 51 games to finish the year with a combined batting line of .264/.354/.412 in 126 games, with 24 doubles and 11 homers. In 2015, he began the year with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the Carolina League before being promoted to the AA Tennessee Smokies after 29 games of hitting a scorching .340. He continued to hit well in the Southern League and finished the year with a line of .300/.371/.454 in 106 games, with 31 doubles, 7 homers and 64 RBIs. In another organization, he would have figured as a likely candidate to start the next season in the majors, but the Cubs were loaded with young talent heading into 2016, so back to Tennessee he went. In 88 games there, he regressed however, hitting .252 with only one homer. On July 25th, however, he was involved in the second blockbuster trade of his young career, when he was sent to the New York Yankees alongside fellow prospects Rashad Crawford, Gleyber Torres and Adam Warren in return for RP Aroldis Chapman.

McKinney reached the majors in 2018 and made his debut on March 30th against the Toronto Blue Jays, going 1-for-4 while playing leftfield. However, the next day, he crashed into the left field wall at the Rogers Center as he tried in vain to catch a double by Josh Donaldson in the 1st inning, and suffered a sprain, forcing him to leave the game moments later and landing him on the disabled list. When he was ready to come back after a couple of rehabilitation assignments, the Yankees no longer had a spot for him in the majors, so he was assigned to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders where he hit just .227 but with 13 homers and 32 RBIs in 55 games. On July 26th, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays alongside IF Brandon Drury in return for P J.A. Happ. He finished the year with 36 games for the Blue Jays, hitting .252 with 6 homers and 13 RBIs for an OPS+ of 115.

Given his fine first season and the rebuilding Blue Jays' need for outfielders, there was an opportunity for McKinney to grab a starting job in 2019, but he was unable to make good on the opportunity. In 84 games, he hit just .215, with 12 homers and 28 RBIs and an OPS+ of 83. During the season, a starting three of Lourdes Gourriel, Randal Grichuk and Teoscar Hernandez emerged, and it left McKinney to scramble for playing time as a back-up. By 2020, even that back-up job was no longer his to hold on to, as Jonathan Davis, a faster and better defensive player, and Derek Fisher, a batter with more power, were backing up the starting three. McKinney spent most of that shortened season at the Jays' alternate training site, appearing in just 2 games for the Jays, going 2 for 3. On September 14th, he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers, but did not appear in a game for his new team that year.

In 2021, he made the Brewers' opening day line-up as a back-up outfielder, and played 40 games over the first two months, mainly in left field but also appearing at first base. He hit .207 with 3 homers and 6 RBIs and an OPS+ of 69, his main highlight being a tremendous catch in left field in which he robbed Wil Myers of the San Diego Padres of extra bases. On May 25th, he was traded to the New York Mets in return for P Pedro Quintana, who had yet to make his professional debut. To say that the Mets were in need of outfielders would be an understatement: all three starters from opening day, Michael Conforto, Kevin Pillar and Brandon Nimmo were on the injured list, as well as Nimmo's two main back-ups in centerfield, Albert Almora and Johneshwy Fargas. The Mets had already obtained veteran Cameron Maybin and plugged him straight into the starting line-up, which was likely going to be the case with McKinney. He had a career game on June 9th when he went 3 for 5 with 2 homers and 5 RBIs in leading the Mets to a 14-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Still, his second stay in the Big Apple was brief, as he hit .220 in 39 games before being traded again on July 21st, heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers in return for minor leaguer Carlos Rincon.

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