Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

billy mckinney pelicansIf Addison Russell’s emergence at the big league level has been obscured by the presence of Kris Bryant, then I can only imagine how tucked away in the shadows Billy McKinney is.

The 20-year-old outfielder was the other notable prospect included in last year’s big Samardzija/Hammel/Russell trade, and, while he didn’t get much attention at a national level following that trade, Cubs fans knew that he, too, could be very good. No, maybe not “top five prospect in baseball” good, but very good. Russell’s presence in that trade didn’t make us any less excited to follow McKinney.

McKinney, who was the A’s first round pick in 2013 (24th overall), hit .301/.390/.432 with the Daytona Cubs at High-A after the trade (he was also at High-A for the A’s – an extremely aggressive track for a high school guy just drafted the year before), and he has started the 2015 season back at High-A with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Given his age, it’s not like it was concerning to see him spend some more time at High-A.

And, man, he sure is doing what you’d like to see a guy do with a little more time at a given level. More about that in a moment.

Because I want to pause to watch McKinney hit a walk-off homer last night for the Pelicans. It was a fun one, catching the play-by-play man by surprise:

And if you want to watch the full highlights from the game, the Pelicans do an awesome job with their game recaps:

(Dig the bonus views of Duane Underwood, Jr. and Victor Caratini showing off some receiving skills behind the plate.)

As for McKinney, the homer was his third this week, and it came on a night where he walked in all four of his other plate appearances.

The huge night – and huge week, really – has McKinney’s line up to .313/.431/.518 over 102 plate appearances this year. Best suited as a corner outfielder, McKinney is very likely to see AA Tennessee before this season is over, especially if he keeps dominating at High-A.

In the Carolina League, McKinney’s batting average is fourth best, his OBP is best (just ahead of teammate Mark Zagunis), his slugging is third best, and his OPS is best. His strikeout rate is incredibly low (10.8%), and his walk rate is incredibly high (15.7%). In short, McKinney has been the best hitter in the Carolina League, and one of the best overall hitters in the minor leagues so far this year.

I will soon be writing about Carolina League Player of the Week, Billy McKinney. You watch.

McKinney photo via Pelicans Twitter.

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