Cubs Minor League Daily: Billy McKinney Might Be Heating Up

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Cubs Minor League Daily: Billy McKinney Might Be Heating Up

Cubs Minor Leagues and Prospects

billy mckinney smokiesIn Jeimer Candelario and Billy McKinney, the Tennessee Smokies have two pretty good hitting prospects that I expected to do pretty well this year. In both cases, however, the prospect in question got off to a fairly slow start. We’ll save Candelario for a later day, but a closer look at McKinney, 21, shows some signs that he is starting to turn things around.

We are not dealing with significant sample sizes on any of these numbers, so we can’t be too aggressive in drawing any conclusions.

In April, McKinney hit .206/.289/.235 with 18 strikeouts, 7 walks, and 2 extra base hits in 68 at bats. In May, McKinney is hitting .245/.377/.286 with 6 strikeouts, 10 walks, and 2 extra base hits in 49 at bats. Even if we pro-rate his May numbers to the same number of plate appearances as he had in April, it becomes pretty clear that the strikeouts are way down, walks are way up, and the power is ticking up (technically).

Typically when we see an in-season adjustment that results in a decrease in strikeouts and an increase in walks, the adjustment has to do with what pitches that player is choosing to attack at the plate. A more selective plate approach, one that matches the philosophy the Cubs have embraced across the organization of waiting on a pitch that can be hammered and then hammering it, would produce something that looks a lot like this trend in the numbers. If that holds, then we should be seeing McKinney making more hard contact, and that in turn will result (in time) in a higher batting average and more extra base hits.

In other words, McKinney might just be on the edge of getting hot.

On the other hand, since we are dealing with such small sample sizes, it is also possible we’re looking at random noise in the data. Time will tell. It’s also worth remembering that McKinney’s 2015 season was ended early by, and he was slowed in Spring Training because of, a fracture in his knee from which he may still be recovering.

Triple A: Iowa Cubs
Reno 5, Iowa 3
This loss slipped the Cubs back under .500.

Double A: Tennessee Smokies
Tennessee 9, Birmingham 4
The Smokies put this game away with big, five run eighth.

  • Tyler Skulina: 6 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 4 BB, 7 K
  • Mark Zagunis: 2 for 4, 2B
  • Jeimer Candelario: 1 for 3, 2B, BB
  • Carlos Penalver: 3 for 3, 2B, BB
  • Bijan Rademacher: 3 for 4, 2 2B. He also had an outfield assist at home.
  • Ryan Dent: 2 for 4, 2B

High A: Myrtle Beach Pelicans

The Pelicans were rained out.

Low A: South Bend Cubs
South Bend 2, Great Lakes 1
Sands turned in a pretty good start, but it was the bullpen that dominated in this one.

Other Notes

  • Brad Markey takes the mound for the Tennessee Smokies tonight, and I will probably be watching the game on with a puzzled expression on my face. He’s having success this year (2.60 ERA in 34.2 IP), but I have no idea how. His strikeout rate is low (4.41 K/9), his walk rate is high (3.63 BB/9), and he’s already given up six homers for a HR/9 of 1.56. Normally in cases like this the ground ball rate lets it all make sense, but his GO/AO is just 0.90. Even if this is just a case of smoke and mirrors, usually the stats will tell us what color of smoke and how large the mirror. In this case, the stats tell me exactly nothing. Maybe tonight we’ll learn a little more.
  • The Pelicans will try to make up yesterday’s rain out as part of a doubleheader tonight. Zach Hedges will pitch the first game, and Trevor Clifton the second. Clifton is one of the more exciting, hard-throwing starters in the Cubs system, and he is showing signs of turning 2016 into his breakout season. His walk rate is elevated right now (4.54 BB/9), but his strikeout rate is a very good 10.55 K/9. In his last start he struck out ten over six shutout innings without walking anyone.


Author: Luke Blaize

Luke Blaize is the Minor League Editor at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @ltblaize.