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Tampa Bay Rays: Brendan McKay should stick with pitching

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The 2017 fourth-overall pick has struggled at the plate in 2018

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Louisville vs Texas A&M Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Before this season, being a two-way player was unheard of.

However, Shohei Ohtani has changed that notion with his production both on the mound and at the plate in his rookie season with the Los Angeles Angels.

Before Ohtani burst onto the scene this year, Tampa Bay Rays prospect Brendan McKay made headlines last year, when he was selected fourth-overall in the 2017 draft as a left-handed pitcher and first baseman.

In two years at the University of Louisville, McKay did both exceptionally well. On the mound, McKay went a combined 23-7 in 34 starts, recording a sub-2.5 ERA. In 218.2 total innings, McKay struck out 274 batters.

At the plate, McKay hit over .333 in both seasons. In his final season, McKay hit .341 with 18 home runs, 57 RBIs and 15 doubles in 223 at-bats.

As for 2018, McKay has made just 200 plate appearances in 48 games at first base, hitting just .230 with five home runs. McKay’s average might not be pretty, but he’s walked just one less time (39) than he’s struck out (40). Additionally, McKay has been a great run-producer in limited action, driving in 35 runs in 48 games.

While McKay has struggled at the plate, he’s been lights-out on the mound. In 16 starts, the lefty has logged a 5-2 record with a 2.18 ERA. Even more impressive, McKay has struck out 92 batters in just 66 innings, while walking just nine and allowing only 37 hits.

Recently, John reviewed his Rays Top-20 prospects list from February. Here’s what he had to say about the 22-year old:

I agree with John- I prefer McKay as a pitcher, for two reasons.

The first being that McKay’s play in the field is complicating his pitching schedule. While he has missed time due to injury this season, McKay’s hitting won’t fit in well with a conventional five-man rotation. Additionally, his pitching has been far-and-away better than his hitting- the combination of his dominance on the mound and his struggles at the plate confuse me as to why he’s sticking with both.

Secondly, McKay’s hitting is halting his progression. As a pitcher, McKay should be in Double-A, and knocking at the door of Triple-A. However, a .222 average won't earn him a promotion at the plate. It looks like the Rays and McKay are a little to dedicated to him being a two-way player, and its slowly starting to hurt his progression. On the mound, McKay has done everything right- he’s allowed little contact, struck hitters out, and hasn't really walked anyone.

It’s clear that McKay looks ready to make an impact on the mound in Tampa Bay by late next season. However, his slow progression at the plate is slowing his progression on the mound. I think its time that McKay moves to the mound full-time, especially now that his hitting troubles are hurting his production on the bum