I was fortunate to scout Oakland Athletics prospect outfielder Billy McKinney in the Arizona League before he left to play nine games at Class A Short-Season Vermont in the New York-Penn League. He was Oakland's first-round selection in this past June's First-Year Player Draft. Chosen 24th overall, McKinney's best tool is a very solid bat. He can hit.
McKinney is ranked No. 9 on the A's Top 20 Prospects list.
McKinney helped take his Plano (Texas) West High School team to the state semifinals during his senior year. He hit .372 with four homers and 17 RBIs for a very competitive program. McKinney had an outstanding on-base percentage of .585. He played all three outfield positions in addition to first base.
McKinney turned 19 in August. He has a solidly built and well-proportioned body that likely has little maturation remaining. At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, McKinney has a good throwing arm and enough speed to make things interesting on the bases.
McKinney's bat will carry him as far as he can go in his professional career. He is a left-handed-hitting, barrel-of-the-bat hitter. When I saw McKinney in Arizona, he played center field exclusively.
McKinney scuffled a bit early in his Arizona League season. He had some difficulty making consistent contact initially, but he came to life as the season progressed. McKinney finished the Arizona portion of his first professional season hitting .326 with three homers and 26 RBIs. He went to the plate 243 times, striking out 33 times and walking on 20 occasions. Of McKinney's 70 hits in the Arizona League, nine were doubles and three were triples.
McKinney's late success carried over to Vermont, where he hit .353 in 37 plate appearances covering nine games. He hit another homer, smacked two more doubles and added another triple. It was the culmination of an excellent rookie season.
McKinney reminds me a great deal of another first-round selection from the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. McKinney and Cleveland Indians center fielder Clint Frazier were often compared as they both played in the Arizona League.
McKinney may not project to have as much power as Frazier, but his hitting mechanics and hitting upside are very similar. McKinney has a very short stroke to the ball. His swing is a textbook illustration of an uncomplicated, measured and refined approach to hitting. McKinney has the ability to repeat his nearly flawless swing time and time again.
While he isn't a burner, McKinney's speed is very usable and effective. He stole eight bases in his rookie season. McKinney was caught stealing only once. He has good baseball instincts that serve him well on the bases as well as on defense.
A "complete" player, McKinney is capable in the outfield. He gets good jumps and nice reads on balls hit in the air. Some scouts have indicated that McKinney's defense leaves a bit to be desired. I disagree. While he likely won't win a Gold Glove, I found his ability as an outfielder to be a tad above average. I believe McKinney can be trusted to provide a Major League quality performance as a center fielder or left fielder. If needed, he can probably play first base. He has enough arm strength and accuracy for both positions.
McKinney grew up watching the Texas Rangers, but he had always admired the Oakland Athletics. Now he is part of their organization. And if things proceed as projected, McKinney will become an important part of the team's future.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.