Brendan McKay is still going to be a two-way player, but the Rays are planning to narrow his focus on the hitting side by keeping him to designated-hitter-only duties, a source confirmed to MLB.com's Juan Toribio on Monday.This season, McKay's schedule will be to pitch one day, take the next
Brendan McKay is still going to be a two-way player, but the Rays are planning to narrow his focus on the hitting side by keeping him to designated-hitter-only duties, a source confirmed to MLB.com's Juan Toribio on Monday.
This season, McKay's schedule will be to pitch one day, take the next day off, and then strictly DH until his next game on the mound.
According to the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin, who first reported the Rays' plans for McKay, the team thinks it will help McKay's development if he doesn't have to juggle all the responsibilities of pitching, hitting and playing first base. The Rays also hope the move to DH will help McKay stay healthy after he dealt with oblique injuries last year.
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"This is all about prioritizing the things we think are most important in Brendan's development at this stage," Rays senior vice president Chaim Bloom told Topkin. "This will allow him to organize his pregame program more efficiently and keep his in-game focus on the areas we think are most critical to his development."
The 23-year-old McKay is ranked as the No. 29 overall prospect entering 2019 by MLB Pipeline, as well as the No. 3 left-handed pitching prospect, No. 4 first-base prospect and was the Rays' No. 2 overall prospect in '18. But in his first full professional season last year, McKay was much better as a pitcher than as a hitter.
McKay pitched 19 games in 2018 between Rookie ball, Class A and Class A Advanced, and compiled a 2.41 ERA and 103 strikeouts to just 14 walks in 78 1/3 innings. In his 75 games, he slashed .214/.368/.359 with six home runs.
Bloom told Topkin that the Rays moving McKay to DH in 2019 doesn't change their plans to keep developing him as a two-way player, and that McKay could also eventually return to playing first base.
David Adler is a reporter and researcher for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.