SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Billy McKinney has spent his entire professional career in the outfield, but he is working on a new position while playing with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.For the first time since high school, McKinney is playing first base in an attempt to add some
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Billy McKinney has spent his entire professional career in the outfield, but he is working on a new position while playing with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.
For the first time since high school, McKinney is playing first base in an attempt to add some versatility to his game.
• Arizona Fall League roster & stats
"I'm looking forward to the challenge to add another position [to my game,]" the Yankees' No. 23 prospect said.
McKinney got off to a slow start this season with Double-A Trenton, but he picked up the pace in June and was then promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he instantly caught fire at the plate.
The 23-year-old slashed .306/.336/.541 and hit 10 of his career-high 16 homers in 55 games with the RailRiders.
"I just wanted to learn every day, and the more time you get, the more at-bats you get, the more you really learn, even about your own swing," McKinney said. "I just tried to use my legs, put a good swing on the ball and I'm glad I hit a few more home runs this year."
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McKinney's strong season earned him an invite to Arizona. Considering the track record of players who have come to the AFL, along with McKinney's success at Triple-A, he may be knocking at the door of his first big league callup -- a fact he's certainly aware of.
"You really see how close you are and it's pretty exciting to be around."
Yankees hitters in the AFL:
Estevan Florial, OF (NYY No. 3) -- The No. 78 overall prospect took a big step forward this season after failing to post big numbers in 2016, his U.S. debut. Playing in 110 games with Class A Charleston and Class A Advanced Tampa, Florial put his impressive offensive tools on full display this season as he slashed .298/.372/.497 and stole 23 bases. The 19-year-old certainly has the skills to succeed, but he will need to refine his approach considering he struck out 148 times in 110 games in 2017.
Thairo Estrada, SS/2B (NYY No. 17) -- Another talented middle infielder in a system rich with up-the-middle talent, Estrada has shown versatility, logging time at second, third and short in each of the past two seasons. Estrada doesn't have much power, but he makes consistent contact and has a solid approach. He posted a career-high .301 batting average in 122 games with Double-A Trenton this season and struck out in just 10.3 percent of his at-bats.
Kyle Holder, SS -- A former first-round pick (30th overall in 2015), Holder is in Arizona after a pair of stints on the disabled list the season. The 23-year-old, who is known more for his glove than his bat, added third base to his skill set this season as he spent 26 games at the hot corner with Class A Advanced Tampa. Holder slashed .271/.317/.350 across 104 games.
Yankees pitchers in the AFL:
Justus Sheffield, LHP (NYY No. 4) -- The No. 79 overall prospect missed the bulk of two months with an oblique injury and, after making a pair of starts in instructional league, was sent to Arizona to make up innings. The 21-year-old posted a 3.18 ERA across 93 1/3 innings (17 starts) with Double-A Trenton. Sheffield also decreased his walk rate from 3.8 in 2016 to 3.18, while averaging 7.91 strikeouts per nine innings.
Albert Abreu, RHP (NYY No. 7) -- Like Sheffield, Abreu is making up for lost time. The hard-throwing right-hander totaled just 53 1/3 innings in 2017 after spending more than two months on the disabled list. Abreu, whom the Yankees acquired from the Astros in November 2016, has a fastball that can touch triple-digits, though his command and control still lack consistency.
Cody Carroll, RHP (NYY No. 25) -- After starting in college, Carroll seems to have found a role in the bullpen. With a hard breaking ball and a fastball that reaches triple-digits, Carroll notched 89 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings this season. The right-hander pitched with Class A Advanced Tampa and Double-A Trenton this season, and while his stuff projects well, control will ultimately determine his effectiveness.
Andrew Schwaab, RHP -- The Yankees signed Schwaab as an undrafted free agent back in 2015 and he's been solid as a reliever over his first few years in the organization. The 24-year-old collected 21 saves in 2016, but he wasn't used in that capacity this season with Tampa and Trenton. Schwaab posted a 3.43 ERA in 39 appearances, including a 2.57 ERA in 13 games after he was promoted to the Thunder.
William Boor is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.