Phillies Draft Profile: Louisville Two-Way Lefty Brendan McKay

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Sep 15, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general view of baseballs prior to the game between the Oakland Athletics and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 15, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general view of baseballs prior to the game between the Oakland Athletics and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Phillies have a desperate need for left-handed pitching, and Louisville two-way pitcher/first baseman Brendan Mckay would fill that need.

Since the turn of the century, the Phillies have selected two left-handed pitchers in the first round of the draft: Cole Hamels and Jesse Biddle. One led the team to the World Series; the other never even got to the majors. Hamels and J.A. Happ were the last notable left-handed pitchers to come through the system to have any form of major-league success.

Currently, the Phils are bereft of any left-handed pitching talent. Any lefty pitching prospects are still several years away from the majors, with Elniery Garcia being the closest after spending 2016 with High-A Clearwater. The team would certainly be wise to add another top-end lefty in the 2017 draft.

Louisville junior Brendan McKay would provide a much-needed impact, left-handed starter. McKay could also wind up being drafted as a position player. He starts games for the Cardinals on the mound and then will finish them at first base. In each of his first two seasons, McKay won the John Olerud Award for the top two-way player in collegiate baseball.

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On the mound, McKay is as calm and collected as they come. Louisville head coach Dan McDonell told Michael Lananna of Baseball America that coaches ask if Mckay has a pulse because of his demeanor on the mound.

Mckay explained his calmness to Lananna, saying, “I think it’s just from how I grew up playing the game. Just not worrying about stuff, trying to just play the game you know how to play.”

Lananna went on to describe several different games during McKay’s freshman season where he displayed his poise on the mound. It’s safe to say Mckay has the demeanor whatever challenges becoming a professional may throw at him.

McKay has two above-average offerings in his fastball and curve, with the latter potentially being even better. McKay will hit as high as 94 with his fastball, but it usually stays in the low-90s. He has to work on his longevity, as his velocity will taper off later into innings. MLB.com says “He could add more velo and maintain it better if he focused on pitching full-time, and his fastball command is so good that his heater is effective in the upper 80s.”

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Turning towards McKay’s curveball, Lananna said, “McKay throws a hard, biting spike curve that sits in the high 70’s to low 80’s. McKay can catch the corners with it or bury it below the zone, varying its shape and velocity as he sees fit.” McKay has struck out 10.7 batters per nine innings through his first two seasons with Louisville, indicating he knows how to miss bats.

McKay still has to develop an average third pitch, although he does have a changeup in his arsenal. MLB.com gave his changeup a grade of 50, but that is about as good as it will get.

Considering McKay’s potential as a starter and the lack of any above-average lefty pitching prospects, it’s a near-certainty that the Phillies would do everything they can before moving him off the mound. If they did for whatever reason, McKay would have to stay at first base due to his lack of speed. He isn’t much of a power hitter, which isn’t ideal for trying to make his way as a first baseman.

Next: Phillies 2017 Offseason Given A- Grade by SI

The Phillies are lacking in left-handed pitching, and McKay would give them an above-average prospect at the position. MLB.com ranks McKay as the No. 7 prospect in the draft, so he is right around Philadelphia’s pick at No. 8.

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