Acquired: 5th Round, #155 overall, 2013; William Boone High School, Orlando, FL
2014: Johnson City (R), State College (SS-A)
(You can find the 20/80 grading primer here)
McKinney didn't make the F-R Top 20 a year ago, mostly due to being fresh out of high school, not having thrown a lot of innings in pro ball, and the lack of any real standout pitch in terms of stuff. He did make the watchlist, however, and this is what I wrote about him last February:
Above average makeup for a high school pitcher and sports four pitches that rate as average or fringe-average. Throws an easy 90-91 mph as an 18 year old and has room to mature and develop a tad more velocity. Scouts love his feel for pitching: He mixes offerings well for a guy his age and has demonstrated an advanced ability to set up hitters.
He's since dumped his slider to focus more on the curveball and changeup and in the long run the curve will likely serve him better as McKinney's ceiling is about as close to a clone of 2013 first rounder Marco Gonzales as you can get: Not overpowering, smart, plus changeup, and plus command and pitchability.
McKinney's fastball sits in the high 80's most of the time, touching 90-91 on occasion. The pitch isn't overpowering even at the Rookie level but does have tailing life to it that works to McKinney's advantage more often than not. That's good, because the pitch lacks plane. Being vertically challenged at 5'11" and throwing from a 3/4 arm slot makes it tougher to drive the ball into the bottom of the strike zone on a regular basis. This hasn't really hurt him up to this point, he's not been hit all that hard and hasn't allowed a homer in 77 professional innings.
If velocity does one thing well, it covers up mistakes up in the zone. If you don't throw in the mid-to-upper 90's you can't make many mistakes with your fastball. Thankfully, that's one of McKinney's strengths: He's able to put his fastball just about anywhere he wants it while throwing it better than 60% of the time.
The changeup is probably his best pitch and is the only one with legit plus potential. It's not as good as Gonzales' change of pace, but it certainly has the potential to get there at some point in the future as McKinney has shown advance feel for the pitch and when to throw it. What's most impressive is how McKinney sequences pitches and moves the ball around the zone to keep hitters off balance, utilizing just the fastball and changeup for innings at a time. This likely won't play well as McKinney enters full season ball in 2015, where his curveball will likely need to improve to more than a show-me offering:
Much like Gonzales, he can sometimes hang the breaking ball as it spins out of the top of his hand during his 3/4 arm delivery. Developing a more consistent breaking ball is the next big step for McKinney's progress towards the major leagues and it's something he is focused on this offseason if his interview with Brian Walton is to be believed.
The stuff isn't overwhelming, but don't undersell McKinney's advanced pitchability and command of his two best pitches at age 19. That's more than enough to carry him to the highest levels of the minors even if nothing else improves while he's on the developmental track.
This will be McKinney's third year in pro baseball so my guess is that if the arm is healthy and ready to go that he will probably start full season ball as a member of the Peoria rotation, just to push him a little bit and see if he's up to the task. Developmentally, the curveball needs to continue to become at least an average offering if he's going to have success at changing the eye level of hitters and keeping them off a fastball that will be more susceptible to better hitters.