Draft Prospect Watch: Brendan McKay Dominates on the Mound, But is He a Better Hitter?

Over the last two weeks, we took a look at four of the top college pitchers in this year’s draft. Florida’s Alex Faedo and Vanderbilt’s Kyle Wright are near the top for all of the draft sources we looked at for our 2017 draft preview last month, so we covered them first. That was followed by North Carolina’s J.B. Bukauskas and Missouri’s Tanner Houck last weekend. We take a closer look at two other highly rated college pitchers this week, then it’s on to some college position players next weekend. We also have weekend updates at the bottom of this article for the first four players we covered.

Just a reminder that the draft begins on June 12th and the Pittsburgh Pirates have four picks that first day, including the 12th overall pick. They also have five of the top 88 picks, so this gives them a large bonus pool and a chance to add plenty of upside talent to the system. It’s still early in the process with just over three months until the draft begins, but this article just gives you two more names to follow. Once we start getting some mock drafts and updated rankings from top sources, then we will get a better idea of who to focus on for our coverage.

We start with Stanford’s Tristan Beck, who is a very interesting player to watch for a couple reasons. You might remember Beck as a high school pitching prospect during our 2015 draft coverage. He is a draft-eligible sophomore this year, but he hit a snag before his season started. In early February, Kendall Rogers from D1Baseball reported that Beck had not been throwing for nearly two weeks due to a back injury. Late Thursday night, nearly five weeks after the first report, Rogers tweeted out that Beck was now throwing on the sidelines and would throw a bullpen in the next two weeks. While I mentioned above that we still have three months until the draft, Beck’s timetable won’t give him a lot of time to prove that he’s healthy going into the draft.

This all leaves him as a major wildcard going into the draft. Being a sophomore, a team will need to draft him high, or he can just go back to school and come out as a junior next year. Beck was rated 10th overall by D1Baseball in this draft class, 13th overall by MLB Pipeline, and Baseball America had him sixth among college players only. That puts him as a strong target for the Pirates, and being a 6’4″ right-handed pitcher with a projectable frame doesn’t hurt his chances with that 12th overall pick. Beck’s arsenal really fits the Pirates, with outstanding fastball command and a plus changeup already. Those are focus areas they have for young pitchers coming up through the system.

The downside is that he was throwing 91-92 MPH last year, so teams would probably want to see a little more velocity (besides the health) before they draft him high in the first round. Beck also needed work on his breaking ball this year, so the lost time won’t help in that area. I’ve included a long video of Beck from late last season. This comes courtesy of YouTube use rkyosh007, who posts numerous draft prospect videos throughout the year.

I’m including lefty Brendan McKay from Louisville as the second player this week, even if he might be better for our college hitter coverage next week. McKay is a two-way star, rating as one of the best hitters and pitchers in this class. Like Tristan Beck, he got some coverage here out of high school. McKay was actually an intriguing target in 2014 for Pirates fans, because he was a Pennsylvania kid making a lot of noise with his extended shutout streak of 72.1 innings. The knock in high school was that he didn’t throw hard enough to warrant an early round pick and didn’t have a projectable frame, which made him more of a 3-4 round pick according to scouts. That led to him attending Louisville and immediately impressing on both sides of the ball.

McKay is listed at 6’2″, and just over 200 pounds. His fastball sits in the 90-94 range early in games and he loses a tick or two off that pitch late. His curve is above average and his changeup is a solid third pitch. McKay also throws a lot of strikes. He skipped his start last week due to a minor abdomen strain, but he missed just one game on the offensive side, where he is dominating this season. McKay was back on the mound last night against Pittsburgh and he pitched one of the best games you’ll ever see at any level. He threw seven shutout innings, allowing two hits, one walk and he had 15 strikeouts. He was sitting 90-93 MPH in this game and his changeup received some strong reviews. Did I forget to mention that he’s hitting .559/.663/1.000 through 12 games? Multiple sources say that he is the second best college hitter in this draft class, and that was before he put up a 1.663 OPS over the last month.

When you combine the fact that some teams really like him as a hitter, while others see him as a top lefty option in this draft, the chances of McKay falling to the Pirates with the 12th pick are very slim at this point. As mentioned twice above, there is still time before the draft for things to change. One of the things that hurts McKay as a position player is that he is limited to first base due to below average speed. The lack of plus velocity could hurt his chances to go at the top of the draft, but when you have the option to be a strong pitcher or hitter (with one serving as a fallback option), some team will probably take him early.

Here is recent video from Jheremy Brown, who posts numerous scouting videos on YouTube.

Updates on Previous Players

**Alex Faedo threw six shutout innings against Seton Hall on Friday night, allowing five hits and a walk, while striking out six batters. In four starts, he has a 1.37 ERA in 26.1 innings, with 30 strikeouts and a .143 BAA.

**Kyle Wright got hit hard at home against St Mary’s on Friday, allowing six runs on ten hits and a walk in just four innings. He struck out seven batters and threw 103 pitches. He has a 5.40 ERA in 20 innings, with six walks, 24 strikeouts and a .293 BAA.

**J.B. Bukauskas allowed one run on three hits and two walks in a win over #7 ranked Virginia last night. He went six innings, with seven strikeouts and he threw 93 pitches, with 58 going for strikes. Bukauskas has an 0.69 ERA in 26 innings over four starts, with five walks, 37 strikeouts, and a .169 BAA.

**Tanner Houck threw 8.2 shutout innings against Appalachian State yesterday. He gave up four hits, two walks and struck out seven batters. Houck threw 124 pitches, which is an early season total you don’t like to see. He has a 2.92 ERA in 24.2 innings over four starts, with seven walks, 28 strikeouts and a .227 BAA.

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diehltpt

John, who has the final say on who to take on Draft day? I’m assuming its either the GM or the Scouting Director

emjayinTN

John: Thanks for the updates. By all accounts, the 2017 Draft is very deep. The Pirates have 5 picks in the Top 88 already, and there are also AL teams who have tradeable picks at #31 Rays, #33 Athletics, and #35 Twins. How about a trade for one of those picks?

st1300b

I was thinking Bukauskus and Neverauskus are destined to be on the same team

piraterican21

So a Buk and a Never, nice!

emjayinTN

Brendan McKay, formerly of Blackhawk HS in Beaver Valley, may very well be available at #12 , and the Pirates are his favorite team. A few years ago AJ Reed of Kentucky was a LHSP/1B, was the College Player of the Year I think, and he was not drafted until the 42nd pick (Pirates passed on him with the 39th pick).

Glad to see him in your top group of pitchers and hitters, and since Neil Walker left town, the Pirates need another hometown prospect.

Doug W

Why do they need a hometown prospect?

Scott K

What he meant to convey was many Pirates fans would like to see a hometown hero on the roster.

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