As we continue to highlight some players who the Rangers may pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, which commences late next week, we take a look at a high school outfielder from Plano, Texas, who has been linked by some to the Rangers -- leftfielder Billy McKinney.
Billy McKinney is a 6'2", 195 lb. lefthanded hitter who is in his senior season at Plano West High School in Plano, Texas. McKinney was born on August 23, 1994, which means he's old for a high school senior, turning 19 before this season ends. Keith Law has McKinney rated #28 on his draft list. Baseball America has McKinney rated #27 on their draft list. Scout has McKinney rated #33 on their draft rankings. Garrioch's mock draft has McKinney going at #32 overall, as does the Scout mock draft. The Crawfish Boxes mock has McKinney going to Texas at #30, as does Jim Callis's latest mock (which has Tim Anderson going to Texas at #23) and Normandin's consensus mock draft.
McKinney gets rave reviews for his bat, with Baseball America calling it one of the sweetest swings in the draft, and praising his hand-eye coordination and his approach. ESPN grades his future hit tool at 65 and his future power tool at 60, making him one of the more well regarded hitting prospects in this draft.
So, with his hit tool so highly regarded, why isn't he ranked any higher? A couple of reasons...first of all, while scouts like his hit tool, it doesn't project as an elite tool...he projects as a very good, but not great, hitter. Secondly, his bat is all he has that projects as above average. His arm, speed and defense all are below-average, with the reports indicating that he's limited to left field (or, presumably, first base). If a player whose only tool is his bat doesn't develop into a well above average hitter, then he has very limited value (see, e.g., Brett Wallace, Justin Smoak, Daric Barton). A player who can only play left field or first base has to hit a ton to be successful. If an Engel Beltre or a Lewis Brinson or a Jurickson Profar don't ever learn to hit much, they still can have value as a utility player or second-division starter because of their glove. If a LF/1B type doesn't hit a bunch, then they're not going to make it.
The only player I can think of in the Rangers system who is at all similar to McKinney is Ronald Guzman, though Guzman is bigger and a couple of months younger than McKinney. However, both players get strong marks for their makeup while having hit tools that may be able to carry them to the majors, despite their defensive limitations.
Guzman and Justin Smoak are the only two players I can think of under the Jon Daniels regime that the Rangers have either used a premium pick on, or given a big bonus to internationally, where they were betting primarily on that player's hit tool; Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo don't really count because they both are big power, big arm guys with questions about their hit tools. Thus, if the Rangers grab McKinney at either #23 or #30, they'd be deviating from what they've done historically, in terms of their amateur targets.
On the other hand, a system that is heavy with toolsy middle of the diamond types certainly wouldn't be hurt by adding in a pure hitter, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they had McKinney high enough on their board to end up grabbing him there. If McKinney were to be drafted, he's someone polished enough that an assignment at Spokane, rather than the Arizona Rookie League, wouldn't be out of the question.
I've embedded some video of him below:
Billy McKinney Prospect Video, Plano West High School (via Steve Fiorindo)
2012 Under Armour All-American BILLY McKINNEY powered by Baseball Factory (via baseballfactoryTV)