In the 30-team frenzy to secure an MLB contract with Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, some Rays fans might have felt slighted by his clear favor of a West Coast team, believing they never had a real shot at signing him.
Ultimately, it may not matter that the Rays missed out on Ohtani — who signed with the Angels — because there is someone much closer to Tampa Bay who has just as much, and possibly more, overall potential that the Japanese Babe Ruth.
Brendan McKay, the Rays first round draft pick by the Rays in 2017, played both pitcher and first base for the Louisville Cardinals and has been consistently developed as a two-way talent. He was also recently selected by ESPN’s Keith Law as one of four Rays prospects in his top 100 list, ranking at 28.
During a call to discuss the list, Law revealed that he believes when it comes to two-way players like Ohtani and McKay, McKay has a bit more upside. He suggested that McKay’s strength is that he is a better hitter than Ohtani, and that Ohtani’s real ability is in his pitching.
Law went on to say that even if McKay never threw another pitch in his career, he’d still be among the top prospects, because his bat is that good. The real test for McKay will be when he finally reaches the major league level, and his first year in the big leagues should determine which direction the team takes him.
In his top-100 assessment, Law said, “He could be an above-average starting pitcher in the majors or a middle-of-the-order bat at first base. My money is very slightly on the former.” So chances are that McKay, like Ohtani, will end up a as pitcher. The Rays are also better known for developing home-grown pitching talent rather than position players. However with McKay they may have a unique opportunity to play with both.
The Rays have made it clear they intend to work with McKay as both a hitter and a pitcher, wanting to take advantage of his apparently gifts at both positions. Law likes McKay’s bat, but his defensive chops were nothing to write home about. “He’s fine at first. Nothing plus, nothing wrong. Not a great athlete, but solid,” he told DRB. He does believe that McKay’s future is in pitching, however. “I do not believe anyone could truly do both regularly,” Law said, then added, “Hard to pass on a [left-handed] starter with a mid-rotation floor.”
So the Rays may have missed an opportunity to sign Ohtani, but with McKay they could very well be able to develop a player just as exciting. And if Law is correct, it seems unlikely the Angels will reap the benefits of a two-way star for long before putting Ohtani permanently into one role.