An NL Club Could Maximize Brendan McKay’s Value

Louisville two-way star Brendan McKay, a lefthander and first baseman, has been linked to both the Twins at No. 1 overall and the Reds at No. 2 overall in Baseball America mock drafts.

Assuming McKay is drafted as a pitcher, the Reds would be better positioned than the Twins to maximize his full value. That’s because the Twins—or any other American League club—would not benefit fully from McKay’s proficiency in the batter’s box.

A National League club, such as the Reds at No. 2, Padres at No. 3 or Braves at No. 5, would not only bat McKay in the lineup every fifth day at pitcher—and top NL pitchers bat more than 60 times in a season—but also would have him available for pinch-hitting situations between starts.

Pinch-hitting opportunities are much more plentiful in the NL. Last season NL teams accounted for 73 percent of all major league pinch-hitting plate appearances.

While an AL club, such as the Twins at No. 1, Rays at No. 4 or Athletics at No. 6, could regularly deploy McKay as a pinch-hitter, no recent precedent exists for this behavior. Just two AL pitchers since the 1994 strike have appeared more than once as pinch-hitters. Mike Maroth of the Tigers and Andy Sonnanstine of the Rays each made two career PAs as pinch-hitters.

While the lefthanded-hitting McKay probably won’t hit .330 with power in the major leagues, as he has in the Atlantic Coast Conference, he would easily outperform the average NL pitcher, who in 2016 hit .136 and produced about 113 percent less offense than a league average batter.

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