The Rays have agreed to a $7,007,500 signing bonus with No. 4 overall pick Brendan McKay, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). The bonus is the largest ever given to a player under the current set of draft rules, narrowly topping the flat $7MM signing bonus that Kyle Wright received from the Braves earlier this year. McKay is represented by Sosnick, Cobbe and Karon. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times was the first to report that McKay was expected to sign with the Rays tonight.
McKay was one of the most famed prospects headed into the draft and was reportedly a strong consideration of the Twins with the No. 1 overall pick. A two-way star at the University of Louisville, McKay was touted as a top five talent for both his abilities on the mound as a left-handed pitcher and for his hitting ability as a first baseman. MLB.com’s Jim Callis calls McKay the best two-way draft prospect since Hall of Famer Dave Winfield (Twitter link).
Entering the draft, McKay was a consensus top four talent, ranking second among draft prospects per Callis and colleague Jonathan Mayo. McKay ranked third on Baseball America’s Top 500 and ESPN’s Keith Law, and fourth in the estimation of Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen. There’s a bit of a split camp when it comes to McKay’s future, as some believe his upside to be greater on the mound while others prefer his bat.
On the mound, McKay is said to have a low-90s fastball that reaches 94 mph and excellent command of the pitch, allowing it to play up late in games as his velocity dips. He also features a plus curveball and is working to improve a changeup that could give him a third above-average offering. This season with Louisville, he posted a 2.56 ERA with 12.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 109 innings.
At the plate, McKay has plus power from the left side, which he used to destroy NCAA pitching this season. McKay belted 18 homers and slashed .341/.457/.659 as a hitter, though he does lack speed and is limited to first base on the defensive side of the coin.
Topkin notes in the above-linked story that the Rays will permit McKay to hit and pitch initially, though it’s unclear if Tampa Bay feels that’s a feasible long-term path for McKay. Most likely, he’ll eventually settle into one role or the other, but the notion of a legitimate two-way star is a fun one on upon which to speculate.