The Blue Jays have a lot of outfielder in camp competing for a spot on the big league roster, and Billy McKinney is trying not to be forgotten about.
One of the more anticipated and interesting battles for the Blue Jay this spring will be in the outfield, and it’s a complicated picture.
We’ve already learned that the Blue Jays are planning on making Randal Grichuk the primary centre fielder, and he’ll almost certainly be flanked by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in left field, and Teoscar Hernandez in right. There’s also Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford, both of whom are out of minor league options and need to make the team on Opening Day in order to avoid being placed on waivers, and could spend time in right when Hernandez is DH-ing. When you add in the fact that both Cavan Biggio and Brandon Drury can play a bit of outfield as well, that gives Charlie Montoyo a lot of options.
It also creates a pretty big logjam and an uphill battle for the rest of the outfielders in camp this year, including Billy McKinney. The 25 year old played in 84 games for the Blue Jays last season, splitting his time between the big leagues and Triple-A, and slashed an underwhelming .215/.274/.422 with 12 home runs, 14 doubles, and 28 RBI over 251 at-bats. He showed some decent pop, but then again, most of the league did last season, and he really didn’t stand out in any other area.
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The biggest problem working against McKinney at the moment is the aforementioned depth ahead of him, and the fact that he has a minor league option remaining for the 2020 season. Like Jonathan Davis, that all but guarantees that he’ll return to Buffalo to start the year, waiting for an opportunity to come up because of an injury to a big league outfielder, or perhaps some ineffective performance, like what we saw from Hernandez in the early part of last year.
All McKinney can do for now is perform his best and make sure that the Blue Jays don’t completely forget about him in their plans. On Tuesday he did just that in a Grapefruit League game against the Philadelphia Phillies, going 3-4 with two runs scored, including a loud home run over the centre field fence. It might jut be a spring training game, but it was a good reminder that McKinney has some power in that bat of his, and there are other reasons he was a first round draft pick back in 2013.
For the time being, it might not matter if the was the best player in camp as far as where he’ll be assigned to start the year, but things can change in a hurry. One or both of Alford and Fisher could end up traded or DFA-ed, injuries happen all the time, and sometimes a dominant performance in Triple-A can force your team’s hand. All McKinney can control is the latter, and he’ll look to continue to hit well there, as he did with a .383 OBP last season in Buffalo, and wait for his opportunity. As long as he keep hitting, the Blue Jays won’t forget about him.