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Tampa Bay Rays Draft: Select Brendan McKay with Fourth Pick

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Mar 29, 2016; Dunedin, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays hat, gloves, helmet and bats lay on the field before the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2016; Dunedin, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays hat, gloves, helmet and bats lay on the field before the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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Day One of the 2017 MLB Draft has come and gone and the Tampa Bay Rays with three picks have landed a trio of players that can become significant additions to the future success of the team,  but none more so than Brendan McKay.

The Tampa Bay Rays with the fourth overall pick in the draft surprisingly were able to select Brendan McKay, a two-way player from the University of Louisville. McKay is southpaw pitcher/first baseman who excels not only from the mound, put at the plate as well.

In addition to McKay, with the No. 31 overall pick (Competitive Balance Pick) the Rays selected right-handed pitcher Drew Rasmussen from Oregon State and coming in the second round with the 40th overall pick, was right-hander Michael Mercado from Westview High School in California.

This selection for the Rays is a steal as McKay was originally considered as being the No. 1 overall pick, with Minnesota being the projected target. However, Minnesota went with Royce Lewis, and Cincinnati and San Diego followed with Hunter Greene and Mackenzie Lewis leaving the top collegiate hitting player to the Rays.

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"“We are thrilled to select Brendan McKay with our fourth overall pick. This is a very rare talent. A player that as a position player and as a pitcher warranted top of the draft consideration. At pick four, you never know how things are going to go ahead of you. All we can say is we are thrilled. Our staff is thrilled to have selected him and to have him in our organization, said Senior VP of Baseball Operations Erik Neander”"

Although the Rays selected McKay as a first baseman, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays will let him continue to pitch and hit.

"Rays General Manager Erik Neander said, “Why not,” when asked. “At this point, our plan is to continue to let him explore that, to let him put a cap on what he can and cannot do.”"

Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays media Department, McKay is a three-time winner of collegiate baseball’s John Olerud Award, which is given to the top two-way player in the nation and is the only player to win this award multiple times. MLB.com ranked McKay as the No. 2 overall player and he was ranked third by ESPN’s Keith Law and Baseball America.

Additionally, McKay was Baseball America’s 2017 College Player of the Year and is one of four finalists for the Dick Howser Trophy, which is given to the top player in collegiate baseball and is a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award which is given to the top amateur baseball player in the United States.

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On the season, McKay is batting .343 with 17 home runs and 56 RBIs, with a .464 OBP plus he has walked more times (45) than striking out (36) and on the mound he has gone 10-3 with a 2.34 ERA (104-IP) with 140 strikeouts in 16 starts. McKay is currently tied for fifth in the ACC in home runs, is tied for first in wins, first in strikeouts, is third in innings pitched and was named the 2017 ACC Player of the Year.

In his three seasons with the Louisville Cardinals, McKay has posted a 31-10 record with a stunning 2.15 ERA. To go along with that, he has 385 strikeouts, tops among all pitchers ever in a Cardinals uniform.

As well, his career numbers at the plate are also stunning as he holds a career batting average of .328, with 27 home runs, 46 doubles and 131 RBIs in 179 starts over 186 plate appearances.

The big hurdle for the Rays is whether or not they will be able to sign McKay. Under the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) the Rays have been allocated $12,528,100 for their first 10 picks, with a value of $6,153,000 set for their first round pick.

The big hurdle for the Rays is whether or not they will be able to sign McKay. Jim Callis of MLB.com breaks down the player pool values and pick allocations under the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement). The Rays have been allocated a total of $12,528,100 for their first 10 picks, with a value of $6,153,000 set for their first round pick.

Rays Director of Amateur Scouting Rob Metzler was asked about McKay’s signability during the Rays Draft Day Media Conference at Tropicana Field, in which he replied:

"“We’re optimistic. Brendan’s going to continue his way through the College World Series. We’ll be rooting for Louisville, rooting for them to hang the banner at the end, and after that we’re optimistic that we’re going to be able to make him a Ray.”"

As for McKay,  he fielded numerous questions via a conference call from the media. The following is part of the conference transcript courtesy of the Rays Media department.

McKay was asked if he is excited to hit and pitch:

“If a guy can figure out how to handle his arm and his body and not get worn down and stay healthy, it could add a whole new level in having two-guys-in-one that can do both. …The [Rays have] said we’re going to experiment with it and see if it’s a feasible thing to do.”

On what McKay told teams when they asked whether he wanted to do both hitting and pitching:

“Every team that I talked to, that was the big question. I said I wanted to do both as long as I could. Some teams were with it and would be willing to do it. Some teams were stuck on one or the other and didn’t want to take that risk. It all just came down to if one would say yes. If one team wanted to pick one and stick with that, I would have had no issue with it.”

On whether he’s excited about the chance to pitch and hit with the Rays:

“Absolutely, I love to be on the field and playing. This game, it’s almost like a kid’s game, just having fun and doing what you love. …To have fun and get to embrace the struggles and the success and build relationships with people.

Next: Talented Durham Pitching Staff Bails Out Rays

With his proven track record, his commitment to the game, staying healthy and given the opportunity to continue as a two-way player, McKay could become one of the best draft picks in franchise history

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