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Tampa Bay Rays: 12 seasons later, McKay may follow Price’s path

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ST PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 23: David Price #14 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies during game two of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 23, 2008 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays won 4-2. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 23: David Price #14 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies during game two of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 23, 2008 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays won 4-2. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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After a strong start at Double-A, Brendan McKay is on a collision course for his big league debut with the Tampa Bay Rays.

After striking out 62 batters in only 42.1 innings and pitching to a minuscule 1.30 ERA, Brendan McKay is slated to make his first start at Triple-A Durham later this evening. His recent promotion to the Tampa Bay Rays’ most advanced affiliate has turned everyone’s attention towards the possibility of a September call-up for the promising southpaw.

McKay, who the Rays took 4th overall in the 2017 draft, has risen through the minor league ranks without as much as a hiccup on the mound. Developing as a 2-way player, McKay’s bat hasn’t exactly matched his arm’s production but that hasn’t stopped him from reaching Durham.

McKay’s fastball lives in the 92-95 range and he features a curveball, cutter, and changeup. His curveball and cutter both project to be above-average pitches while his changeup is coming along nicely. Similar to Rays’ ace Blake Snell, McKay relies on great fastball command and his 4 pitch mix to keep opposing hitters off-balance at the plate.

Across 140 total innings on the mound for McKay, he has a 1.99 ERA, 186 strikeouts, and only 28 walks. He averages 12 punch outs per 9 innings and has a superb 6.89 K/BB ratio. At the plate, McKay has slashed an underwhelming .208/.338/.328 with 10 bombs across 485 plate appearances (399 AB).

Ten years prior to selecting McKay 4th overall, the Devil Rays selected David Price 1st overall in 2007. Price wouldn’t pitch for any Rays affiliate in 2007, but rapidly moved through the Rays’ system in 2008, spending time at their Advanced-A, Double-A, and Triple-A affiliates prior to receiving a September call-up.

Price would make his debut on September 14th against the Yankees and finish the regular season with 14 IP,  earning a spot on the playoff roster. He would play a pivotal role for the Rays in October, as he recorded the final 4 outs of Game 7 of the ALCS and threw an additional 3.1 innings in the World Series.

If McKay continues his domination of Minor League hitters and earns a September call, he will surely be in a position to fight for a spot on the presumed Rays’ playoff roster.

McKay battled a pair of oblique injuries in 2018 which slowed his progression. But, as long as McKay can stay healthy in 2019, we could see the beginning of his Rays career this September and maybe even into October. Hopefully, his career in a Rays uniform goes something similar to that of their former ace, David Price, who they drafted 10 years prior.

The only thing standing in the southpaw’s way would be a limit on his workload as he didn’t exceed 80 IP last season due to injury. He last exceeded 100 IP in 2017 when he threw a combined 129 IP between college (109 IP) and his time at Hudson Valley (20 IP).

While I am sure the Rays would like to stretch him out once again they will surely be cautious in his development and may limit him to 100-120 IP this season thus limiting the possibility of him being able to contribute big league innings later this year.

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Like almost all things relating to the game’s top prospects, only time will tell. It would be pretty cool though, if he followed in the footsteps of David Price.

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