Former University of Louisville superstar, Brendan McKay, has begun his 2018 season with the Bowling Green Hot Rods – the Class A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. While McKay is still a year or two away from making Tampa’s big-league roster, the expectations surrounding him this this season are extremely high, and rightfully so.
Last June, Tampa Bay’s front-office used their fourth overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft to select the Cards’ two-way standout. As both a pitcher and first baseman, McKay dominated the college game, winning three-straight John Olerud awards. In only three years at Louisville, he proved himself to be the best baseball player in school-history and established himself as a legitimate MLB prospect.
Needless to say, with the Rays only making the postseason four times since 1998, their front-office is counting on McKay to become a perennial All-Star sooner rather than later.
Unlike the NFL and NBA, baseball players drafted out of college rarely see the big-leagues in their first few seasons. In an attempt to get guys accustomed to wood bats, better pitching, and high quality competition, ball-clubs use their minor-league system to better prepare players for Major League Baseball. As you may imagine, with so many players in these organizations, not every guy gets an opportunity to fulfill their dream at the highest level.
Even with some historic, yet legitimate hurdles in front of McKay this season, the Rays are counting on him to play like baseball’s 25th best prospect. Thankfully, it looks as though he’s started off his campaign with the Hot Rod’s extremely well.
During Bowling Green’s fast start this year McKay has a .556 batting average, with 5 runs-batted-in, and an incredible .733 on-base-percentage. McKay isn’t just playing well right now, he’s playing at an elite level. Keep in mind, this is still the first week of play for the Hot Rods, but it’s apparent McKay is destined for greater things in 2018.
While Rays fans are watching their big-league team lose eight of their first nine games, McKay is flexing his muscles for Bowling Green against some clearly inferior competition. It’s tough enough to keep top prospects hidden in the minor-leagues, but it’s even harder when Tampa Bay’s MLB-level first baseman aren’t being productive whatsoever.
All eyes have been on McKay already, but with his organizational-competition struggling mightily, don’t be surprised to see the Rays move him from Class A quickly this summer. Some people may see that pressure as crippling, but let’s not forget which player we’re talking about.
As we learned watching McKay at Jim Patterson Stadium, high expectations aren’t anything new for the former Card. He continually shows his ability to handle pressure, while getting better each and every year. If McKay can keep producing like this, he’ll find himself down in Tampa Bay before long.
Derek Snyder joined as a contributor for TheCardinalConnect.com in April of 2018. He previously covered everything Louisville Cardinals as the Site-Expert for BigRedLouie.com in 2016. Follow Derek on Twitter @dcolesny10.