Last fall, as the 2020 season was a couple weeks from ending, the Milwaukee Brewers made one of their classic, quiet waiver claims. The move was more a look to the future instead of one that could help the team in the short-term.
Outfielder Billy McKinney was claimed from the Toronto Blue Jays on September 14th of last year. The former first-round pick of the Oakland A’s came to the Brewers with a career .231/.291/.437 slash line and 18 homers in 124 career MLB games spread across three seasons.
This spring was supposed to be McKinney’s chance to finally audition for a possible backup outfielder role with the team. However, a slow start at the plate through the first couple weeks of spring training started to make his chances of grabbing that roster spot look slim.
Things have picked up quite a bit for McKinney offensively lately, though, and just as final roster decisions are going to have to start being made. If his offensive surge continues, will it be enough to put him on the roster come Opening Day?
It may still be a bit of an uphill battle, but another few strong spring training outings could secure an Opening Day Brewers roster spot for Billy McKinney.
McKinney may have taken a bit to warm up at the plate, but that was before his last game and a half down in the Cactus League. Since then, it’s been nothing but a power surge for the 26-year-old.
After recording outs in his first two at bats in Thursday’s game against the Angels, McKinney broke through with a long homer in the seventh inning. Then on Friday, he continued his power barrage with home runs in both at bats after entering the game in the sixth.
That bumped McKinney’s spring training slash line up to .214/.267/.679, still not amazing but certainly trending in the right direction. Of his six hits so far, five have gone for extra bases (one double, four home runs). He has struck out 35.7% of the time, though, and has walked just twice.
Stats aside, the current roster construction for the Brewers could also make it difficult to justify McKinney’s roster spot. When Milwaukee added outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr in free agency, it gave the team four starting-caliber players at the position.
Carrying five outfielders isn’t an overly likely scenario unless one of those players can play other positions as well. Luckily for McKinney, he has the ability to play first base in a pinch, a quality that could be needed if first baseman Daniel Vogelbach ends up not making the cut for Opening Day.
McKinney is one of the many players on the Brewers with no minor league options remaining, so not making the Opening Day roster could result in his stint with Milwaukee ending quickly. The final two weeks of spring training will be critical for his chances of remaining with the Crew.