As a plethora of talented young players made their way to the big leagues for the Chicago Cubs this past season, focus began to shift from the farm system to the major league team. Nevertheless, management continued to stock up on prospects. One of the main areas of focus was left-handed hitting.
When the team dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics in the summer, prospect Addison Russell was the talk of the trade, and rightly so. He was the A’s top prospect, and ranked number three overall. But what seemed to go unnoticed was the acquisition of the young outfielder, Billy McKinney.
McKinney, 20, is a left-handed hitter and was the second best prospect Oakland had to offer. As a fairly well-rounded hitter, there’s a lot to like about what he brings to the table for the Cubs. And although he was viewed as a “throw in” at the time, McKinney could prove to be much more.
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The Cubs struggled mightily last season as they posted a league-low .291 on-base percentage and a .233 batting average that ranked 14th among National league teams. Apart from Anthony Rizzo and Chris Cohglan, with Rizzo being the only true source of left-handed power; the team lacked solid hitting from the left side of the plate.
While McKinney may be able to provide somewhat of boost to the Cubs current offensive woes, he is far from being the solution. With Class A Stockton, the lefty hit just .241 in 75 games before being dealt. He was then able to improve those numbers to a respectable .301 average to go along with 36 RBIs and a .390 on-base percentage.
At this point in the Cubs rebuilding process, none of their young players are locks for their respective positions. Each one of them must prove themselves worthy of a spot on the major league roster. So with that said, McKinney’s chances are as good as anyone who has yet to make it to the show.
Much like the others in the Cubs minor league system, the young outfielder will be given time to develop and will eventually compete for one of the two outfield spots that appear to be wide open in Chicago. With guys like Albert Almora and Arismendy Alcantara already vying for that role, the development of McKinney represents yet another position battle. The abundance of identical position players is a good problem for Cubs’ management to have. And as the Cubs have seen for themselves, you can never have too much talent.