Rays take 2-way threat McKay with 4th pick

Louisville standout stars as slugging first baseman, dominant southpaw

Rays take 2-way threat McKay with 4th pick

ST. PETERSBURG -- Brendan McKay can hit and pitch. The Rays will now be in charge of his ultimate destination after selecting the Louisville first baseman/left-handed pitcher with the fourth pick of the MLB Draft.

"We are thrilled to select Brandon McKay with [the fourth pick]," said Erik Neander, Rays senior vice president of baseball operation. "This is a very rare talent as a position player and as a pitcher. ... All we can say is our staff is thrilled to have selected him and hopefully have him in our organization."

While two-way players are rare at any level, they are all but extinct at the Major League level for a simple reason. Hitting and pitching both require unusual talent to do well at an elite level. Few players have one or the other; virtually no players have both.

Rays' No. 31 overall: Drew Rasmussen
Rays' No. 40 overall: Michael Mercado

Still, McKay would like to do both, and the Rays are willing to give it a whirl.

"At this point, our plan is to continue to let him explore that," Neander said. "He's probably the first guy, as long as we can remember, that has qualified on both sides of the ball to do this. We're excited to get him in here and explore it further."

McKay believes such an experiment could "go a long way."

"I think it can add a whole new level to baseball of having two guys in one that can do both and add a lot of potential to your team in many ways," McKay said.

McKay on Draft night

McKay was pleased that the Rays are open to the possibility, and he certainly has the credentials to take a crack at it.

McKay's swing is compact, but powerful. He has shown the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field or pull a ball with power. Enhancing those characteristics is a selective eye. He is athletic, and, no surprise, he has an above-average arm. He hit .363 with 17 home runs and a 1.186 OPS during Louisville's regular season.

McKay's fastball ranges from 90-94 mph and he has a quality curveball and a much improved changeup. As a starter for the Cardinals, he went 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 91 innings during the regular season.

Mayo, O'Dowd on McKay

McKay said he wasn't "disappointed at all" not to be the top pick, as some projected. He was asked specifically if the Twins, who picked first, offered him a deal and he turned it down.

"They had offered a number that we felt that we could get a better offer from another team or whatnot, and it ultimately came down to another team was able to give a better offer, so we went with that and I'm happy things worked out," McKay said. "You get a good deal and a great organization to work with."

The Rays have time to decide where McKay will play, but given the fact he's coming off a season pitching collegiately, it's unlikely the Rays will want him to add innings to a full log. That could be a good thing as he'd be allowed to play first base only without the pressure of trying to play two positions at the same time.

But where McKay ends up remains a coin toss.

The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.