TCN 2015 Cardinals Prospect #18: Ian McKinney

Delivering results quickly is the M.O. of the left-hander, taken in the fifth round of the 2013 draft.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

School: Boone High School, Orlando, Florida

2014 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
25 LHS 11,18,94 5-11 185 L L 2013 5th

Selected 2014 stats

SC 1 1 6.17 2.93 2 2 0 11.2 11 8 0 2 9 0.244 0.37 0.297
JC 2 0 1.26 2.58 6 6 0 35.2 27 5 0 7 31 0.220 0.58 0.284
Tot 3 1 2.47   8 8 0 47.1 38 13 0 9 40 0.226 0.52  

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (18): Ian McKinney began receiving votes around #16 during the community discussion. He ultimately received the majority of votes at vote #18, where he also wound up in this combined top 40.

During the vote, I mentioned that McKinney had a 2.47 ERA to go along with a 7.6 K/9 and a 1.7 BB/9 between Johnson City and State College. UncleDenny believes that McKinney is a decent pitching prospect, but would rate several others ahead of him, including Daniel Poncedeleon (#34), Dewin Perez (unranked) and Bryan Dobzanski (#24). - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore: McKinney was aggressively placed in last years’ The Cardinal Nation top 40, coming in as the 25th prospect in his draft season. The 6-foot-0 southpaw climbed up seven spots to the 18th ranking this winter.

To open the season, McKinney was given one start for the State College Spikes, and later finished the season due to injury back at State College after one more start in which he struggled. McKinney pitched for the Johnson City Cardinals for most of the short-season, making six starts. The lefty flat out dominated the Appalachian League, compiling a 1.26 ERA with an impressive 0.95 WHIP, proving why he is deserving of a top 20 ranking.

McKinney has arguably been one of the more effective prep starters taken out of the 2013 draft class other than first-rounder Rob Kaminsky. McKinney is said to throw in the low 90s, with two breaking pitches, a curve and slider, and a change-up. He is able to command them all, which is a definite plus, especially considering his youth.

McKinney just turned 20 in November, and the organization should allow him plenty of time to develop as a starting pitcher. Even if that doesn’t pan out, the fallback option would be a left-handed specialist, a role I presume McKinney could thrive in given his slider is the best offering in his arsenal.

I would not be surprised to see McKinney make the jump to Peoria to start the 2015 campaign just because of how polished he is, but I would also not be surprised to see him stay back for extended and pitch his way into Peoria before short-season opens up. For any player, moving a level ahead depends on both having the opportunity and readiness to contribute.

Brian Walton (19): As noted above, McKinney adapted very quickly to the pro game, logging eight consecutive scoreless outings in the 2013 Gulf Coast League. That would be impressive from anyone, but more so from someone who had been pitching to high schoolers a few weeks prior.

He assessed his early success with GCL hitters with modesty.

“For the most part, I think they were all pretty young guys like me,” McKinney recalled a year later. “They were just getting adjusted, too. I think I figured it out a game or two quicker than them.”

Again in 2014, McKinney got out of the gates strongly. After the one start at State College to help the early-opening club as a bridge until the college-drafted pitchers were ready, he reported to Johnson City. There, he racked up two Pitcher of the Week awards from the rookie circuit by the first week in July.

Asked to explain why, his answer was simple.

“I was really effective with my fastball,” McKinney noted. “I worked off of it, and had pretty good command of it. I pretty much had success off that.”

Focusing on his fastball, change up and curve combination, McKinney was usually allowed to throw between 80 and 90 pitches per outing, about 60 percent fastballs. He offered some insight into his other offerings.

“My changeup is probably my best secondary (pitch), I’d say, and my curveball is still coming along,” he said. “It is pretty sharp but it could be a little more controlled.”

When McKinney returned to State College in late July, he again became the youngest player on the Spikes roster. Though his July 29 start did not look great on the stat sheet, six runs in 6 2/3 innings, it was a win. McKinney did not agree when I asked if it was less than what was expected.

“For the last two innings, probably not, but for the most part, I think I had a pretty good outing,” the pitcher asserted. “I think I had 59 pitches through six innings. I was getting hitters out with pretty decent pitches. It felt good. Then I guess I just got tired in the later innings.” (Five of his six runs scored in the sixth and seventh frames.)

He was shut down thereafter with some undisclosed upper body soreness, which I was assured was insignificant. McKinney then reported to instructional league this fall, though I did not see evidence of him pitching there.

Though McKinney’s 2014 numbers have already been noted, I wanted to offer some system-wide context. His ERA was sixth-lowest among all starters with at least 40 innings. His walk rate was second-lowest and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was third-best, just ahead of Marco Gonzales. One area of concern is a high fly ball rate, though.

There is no reason to believe that McKinney will not be ready to go in the spring. As tempting as it might be to place him in full-season ball, my guess is that the now-20-year old will work in extended spring training. Some sustained success, even limited in duration, at State College would be good to see before he is challenged in the Midwest League. That could have occurred during August and in the New York-Penn League playoffs had he not been injured, but it is not a major setback by any means.

Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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