TCN 2016 Cardinals Prospect #27: Ian McKinney

The young left-hander continues to impress with command and control beyond his years.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

School: Boone High School, Orlando, Florida

2015 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
18 LHS 11,18,94 5-11 185 L L 2013 5th

Selected 2015 stats

PB 1 0 0.00   1 0 0 3 1 0 0 0 5 0.091 1.50  
Peo 3 1 2.58 2.82 6 6 0 38.1 36 11 0 8 29 0.247 0.79 0.295
SC 4 2 2.76 3.03 8 8 0 45.2 47 14 1 12 40 0.261 1.00 0.324
total 8 3 2.59   15 14 0 87 84 25 1 20 74 0.249 0.91  

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (19): Like his fellow 2013 draftee, Oscar Mercado, Ian McKinney has been steadily ranked in the community voting finishing at #18 last year, while getting slotted in at #19 this year. McKinney debuted in the prospect rankings at #31 during the 2014 community vote. This year McKinney received support early on in the voting process picking up votes from desmatlax12 and GM4aday at #15.

Last year, UncleDenny thought there were several prospects that he would rate ahead of McKinney such as Poncedeleon, Nielsen, and Dobzanski. The first two have proven to be pretty good company for McKinney as he was just behind Poncedeleon and just ahead of Nielsen in this year’s community vote.

Desmatlax12 likes how McKinney is more age-appropriate for his level than a guy like Austin Gomber. Desmatlax12 also thinks McKinney has a ceiling close to that of Marco Gonzales and that he is probably the best combination of youth, success, and potential to advance quickly of the remaining prospects. GM4aday would like to see McKinney get an innings bump next year when he will be pitching at class High-A Palm Beach. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore (32): In recent years, The Cardinal Nation has shown bullishness in ranking McKinney. This winter was an exception for the smallish left-hander, who slid nine spots after his #18 showing last winter.

McKinney's stock didn't exactly fall based on his 2.59 ERA in 15 games (87 innings) along with a strong 74-to-20 strikeout to walk ratio across three levels in 2015. His season began in extended spring training before he debuted with three scoreless innings for High-A Palm Beach (his lone outing at that level) and finished the year with 14 starts between Class-A State College and Peoria.

What does McKinney offer?

“Plus command and control with above average pitchability for a kid his age. Has had success at each level,” said Peoria manager Joe Kruzel. ”Knows how to pitch. Ability to throw all his pitches for quality strikes. Very good poise and mound presence. Has good feel for the game and fields position well.

“The kid has good work habits and appears his development is moving in right direction.”

On the mound, McKinney is the opposite of an imposing presence and doesn't wow anyone with stuff or funkiness as you will see at times in a southpaw. What he excels at is simply knowing how to pitch and maximizing that ability with a present below-average repertoire. His repertoire consists of a fastball, changeup, and two breaking balls, but he has said to have scrapped the slider in an attempt to focus on a better change and curve that will serve him well as a starting pitcher as he advances.

McKinney has breezed through the Cardinals lower levels with that three-pitch mix. His fastball sits the high 80s and can touch low 90s every once in a while. Also, he throws with a 3/4 arm slot, hindering the possibility of working his stuff downhill. Unless he raised his slot this past summer -- his margin for error looks slim as upper-level hitters can easily lift and eliminate a flat fastball without premium velocity and hanging secondary stuff.

Fortunately, McKinney's biggest asset is being able to place the ball wherever wants on pinpoint command. So he's escaped some of these potential issues that could harm his effectiveness in a hitter’s league. His change is said to be his strongest pitch currently, and the curve is more of a show-me pitch as its spin lacks consistency.

McKinney hasn't been generating a lot of buzz amongst the scouts and coaches with whom I have spoken. Some prospect publications have pegged him as a future reliever or a back-end starter. Still, you shouldn't neglect a 21-year old expected to reach High-A in 2016.

Brian Walton (27): As noted in the table above, McKinney pitched the entire 2015 season at the tender age of 20. His consistent and strong results to date speak for themselves. An ERA of 2.24 that includes just one home run allowed in 163 2/3 career innings is why McKinney is here.

Granted, killer velocity from any pitcher is preferred, but that isn’t McKinney’s forte. I have seen him pitch multiple times sitting in the 90-91 mph range, however, which is not a death knell for a left-hander who knows how to pitch beyond his years.

I thought he would have been positioned for a good chance of making the Peoria out of spring training, but a July injury in 2014 kept him from a full campaign at State College.

As expected, McKinney made up the lost time in extended spring training. The combination of his good showing and the need for innings at Palm Beach led to an opportunity to skip a level for one game, an impressive three-inning relief stint in May.

Once the short-season schedule got underway, McKinney picked up where he left off in 2014. After nine solid outings back with the Spikes, he earned his assignment to the Midwest League in early August.

The question is whether his six successful starts with Peoria will be enough to propel him into the Palm Beach rotation to open 2016. That will not be decided until spring training, but if McKinney earns the Palm Beach spot, I think he may actually get out to a better start for the year. The Florida weather in April should be more to the Orlando native’s liking, as could the bigger ballparks of the Florida State League.

Our 2016 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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