A’s select prep outfielder McKinney with first Draft pick
CHICAGO — Billy McKinney sounded slightly embarrassed when admitting he’s yet to see “Moneyball” but vows he’ll add it to his to-do list this week.
Excuse him if it doesn’t happen until next week, for McKinney has a dream to start living out.
The 18-year-old prep outfielder was selected by the A’s at No. 24 in the first round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Texas’ Plano West High School on Thursday.
McKinney committed to Texas Christian University in November but is likely to forego college plans in favor of beginning a career with the same club he grew up rooting for, despite living less than an hour from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
“My dream is to become a big league ball player, and hopefully I can start that dream soon,” McKinney said by phone. “I know the college coaches would love to have me there, but I’m just going to try to achieve my dream of becoming a Major League baseball player.
“Obviously growing up 45 minutes from the Texas Rangers, you can’t really be too proud about being an A’s fan without getting some heckling. I’ve always just like the way the A’s play. I’m just very glad I got picked by them.”
For the first time in the Billy Beane era, the A’s have opted for a high school player with their first pick in back-to-back years, having taken shortstop Addison Russell at No. 11 last June. Before that, the A’s hadn’t drafted a prep player in the first round since pitcher Jeremy Bonderman in 2001.
The A’s are hoping their decision to stray from the college pool and pluck from the high school level, before a rarity in the organization, shows Russell — playing at Class-A Stockton — and McKinney just how committed they are to grooming them into impact players at the Major League level.
Not one position player on the A’s current roster is homegrown, and only three pitchers (Sean Doolittle, Dan Straily, A.J. Griffin) were drafted by Oakland.
The left-handed McKinney led Plano West to the Class 5A semifinals this season, hitting .394 (39-for-99) with six home runs and 32 RBIs to go along with a .585 on-base percentage using a swing he says he models after Josh Hamilton. He also drew 36 walks in 130 plate appearances and struck out only six times.
“Hamilton just has a beautiful swing,” he said. “I try to keep my swing as short and compact as it can be.”
Primarily a center fielder, McKinney noted he feels comfortable in any outfield spot. The same goes for first base, though remaining in center would be his preference.
“I believe in my abilities to stay in center,” he said. “I hope I can, but I just do whatever I can to help the team win.”
Oakland’s current center fielder, Coco Crisp, has a club option for 2014, with 2010 first-round Draft pick Michael Choice lingering in Triple-A Sacramento. Choice is expected to make his big league debut by 2014, while McKinney said he has no time frame in mind when it comes to getting to The Show.
The A’s will pick twice more Thursday, with their other two selections on Day 1 of the Draft coming at No. 63 and 71.