Brendan McKay: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Brendan McKay on June 9, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty)

Brendan McKay is primed for big things. The college athlete was among the most buzzed-about names heading into the 2017 MLB draft on Monday, and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays as the fourth overall pick.

McKay, who plays for The University of Louisville, is considered an equally elite prospect as both a left-handed pitcher and a hitting first baseman, making him a rarity in the world of college baseball. As a result, the question posed by USA Today is not whether McKay will be a success, but whether he will find success with his arm or his bat.

Read on to learn more about McKay, his professional career, and the teams that are rumored to pick him up.

1. He Was Named the Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year in High School

McKay was born on December 18th, 1995 to parents Bruce and Kim McKay. According to NCAA, McKay could often be found glued to the television as a boy, watching either the Little League World Series or the College World Series. “We knew then that he lives baseball,” said his father Bruce, who added they that would spend many an evening practicing in the empty lot in front of their house.

McKay attended Blackhawk High School in Chippewa, Pennsylvania, where this passion for the game resulted in numerous accolades. In 2014, Penn Live reported that McKay went 8-1 with an 0.56 ERA and 130 strikeouts. He also threw 72 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, currently the second-longest streak in national history, while hitting over .400 as a position player.

McKay was subsequently named the Gatorade Player of the Year in both 2013 and 2014, the latter of which was his senior year in high school.

2. He Was Drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2014, But Chose to Attend the University of Louisville

Upon graduating from Blackhawk High School, McKay was being touted as a top prospect by the MLB. He discussed the notion of playing in the majors with The Courier-Journal, saying “You start out as a freshman just playing varsity, and now you have the possibility of going to play professional or going to play at a top college like Louisville. It’s a great experience, and it’s kind of nerve-wracking not knowing what’s going to happen.”

That being said, if McKay wasn’t drafted in the first two rounds of the 2014 MLB draft, he said that he’d probably end up going to college instead. “That’s about my cutoff,” he explained, adding that he’d be “extremely happy” to play for The University of Louisville instead. The San Diego Padres would go on to draft McKay in the 34th round of the draft, and he made good on his word by attending Louisville on a full scholarship.

In an interview with the San Diego Tribune, former Padres scout director Billy Gasparino detailed the team’s interaction with McKay. “We did a great job of identifying Brendan maybe a little bit before the industry got going on him. We liked the body, the arm action, the delivery and the curveball. We felt like there was more to come. We tried hard… We made a pretty sizable offer. To the family’s credit, they were very good to deal with.They just really wanted him to go to school, and it’s worked out great for them.”

3. He’s Won 3 Consecutive John Olerud Awards

During his time at Louisville, McKay set a new standard for two-way players, or players with more than one unique skillset on the field. As a pitcher during his freshman year, he went 9-3 with a 1.77 ERA, 117 strikeouts and four saves. As a first baseman, he hit .308 with four home runs and 34 RBI. This combined success led to McKay winning the John Olerud Award in 2015, which is given to the best two-way player of the season.

McKay would go on to become first college player in history to win two John Olerud Awards in 2016, a record he would break the following year when he won a third time. NCAA reports that during McKay’s 2017 season, he went 10-3 with a 2.34 ERA and set a Louisville record with 140 strikeouts in 104 innings pitched. He finished his college career with the all-time record for strikeouts at Louisville, tallying up 385 over his three seasons.

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, McKay said that while his dream is to become an MLB player, he knows that the dream is difficult, and is grateful for his time at Louisville: “You’ve got to be thinking through every lift of weights, every practice, every scrimmage that you have to put everything you have into it. You also have to think that a lot of your sports ability can be taken away at any moment with one freak accident. You have to be conscious of that.”

4. He is Currently the Nation’s Top Two-Way Player

McKay’s abilities as both a pitcher and a hitter have made him something of a rarity in the sport. In a piece by ESPN, writer Jerry Crasnick notes that: “Inevitably, two-way phenoms have been forced to make a choice, because it would be too difficult to ply both skills on a regular basis. But that assumption might soon be tested by an ambitious Louisville Cardinal.”

Dan McDonnell, the head coach for Louisville, also feels that McKay could be the player who bucks the trend of being used exclusively for his arm or his bat: “I don’t know if he’s the No. 1 college pitcher in the country. Let’s just say he’s in the top three to five. I don’t know if he’s the top college hitter in the country. Let’s just say he’s in the top three to five. So you’re getting two players with one pick and one dollar value.”

McDonnell added: “How you use him is your choice. You’re getting a starting rotation pitcher that you hope can give you 200 innings a year and a left-handed power bat. Man, it’s exciting.”

5. He Was Drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays

Prior to the MLB draft, many believed that McKay was going to be drafted by the Minnesota Twins. reported that the Twins, who had the first overall pick in the draft, reportedly favored McKay over fellow prospect Kyle Wright:

“Though the teams selecting behind the Twins think they’re leaning toward Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright, I started hearing whispers Thursday night that Minnesota prefers Louisville two-way star Brendan McKay. That noise is getting louder Friday, and I now believe the Twins will take McKay No. 1, as a left-handed pitcher rather than a first baseman, unless California high school righty Hunter Greene overwhelms them in his visit to Target Field on Friday afternoon.”


As it turned out, however, McKay turned down the offer made by the Twins, who ended up going with high school shortstop Royce Lewis. McKay was subsequently picked up by the Tampa Bay Rays. He was the fourth selection overall, much to the surprise of fans of the teams that preceded Tampa Bay in their picks. “It’s just awesome getting to swing it every day and play every day,” McKay said after the announcement, “[It] will be fun to be on the field a lot.”

Due to the fact that Tampa Bay is an American League team, McKay will forced into the role of either pitcher or position player.

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McKay’s parents have stated that they have no preferred team, and are simply proud of their son for making it to the big leagues. “I don’t think we can get too glued on one team,” his mother Kim tells NCAA, “Because the way the industry is, he could be somewhere else in a couple of years.”