Who is Billy McKinney, the Yankees’ pick to replace injured Aaron Judge on the roster?

Billy Mckinney of the Yankees during the 2023 spring training.
By Rav
Wednesday June 7, 2023

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As Aaron Judge moved to the 10-day injured list, the Yankees have picked up Billy McKinney, a former outfielder who debuted with the team in 2018, to take the vacant place on the active roster. Throughout the current season, McKinney has been showcasing his skills with the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate and has been impressed with his performance. In 40 games, McKinney exhibited a batting line of .274/.388/.511, hitting nine home runs and driving in 25 runs.

According to the recent announcement by the New York Yankees on Wednesday, Billy McKinney’s contract was selected, and he was signed to a Major League deal to bolster the team. His arrival coincides with Aaron Judge being sidelined due to a right toe sprain sustained when colliding with and subsequently breaking the Dodger Stadium fence last Saturday.

In 2018, he made his debut in Major League Baseball (MLB) with the New York Yankees before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays mid-season. He remained with the Blue Jays until 2020, and subsequently played for the Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Oakland Athletics.

Early career of Billy McKinney

Early in his career, Billy McKinney, hailing from Texas, was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2013 and received a signing bonus of $1.8 million. Following a .241 batting average with the Stockton Ports, he was transferred to the Chicago Cubs on July 4, 2014. During his time with the Daytona Cubs, he showcased a batting average of .301 in 51 games.

In 2015, Billy McKinney earned a promotion to the AA Tennessee but unfortunately suffered a hairline fracture in his right knee in August, prematurely concluding his season.

The first Yankees stint of Billy McKinney

On July 25, 2016, the Chicago Cubs traded Billy McKinney, Gleyber Torres, and two other players to the New York Yankees in exchange for Aroldis Chapman. Throughout the 2016 season, he achieved a .246 batting average, hitting four home runs and driving in 44 runs in Double-A. In late June, he was promoted to the RailRiders and concluded the 2017 season with a combined .277 batting average, 16 home runs, and 64 RBIs. Recognizing his potential, the Yankees included him in their 40-man roster after the season.

Billy Mckinney of the Yankees

At the conclusion of spring training in 2018, the Yankees optioned Billy McKinney to the RailRiders. However, an injury to Aaron Hicks resulted in McKinney’s promotion to the major leagues on March 30. Making his highly anticipated major league debut on that day, he successfully recorded his first hit in his inaugural at-bat. Unfortunately, the following day, Billy McKinney suffered a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder, leading to his placement on the disabled list. Eventually, on May 25, Billy McKinney returned from the disabled list and was optioned to the minor leagues.

Traded to Toronto Blue Jays

The New York Yankees traded Billy McKinney to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 26, 2018. It was on August 21 when he achieved a significant milestone by hitting his first major league home run against Baltimore Orioles pitcher Ryan Meisinger. Throughout the 2018 season, Billy McKinney made appearances in 36 games for the Blue Jays, compiling a batting average of .252 with six home runs and 13 RBIs.

In 2019, he continued to showcase his power at the plate, hitting 12 home runs and driving in 28 runs in 84 games. However, on September 11, 2020, the Blue Jays designated Billy McKinney for assignment, signaling a change in his status with the team.

Milwaukee Brewers signed

Following his stint with the Blue Jays, Billy McKinney’s journey took a new turn on September 14, 2020, as he was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers. During his time with the Brewers, he played in 40 games and achieved a batting average of .207, along with three home runs and six RBIs. However, his tenure with the Brewers came to a halt when he was designated for assignment on May 22, 2021.

The journeyman era

The baseball journey of Billy McKinney continued with several trades and moves to different teams. On May 25, 2021, he was traded to the New York Mets. During his 39 games with the Mets, he showcased a batting line of .220/.304/.473, belting five home runs and driving in 14 runs. However, his time with the Mets was short-lived as he was designated for assignment on July 16.

The next chapter unfolded when Billy McKinney was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 21, 2021. Wearing the Dodgers’ uniform, he participated in 37 games but struggled at the plate, hitting .146 with one home run and seven RBIs.

On November 19, 2021, the Dodgers designated Billy McKinney for assignment, and shortly thereafter, he was traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for cash considerations.

In a fresh start, Billy McKinney signed a minor-league deal with the Oakland Athletics on March 16, 2022, including an invitation to Spring Training. The Athletics saw potential in him and selected his contract on April 7, adding him to their opening-day roster. However, his stint with the Athletics was brief as he was designated for assignment on May 9.

Billy Mckinney in Bluie Jays' uniform

Return to New York Yankees

In a significant move on December 31, 2022, Billy McKinney officially inked a minor league deal with his former team, the New York Yankees. As the 2023 season commenced, he started with the Triple-A RailRiders, where he showcased his skills in 40 games. Throughout this period, he maintained an impressive batting line of .274/.388/.511, launching nine home runs and tallying 25 RBIs.

The turning point arrived on June 7, 2023, when Billy McKinney’s outstanding performance led to his selection for the major league roster. This opportunity arose due to Aaron Judge’s placement on the injured list, opening the door for McKinney to join the Yankees’ top-tier team.

How far he can help the Yankees

The Yankees are optimistic that Billy McKinney can sustain this level of play at the major league level. However, it is important to note that Billy McKinney faced challenges during his career in the big leagues. Over a span of five years, he has struggled to find consistency, recording a batting average of .206/.277/.387, along with 28 home runs and 72 runs batted in.

Billy McKinney’s most recent stint in the MLB was with the Oakland Athletics in 2022, where he appeared in 23 games. Unfortunately, his performance during this period was disheartening, as he managed a meager .096/.158/.173 batting line, tallying only seven hits and two extra-base hits.

In 2021, Billy McKinney had brief stints with the Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, and the Dodgers. Although he received a significant amount of playing time with the Dodgers, his struggles persisted. Despite participating in 37 games, his lack of production was noticeable, leaving much to be desired.

Nevertheless, Billy McKinney, now armed with a strong start to the 2023 season in the minors, aims to revitalize his career. At just 28 years old, he still has time to find success in New York, despite the challenges that come with playing in such a demanding city. Perhaps the enticing “short porch” in the right field at Yankee Stadium will provide him with some well-deserved luck as he embarks on this new chapter.

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