Kubota: 'McKinney was one of the best high school hitters in the draft'
Billy Beane used a first-round draft pick on a high school player for the second year in a row. (AP)
For the second year in a row, and just the second time since Billy Beane became the A's general manager in 1997, Oakland used its initial first-round draft pick on a high school player as the A's selected Plano West High (Texas) outfielder Billy McKinney with the No. 24 overall selection in the First-Year Player Draft on Thursday evening.
The left-handed McKinley hit .372 with four home runs and 17 RBI this spring, and also had 36 walks and a .585 on-base percentage. He struck out just six times as a senior and stole seven bases in eight attempts.
And despite being reared up in Nolan Ryan country, McKinney insisted he was an Athletics fan.
"Obviously growing up 45 minutes from the Texas Rangers, I can't really be too (loud) about being an A's fan, without getting some heckling," he said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "I've always just liked the way the A's played, especially the last few years, they've done very well. I'm just very glad I got picked by the A's."
McKinney has signed to play collegiately at nearby TCU but his father Brian Sr. told MLB.com his son had loftier aspirations.
"He's prepared to go to TCU, he'd love to go to TCU, but all things being equal, he wants to go pro," he said.
Added the younger McKinney: "Oh yeah, my dream is to become a big league ballplayer and hopefully I can fulfill that dream soon. I know my college coaches would love to have me there but…I'm going to try to achieve my dream of being a major league baseball player."
McKinney was ranked the second-best corner outfield prospect by "Baseball America," behind Mississippi States Hunter Renfroe, and the 6-feet-2, 195-pound McKinney has been compared to the likes of current big leaguers Mark Kotsay and Nate McLouth.
But there was a much closer former Texas idol McKinney watched.
"I try to model my swing after Josh Hamilton," he said. "He just has a beautiful swing.
"I try to keep my swing short and as compact as can be…other than that, just try to work my hardest to be the best that I can be."
McKinney said he had no timeframe or goal on when he wants to be in the big leagues. When asked what he thought his greatest strengths were, he said, "scouts like my hitting. They like the way I swing the bat. Hopefully that can carry me…definitely the work ethic, though, and the way I stay humble in the game."
Other teams to have shown interest in him, he said, were the Giants, Rangers and New York Yankees.
Joined in the MLB Network studios for the draft by his father, mother Cathy, sister and boyfriend, McKinney said he was shocked to hear Beane's voice on the other end of the phone when the A's pick came in. Sure, the high schooler knew of the Moneyball philosophy, book and movie, but he had yet to watch the Oscar-nominated flick.
"I'm for sure going to watch it in the next few days," he said. "No doubt in my mind."
Picking high school players, though, is a departure from the halcyon days of Moneyball. Last year, the A's chose high school shortstop Addison Russell with their first pick.
On Wednesday, Beane told CSNCalifornia.com the organization would stick to its draft board when their draft slot came up.
"I think you'll spend 364 days saying 'best player available,''" Beane said at the time. "But when that day comes, it's a challenge to stay disciplined with that approach."
McKinney is the fourth position player drafted by the A's in the first round in the past five years, joining Russell (2012), outfielder Michael Choice (2010) and infielder Grant Green (2009).
Russell is at Class A Stockton with Choice and Green are with triple-A Sacramento, alongside right-hander Sonny Gray, the A's top pick in 2011.
Following is Baseball America's scouting report on the A's first-round pick: "McKinnie has one of the sweetest swings in the 2013 draft and he has hit his way into the first round with a strong spring. He generates excellent bat speed from the left side of the plate, and he barrels balls with ease thanks to his hand-eye coordination and disciplined approach…(he) has strength and should grow into solid power. The rest of McKinney's tools are fringy to average, but his arm and speed play up because he goes all-out all the time. Scouts love his makeup and are confident that he'll provide the offense required on an outfield corner."
The A's added left-handed pitcher Dillon Overton out of Oklahoma with the No. 63 overall pick in the second round and Virginia Tech shortstop Chad Pinder in Competitive Balance Round B.