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The BatCats have faced top arms all season.
Whether it be LSU's Alex Lange or North Carolina's J.B Bukauskas, UK has seen some nasty stuff on the mound in 2017. But they haven't faced Brendan McKay.
He was recently named Baseball America's Player of the Year as both a hitter and a pitcher. McKay is 9-3 with 131 strikeouts in 97.1 innings. As a hitter, McKay is one of the best power hitters in all of college baseball. His ability to hit for a high average and drive the ball has him as one of the two candidates for the number one overall pick next Tuesday. But what makes him so special on the mound?
MLB.com notes that McKay will sit low 90s early in games and will lose the velocity throughout the middle innings. The fastball may even drop into the high-80s if McKay is on the mound deeper into games. But even without throwing gas, McKay just needs to locate the pitch. He has other plus pitches he can use to get swings.
The above video really shows what he can do with that fastball.
He is locating it well despite not having a ton of life on the pitch. Scouts and insiders love his command. When you aren't hitting mid to high 90s, you have to command the fastball. McKay locates well and it makes that pitch just as effective late in games as it does early.
McKay has a plus breaking ball with his curveball. It gets a lot of vertical drop and will get around 81 MPH. The video below shows how it can be used on the outer half of the plate, but it is also a fantastic pitch in against right-handers. MLB.com gave his curve a 60 grade (out of 80) in their newest Draft preview.
McKay will also throw a changeup, but it is not as effective as the fastball or changeup. He may not have the velocity of Bukauskas or the crazy hook of Lange, but he is extremely effective with those two pitches. He gets a lot of swings and misses and will locate well.
How can UK beat McKay?
The Cats have never faced McKay in his three years at Louisville, so they don't have much of a feel for him coming into today's game. The Cats had faced Kade McClure several times and it didn't seem to help them in yesterday's loss. McKay locates well, but
UK needs to work good, long at-bats on the All-American.
Florida State and Duke proved that he can be touched, but his mistakes are few and far between. In both of the aforementioned games, Louisville's opponents put up crooked numbers in the fifth inning. When that velo begins to drop, UK may be able to strike. The Cats will also need to capitalize on defensive mistakes and any pitches McKay leaves up in the zone.
With Sean Hjelle on the mound, UK will not need to put up ten runs to win. Even with Hjelle not being as effective recently, he is still the top pitcher in the SEC. The offense needs to give him some support and let him settle in. That will be easier said than done against McKay. The BatCats need to jump on any mistakes and rattle McKay in the middle innings.
Kentucky hasn't faced someone with a makeup like McKay this season. But they have faced some of the top arms in the country. They roughed up projected #1 overall pick Kyle Wright and Vanderbilt. The forced Lange to walk eight batters. For me, it will be about UK's approach at the plate. Can they get free passes and get guys in scoring position? If they can, they will make it interesting tomorrow.