Prospects of Interest: Blue Jays add Drury, McKinney in Happ trade

Ross Atkins talks with the media about the returns the Toronto Blue Jays got for trading J.A. Happ and Seunghwan Oh.

Viewed from the perspective of the New York Yankees, the J.A. Happ trade looks like a clear win.

They add one of the best starting pitchers available without surrendering a top prospect or a key piece from their big-league roster. If you’re a team with World Series aspirations, that’s a move worth making.

From the Toronto Blue Jays’ standpoint, the return of Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney adds controllable position player depth, if not star power. Drury’s bat has made him an everyday big-leaguer before, while McKinney ranks 20th among New York’s prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.

“Young, versatile talent that we’ll control for multiple years,” said GM Ross Atkins. “These are opportunities you can’t pass up.”

Here’s a closer look at the newest additions to the Blue Jays’ organization…

Brandon Drury

Age: 25
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Position: Second base, third base, corner outfield

The Yankees acquired Drury in February with the expectation that he could contribute every day, but breakout seasons from rookies Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar reduced Drury’s role and eventually sent him to the minor leagues.

“We didn’t acquire Brandon Drury to play at Scranton,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said after optioning him to the minors in May. “We acquired him to impact this major-league club, and I’m sure he will.”

Drury will now join the Blue Jays in Chicago, where manager John Gibbons could use him at second, third or in the outfield. While the addition of Drury further complicates the Blue Jays’ already-crowded infield mix, Atkins noted that the best organizations have a surplus of MLB-calibre contributors.

“We’ll have opportunities for guys to play, there’s no doubt about that,” Atkins said. “If it means that someone goes to triple-A, that’s a good scenario for an organization.”

Drury first established himself as a valuable utility player in Arizona, posting a .775 OPS from 2016-17 while playing at second base, third base, left field and right field.

In 57 plate appearances at the MLB level this year, he’s hit just .176/.263/.275, but he fared better at triple-A, hitting .294/.403/.447 in 233 total plate appearances with Scranton before re-joining the Yankees in July. A rival evaluator said he still projects as an everyday player because of his above-average hitting ability and average power.

The 25-year-old isn’t yet arbitration-eligible, though that could change this off-season if he collects enough service time to qualify for Super Two status. He’ll remain controllable through 2021 or 2022, depending on how much time he spends in the majors this year.

Severe migraines and blurry vision sent Drury to the disabled list for most of April, but he returned to action on May 10 and has played consistently since then. More recently, Drury left Tuesday’s game with a left hand contusion after being hit by a pitch. X-rays were negative.

Billy McKinney

Age: 23
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Position: Centre field, right field

A first-round pick five years ago, McKinney has already been involved in more July trades (three) than big-league games (two). First, the Athletics sent McKinney, Addison Russell and Dan Straily to the Cubs for Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija in 2014. Two years later, the Cubs flipped McKinney, Gleyber Torres, Rashad Crawford and Adam Warren to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman.

McKinney has spent most of the 2018 season at triple-A, where he’s hitting .230/.294/.502 with 13 home runs in 228 plate appearances. He has shown solid power at triple-A dating back to last year, with 23 home runs in 109 total games at the minors’ highest level.

Beyond the power, the Blue Jays grade McKinney’s other tools (fielding, arm, speed and hitting ability) as average or better. Atkins said McKinney can handle all three outfield positions and noted that his experience at first base could prove useful, too.

Baseball America ranked McKinney 23rd among Yankees prospects entering the season, and he currently ranks 20th in New York’s deep system, according to MLB Pipeline.

McKinney appeared in two games at Rogers Centre this season but crashed hard into the left-centre field wall on March 31, injuring his left shoulder. He missed the month of April before returning to action May 5.

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