No Orioles minor league player has risen more this season in terms of general O’s fans knowing about him than outfielder Ryan McKenna. His performance this year has skyrocketed him into the limelight and he is hitting his stride at the plate with the Double-A Bowie Baysox in July.
McKenna, 21, was drafted by the Orioles in the fourth round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in New Hampshire. The 5-foot-11, 185-lb. right-handed hitting outfielder had three solid seasons in the organization prior to this season, but was not on many prospect radars.
He certainly changed that by dominating the Carolina League with the high Single-A Frederick Keys to begin the year. He played 67 games for the Keys, hitting .377 with 18 doubles, two triples, eight home runs, 37 RBIs and 60 runs. He also boasted a robust .467 OBP and a 1.023 OPS. He obviously earned a nod for the Carolina League All-Star Game and a well-deserved promotion to the Baysox.
McKenna got his first taste of Double-A baseball on June 21 and did not have the debut he would have liked, going 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.
In fact, over his first nine games, McKenna was hitting just .212 (7-for-33) with two RBIs and five runs. He also struck out 11 times in those nine games and failed to record an extra-base hit.
Some fans began telling me that he was overhyped, and was getting a dose of reality. I politely disagreed and pointed out that McKenna was adjusting to a new league with higher quality pitching. Not to mention the fact that he would also be adjusting to a new residence and all of the other aspects that come with changing the area and team you are playing for. Many fans fail to remember these sorts of things when it comes to minor league players.
Fast forward to July, and McKenna has shown he can make the adjustments and is really hitting his stride at the plate. Over eight games this month, McKenna is hitting .313 (10-for-32) with three doubles, a triple, home run, two RBIs and has four runs. He is also boasting a .371 OBP and a .934 OPS this month. He has also done it consistently, recording at least one hit in each of the eight games this month, and is currently riding a nine-game hitting streak.
McKenna has solid power for a guy of his size and has tremendous speed. Every time I have seen him play, he was easily the fastest player on the field, but he lets his bat do the talking at the plate. He also does something that I love seeing from young hitters, and that’s hitting the ball to all fields.
Already a two-time Orioles minor league Player of the Month (May and June), McKenna is beginning to show that he is no fluke. When you combine his ability to hit and get on base with the fact that he is lightning quick and plays a good center field, McKenna may be someone you did not really hear about before this season, but I have no doubt you will continue to hear about him for a long time to come.
Josh Michael blogs about the Orioles for Baby Birdland. Follow him on Twitter: @BabyBirdland. His opinions on the Orioles will appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s longstanding initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.