Ventura, California —— At the top of this post, watch our scouting video of Ventura College sophomore outfielder Chris McKee, taken from his at-bats in a recent Pirates’ home game against Western State Conference opponent Cuesta College.
Chris McKee scouting report notes
One thing stands out above all else for Ventura College outfielder Chris McKee: speed.
The Camarillo native had swiped 19 bags entering Thursday afternoon’s game, and he’s only been caught once, living with a perpetual green light once he gets on the bases. McKee’s stealing skills are honed, and he’s really finding a mix between straight speed to swipe bags, and a deeper understanding of how to read pitchers so that his game is sustainable at higher levels as competition keeps getting better. There’s no question about this.
At the plate, McKee has apparently come quite a long way from the undisciplined free swinger he’d been in 2016, at least according to Ventura’s top assistant Steven Hardesty. (We have some quotes from Hardesty, and McKee, below.) He’s short to the ball and long through it, with a relatively big window where his bat is in the hitting zone, promoting his contact skills and aiding his hand-eye coordination at the plate.
At the plate, he’s still playing a vintage style of uniquely Chris McKee baseball: wait out pitchers, take walks, wait for his pitch, slap line drives all over the field. It’s only going to make him a stronger leadoff candidate because he can move from first to third so quickly, and/or score from second base on literally virtually anything hit into the outfield.
McKee is undersized, and there’s no way around that, although he does look a bit stronger than his listed 150-lb. weight right now. But he’s never going to be a home run hitter, or even a gap-to-gap doubles threat; he’s a table-setter, and right now for Ventura, he’s the ultimate table-setter and stolen base king. Those skills will absolutely play up at a four-year stop after his time is up with the Pirates after next month. With the natural speed, and the maturity to figure out how to steal bases more than just outrunning a catcher’s throw, McKee has a shot to really wreak some havoc on four-year pitchers for the next two spring seasons after this.
Chris McKee scouting report: 140 characters or less
Chris McKee is going to steal second, and then he’s going to steal third, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Chris McKee scouting report: the outfielder in his own words
On how quickly he wants to be on second base:
“It’s basically, when I get on base, I’m trying to score as quickly as possible to get our team the most runs we can get. Stealing bags is just another way to get closer to that, and I don’t know, I guess I’ve just always been really fast. I can read the pitcher very well, and I can tell what he’s doing, and just exploit it, and get on base. But yeah, I expect to be on second base immediately. Between the first and third pitch, I’m pretty much gone. But with everybody now knowing what I can do on the bases, I expect pitchers will try to pick me off, so I have to be kind of smart about it. But if I’m smart, I can still pick the right time and just go.”
On how he reads a pitcher’s pickoff move:
“It’s not one specific thing, it’s pretty much everything he does, and the way he acts. I’ve seen different pitchers do different things. But you can pick out generalizations a lot of times. Like, if a lefty is coming forward and leaning to you, you already know he’s thinking about you and he’s most likely going to come over. But it’s a bunch of different things, and it’s all the little things. You have to pay attention to the little things the most because that’s what is going to give the most away. And that’s the tricky part. And yeah, if I can distract, if I can give jab steps to get the pitcher to look at me, that takes him away from the plate. And I know that’ll give my guy something to hit, and then I’m just gonna score anyways.”
VC coach Steven Hardesty on how fast Chris McKee really is:
“He’s the only kid I’ve ever seen steal second base three times standing up, with the catcher catching the ball. Not with a ball in the dirt, but on balls that have hit the catcher in the glove, and Chris goes into second base standing up. That’s how good his jumps are.”
VC coach Steven Hardesty on the team’s strategy once McKee gets on base:
“He stole 19 bases and we’ve never given him a steal sign. All those are on his own, and he’s only been picked off one time. And what he does is, he has this innate ability to read pitchers and figure out something that’ll give him a tell to give him a good jump. And so very rarely does he take a massive lead. Most of his leads are pretty comfortable, but he’s got this ability where he can just get great jumps. He’s not 13 or 14 feet off the base, he’s just ten feet off the base. But he gets these jumps that just make it impossible to pick him off.”
Chris McKee scouting report video + GIFs
Again, for Chris McKee video, you can see a couple of his recent March 2017 at-bats here:
We’ve also got a good look at some specific McKee swing mechanics to get a sense of his physicality at the plate and ability to put the ball in play. Here are our set of Chris McKee GIFs from that same March game against Cuesta College:
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You should also read our longform feature piece on Chris McKee’s stolen base skills.