Continuing on our journey thru the Astros’ Top 30 Prospects, we take a look at the 21-year-old outfield prospect, Alex McKenna.
Before the Houston Astros acquired fellow outfield prospect, Ross Adolph, I would have said that the top hidden gem in the Astros organization was Alex McKenna. That’s the glory of baseball, you can never have enough players with the caliber of McKenna or Adolph.
Houston Astros Prospect #29 – Alex McKenna – OF (Quad City River Bandits – Class A Affiliate)
The Early Years:
Measuring in at a solid 6′ 2″ – 200 lbs, Alex McKenna graduated from Bishop Alemany High School located in Mission Hills, California. In his final season with the Warriors, he amassed a .402/.646/.541 slash line while slugging three home runs and seven doubles.
After high school, the young McKenna joined the Cal Poly Mustangs. During which Alex swung a modest bat, bringing in at least 25 RBIs each year. In 2017, McKenna was awarded Big West honors, Conference Player of the Year, while slashing a .339/.424/.506 line. While accruing 226 at-bats, he picked up 25 extra-base hits, five of which were home runs, and walking 27 times. The only blemish on an otherwise impressive junior year was his 39 strikeouts.
Pre-Draft / Cape Cod League:
Determined to capitalize on an outstanding season heading into the 2018 draft, McKenna headed to the Cape Cod league, where his notable bat still stood out as his most valuable asset. In 2018, his .298 average landed him in the Top 20 of Cape Cod hitters. His nine doubles had him in the Top 15 of that category as well. However, the strikeouts still plagued him with 29.
On the heels of an impressive debut in the Cape Cod League, as well as a productive Cal Poly career, draft experts were quick to point out his bat, noting that there is room to grow McKenna’s raw power. Focusing mainly on his stroke from the right side being a bit flat, and tends to leave fly balls short of the fence. He showed solid base running skills, which was proven evident in Cape Cod, as he swiped an impressive 7 bases in 126 at-bats.
McKenna’s defensive growth was a plus, as some experts noticed his instincts and agile nature in center field. While his arm strength has been scouted as a bit weak, he has proven he can cover all three outfield positions with ease.
This was enough to have many, including MLB.com, giving him at a pre-draft grade of #97 overall. After surprisingly slipping into the fourth round, the Houston Astros were quick to pounce on Alex when he slipped to them in the 4th round and signed him at slot value.
Tri-City Valley Kats & Quad City River Bandits:
After signing with the Astros, Alex McKenna found himself begging his major league journey in Tri-City for the Astros New York League-based team.
Without skipping a beat, McKenna picked up right where he left off in the Cape Cod league, hitting .328 in 116 at-bats for the Tri-City Valley Kats. He accumulated 13 extra-base hits, five of which were home runs, and drove in 21 RBI’s. A slash line of .328/.423/.534 was impressive enough for the Astros to promote the young 20-year-old to Single-A ball.
This is where McKenna had his first taste of adversity, as he struck out 16 times in his first 48 at bats. He finished his first Major League career with a .271/.314/.458 slash line in A Ball. He only managed two home runs and seven RBIs, over the course of 12 games.
There is a very small sample size in McKenna’s professional career, but if you go back and look at his progression from Cal Poly to A ball, he has maintained a steady OBP and AVG. He has shown the knack for getting the ball in the gaps and providing a decent pop.
If we take a look at his first year’s splits, many keen Astros fans would be wise to notice the similarities of another young 6’ 4″ outfielder that roamed center for a while, Hunter Pence. Like Pence, McKenna has proven solid gap power, with the potential of above-average power. Identically, McKenna’s problem lies with his penchant for striking out.
Ceiling / Floor projection is not an indication of the player each prospect will become. It is a prediction of the production they could have at a major league level given their progress thru the minor league system.