The recipient of the largest bonus given to a prep arm in the 2015 Draft ($2,302,500 as a supplemental first-rounder), McKenzie won high Class A Carolina League Pitcher of the Year honors and ranked second in the Minors with 186 strikeouts two years later. His career was put on hold, however, when he missed two months in ‘18 with right forearm soreness and all of ‘19 with an upper-back strain. He returned to game action last August by striking out 10 Tigers in his big league debut and helped Cleveland make the playoffs by posting a 3.24 ERA with a 42/9 K/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings.
McKenzie can get outs with four pitches, the best and most consistent of which is a curveball that sat around 80 mph during his introduction to the Majors and features good shape and spin. His four-seam fastball usually ranges from 91-95 mph but plays better than its average velocity because of his command, extension, angle and high spin rate. McKenzie also has a mid-80s slider that's distinctly different from his curve and a fading changeup that can become a solid offering if he learns to trust it more.
McKenzie's feel for pitching is impressive as well, especially considering that he worked just 329 innings in the Minors before joining the Indians. While he has had trouble adding weight to his super-skinny 6-foot-5 frame, he's strong enough to repeat his delivery and pound the strike zone with ease. If McKenzie can prove he can hold up and take the ball every fifth day, he could become a No. 2 or 3 starter.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55
McKenzie landed the largest bonus of any high school pitcher in the 2015 Draft, signing for $2,302,500 as an ultraprojectable 6-foot-5, 160-pounder taken in the supplemental first round. He broke out by winning high Class A Carolina League pitcher of the year honors and finishing second in the Minors with 186 strikeouts in 2017, but missed two months in 2018 with forearm soreness and all of 2019 with an upper-back strain. He returned this season, striking out 10 in his big league debut against the Tigers and performing well as both a starter and reliever for the Indians.
McKenzie has a fine four-pitch mix that begins with a 91-95 mph fastball that plays well above its velocity thanks to his command, extension, angle and high spin rate. His upper-70s curveball also grades as a plus offering with good shape and spin, and he also has a distinctly different slider that sits in the mid-80s. He keeps left-handers at bay with a solid fading changeup.
As promising as his stuff is, McKenzie's feel for pitching is even more impressive. Though he's still growing into his super-skinny frame, he repeats his delivery well and provides quality strike after quality strike. He must add strength and prove he can handle a starter's workload, and more muscle could mean more velocity as well.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55
Perhaps the most projectable pitcher in the 2015 Draft, McKenzie was a 6-foot-5, 160-pound Florida high schooler who landed the largest bonus ($2,302,500) among prep arms that summer. The Indians have handled him carefully, limiting him to 95 1/3 innings in his first two pro seasons before turning him loose in 2017, when he was the Class A Advanced Carolina League pitcher of the year and finished second in the Minors with 186 strikeouts. Forearm soreness delayed his 2018 debut until June, after which he looked like his usual dominant self, but he missed all of this year after straining his upper back during Spring Training.
Though McKenzie's fastball sits around 91-93 mph and tops out at 95, it projects as a plus pitch because he still has room to add more strength and velocity and because of his command, extension, angle and high spin rate. His curveball gives him a second plus offering, with good shape and spin rate to go with upper-70s velocity. His fading changeup helps him keep left-handers in check and grades as solid.
McKenzie's advanced feel for pitching stands out even more than his stuff. Even though he's still filling out his extra-long frame, he has no difficulty repeating his delivery and providing quality strikes. If he proves capable of handling a starter's workload, he should fit near the front of Cleveland's rotation of the future.
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55
McKenzie was dominant as a senior at Royal Palm Beach (Fla.) High, striking out 157 batters in 91 innings, but concerns regarding how much he would develop physically caused him to fall into the supplemental first round, where the Indians drafted him and then gave him the largest bonus ($2,302,500) for a high school pitcher in the 2015 Draft. McKenzie's prospect stock took flight in 2016 as he earned All-Star honors in the New York-Penn League before advancing to full-season ball at age 18. Spending all of 2017 with Class A Advanced Lynchburg, McKenzie paced the Carolina League in strikeouts (186) and finished second among qualified pitchers in WHIP (1.05), earning a trip to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game along the way. And while a bout of forearm soreness during the spring led to a season-opening stint on Lynchburg's disabled list, McKenzie was ultimately cleared of any significant injury and made his Double-A debut in June.
McKenzie stands out for his present blend of pitchability and physical projection. His velocity has improved some as he's begun to grow into his wiry athletic frame, and it's easy to envision him adding a few more ticks with further physical development. He has a feel for locating his low-90s fastball throughout the zone, all while using his height to create good angle toward the plate. McKenzie's curveball, thrown with tight spin and loads of depth, flashes plus and nets him plenty of whiffs, and he shows a similarly advanced feel for throwing an above-average, fading changeup. Above-average control and overall efficiency enable his entire arsenal to play up.
McKenzie was one of the youngest players in his Draft class, but he's quickly proved more advanced than most of his peers while making a quick climb through Cleveland's system. Adding more strength should help assuage concerns about McKenzie's long-term durability, but all the ingredients are present for the right-hander to develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter.
McKenzie was dominant as a senior at Royal Palm Beach (Fla.) High, striking out out 157 batters in 91 innings, but concerns regarding how much he would develop physically caused him to fall into the supplemental first round, where the Indians drafted him and then gave him the largest bonus ($2,302,500) for a high school pitcher in the 2015 Draft. McKenzie's prospect stock took flight in 2016 as he earned All-Star honors in the New York-Penn League before advancing to full-season ball at age 18, and he's emerged as top-flight pitching prospect this season behind a dominant showing with Class A Advanced Lynchburg that earned him a spot in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in July.
A tall and lanky right-hander, McKenzie offers an intriguing blend of present pitchability and physical projection. His velocity began to tick up last season as he consistently sat in the low 90s, and it's easy to envision him tacking on more as he gets stronger. McKenzie's curveball, thrown with tight spin and loads of depth, flashes plus and nets him plenty of whiffs, and he shows a similarly advanced feel for throwing an above-average, fading changeup. McKenzie throws everything on a downhill plane, and his above-average control and overall efficiency cause his entire arsenal play up.
Despite being one of the youngest players in his Draft class, McKenzie's solid foundation has allowed him to move relatively quickly through the Minor Leagues, all while answering questions about his durability. The potential is there for McKenzie to develop into a frontline starter, and he's shown enough in 2017 to warrant a taste of the Double-A level before the season's end.
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55
After a dominant senior season at Royal Palm Beach (Fla.) High in which he struck out 157 batters in 91 innings, McKenzie received the highest bonus among high school pitchers in the 2015 Draft, signing for $2,302,500 as the No. 42 overall pick in the supplemental first round. The Indians limited him to just 12 innings during his professional debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League, but McKenzie made the most of the opportunity and earned a promotion to Class A Short Season Mahoning Valley for his first full pro season.
At 6-foot-5 and 165 pounds, McKenzie requires as much projection as any pitcher from the 2015 Draft class. He's capable of hitting 93 mph with his fastball but typically sits in the upper 80s, and it's easy to envision him developing plus velocity once he gains strength. His curveball is advanced for a prep hurler and will flash plus with good depth, and his changeup already receives above-average grades from some scouts.
That McKenzie was one of the youngest players in his class and will be 18 for most of the 2016 season makes his early pro accomplishments all the more impressive. His delivery is clean and simple and easy to repeat, and it allows the right-hander to throw strikes with all three of his pitches. McKenzie is many years away from contributing in the Major Leagues, but his ceiling is among the highest in the system.