Detroit Tigers: Zach McKinstry might be who we thought he was

Zach McKinstry has cooled off significantly after a hot stretch for the Detroit Tigers.
Detroit Tigers v Seattle Mariners
Detroit Tigers v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

Zach McKinstry was not highly thought of when he was acquired in a trade right before the 2023 season started. His MLB track record to that point was not very good. Many people thought he'd be DFA'd shortly after the season started. Then, something strange happened.

McKinstry went on an enormous hot streak. From April 15-May 31, McKinstry slashed .312/.430/.477 with a 16.2% walk rate and a 158 wRC+. He was basically the perfect leadoff hitter. It looked like president of baseball operations Scott Harris may have gotten a steal. Then, he came back to earth.

Since June 1, McKinstry has slashed .210/.236/.336 with a 3.4% walk rate and a 54 wRC+. For a while, he looked completely lost. Pitchers found his weakness — breaking balls low and in — and exposed it over and over again. He's been slightly better in July, but not nearly the same production he had earlier in the season.

It would have been foolish to expect him keep up that month and a half he had. He's not that kind of player. But to at least be a league average hitter isn't too much to ask. He has a 98 wRC+ on the year, which makes him slightly below average.

What's really concerning is that he's completely stopped walking. 16.2% is outstanding, but we'd take 10%. However, 3.4% is Victor Reyes levels of bad. If he was still walking at a decent clip, things wouldn't be as worrisome.

It's hard to see McKinstry as a long term regular at the moment. He's likely best used as a utiilty player, which wouldn't be a bad thing if the Tigers didn't have a ton of those guys.

Zach McKinstry likely has the rest of the 2023 season to prove himself. If he even gets close to that six-week stretch he had from mid April through May, he likely sticks around. If he can't turn things around, he probably doesn't return in 2024.

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