Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Reese McGuire

Pittsburgh wanted Reese McGuire. Scout Greg Hopkins, the Pirates Northwest evaluator, followed him extensively, even meeting with the family, and the draft gurus generally agreed he was high on the Bucco radar. They were right.

The Bucs selected him in the first round as the 14th overall pick, right after having another HS player, OF'er Austin Meadows, fall into their lap at #9. Baseball America rated McGuire as the #12 player in the draft and the top catching prospect. He officially signed today. His slot value is  $2,569,800, and he was expected to sign for just around that figure; Jim Callis of Baseball America tweeted it was for under slot at $2.369M.

McGuire, 18, had a verbal commit to San Diego State, but he was presumed signable from the start. The teen wasn't too shy about letting it be known he was ready to play pro ball after the draft, as he broadly hinted that was the case to his local newspaper, and tweeted that he couldn't wait to get started. It was also copacetic that he and Meadows were buds, having played together on the All-Star circuit.

He comes from the same high school as Matt Hague, Kentwood in Kent, Washington, and he was part of a 21-5 team. He hit .hit .436 with 13 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 20 RBI in his senior year, catching, playing third base and also some OF.

The 6'-1" 190 pounder won a raft of awards: USA Baseball National Player of the Year, Washington State Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year, 2013 Rawlings First Team All-American West and more. He earned a spot on the USA Under 18 Team which won a World Championship, and his performance there - he hit .400 with 11 RBI - blew up his radar blip and moved him up he charts.

McGuire has a good combo as a catcher - he throws right handed and bats lefty.  Everybody raves about his defensive abilities. He has a cannon for an arm, boasting both accuracy and sub 1.9 pop times (throws to second), which in itself is MLB caliber.

The youngster is athletic, blocks balls well, receives pitches softly, and has called his own game since little league days, so he knows the strategies and mind games. His only sore point is that he doesn't frame pitches terribly well, but a camp with Russell Martin should take care of that art. It's been said that he would be a first round pick (albeit later in the day) based solely on defensive ability.

The scouts aren't so sure about his stick  He's a pull guy with an open stance who tends to overstride and has a leg kick as part of his swing; and he'll roll over on pitches away. McGuire does have decent bat speed, loft and some power, but has to work on more consistent contact and hitting the ball up the middle. Still, his projections are in the range of a .260+ BA with 10-15 HR, and with his defensive tool kit, that would make for a pretty fair everyday MLB catcher.

Catching has become a premium position, and teams are always looking for upside and depth. But make no mistake - prep catchers are hard to project long-term and inherently risky picks. In the last decade, the only high school catcher that was taken in the first round and is starting today is Neil Walker, and it's been awhile since he's put on the tools of ignorance.

HS first rounders Devin Mosaraco (2007) and Hank Conger (2006) are back-ups, while Brett Lawrie (2008) and Brandon Snyder (2005) are bench infielders, so the success rate for the dozen or so preppies taken since 2004 has been pretty underwhelming. The college guys are much safer selections.

McGuire joins a budding collection of young Pirate catchers, although there is a wide gap between Tony Sanchez, who is just about ready for the show, and the Wyatt Mathieson/Jin-De Jhang combo in Low A. The guys in the middle, Carlos Paulino and probably Jacob Stallings, are defensively MLB catchers, but unfortunately, not MLB sticks.

Mathieson is in Low A West Virginia, Jhang in short season Jamestown, and that leaves the GCL Rookie League for McGuire. It'll be interesting to see how these three guys move through the system. Catcher is the position that takes the longest to master, but there will be plenty of fast-track opportunities for them; maybe one of the trio will be ready by 2017 or so.

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