Jays From the Couch caught up with Toronto Blue Jays catching prospect, Reese McGuire
At Blue Jays WinterFest, I had the opportunity to talk to catching prospect Reese McGuire. McGuire came to the Blue Jays organization at the 2016 trade deadline along with Francisco Liriano and the departed Harold Ramirez in exchange for Drew Hutchison.
One aspect of McGuire’s game that seems to have changed since his arrival in the Jays system is his power. With the Pirates system, across each level from rookie-ball to Double-A, McGuire produced a .063 ISO. With the Jays system, mainly at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, McGuire has produced a much-improved .122 ISO, a nearly 100% increase in his extra-base rate. In particular, he has hit a lot more home runs with the Jays (15, compared to 4 with the Pirates) in a lot fewer games (638, compared to 1357 with the Pirates).
When asked if he had any thoughts about this power increase, McGuire responded, “I think it’s just me developing more strength and getting older…I think now that I’m aware that I can put the ball over the fence, I’ll take a little bit more opportunity in advantage counts to do so and have a little bit more of a ball-in-the-air type swing”. In contrast, in his younger days, “it was more about line drives and getting on base”.
Making Adjustments at the Plate
Along with more power, McGuire has struck out more often since he came to the Jays system. For example, he struck out only 26 times over 306 PA (8.6%) with the Pirates’ Double-A affiliate. With AA New Hampshire, he struck out more times (27) in fewer PA (197), producing a 13.7% strikeout rate. His strikeout rate increased further at AAA Buffalo (20.9%) and in his September cameo in Toronto (27.9%).
From McGuire’s perspective, the issue seemed to be over-tinkering with his approach: “I think, for the most part, it was because I was still trying to get a feel for a swing and trying to get into a rhythm…I was maybe switching up a little bit too much, trying to make the adjust too quickly, instead of just trusting the process and giving it some more time.”
Positively, McGuire felt that he finished strong: “Once I did that, I really felt like I was hitting my stride. So when the season ended up here, I was ready to keep coming to the ballpark because I was in a good place.” McGuire’s 146 wRC+ with the big league club certainly attests to that.
The Blue Jays have invested a great deal of effort and resources into elevating the team’s culture and promoting things like being the best teammate possible. McGuire had positive things to say about these efforts, saying “there’s plenty of experiences or things that the organization does to further develop team chemistry…That trip down [to Fort Benning, where US Army Rangers train] was something that they thought was beneficial and it was.” Unfortunately, he couldn’t go into much detail as the Army had each player sign non-disclosure agreements.
The 2018 season was a momentous one for Reese McGuire. He made his Triple-A and MLB debuts, producing a 91 wRC+ across the two levels. In 2019, he will likely begin the season with AAA Buffalo, where he will get the opportunity to start even more regularly than he did in 2018. In this role, he’ll be able to keep building on the power gains and work on cutting down the strikeout rate, while also continuing to hone his already strong catching skills. A classic high-floor prospect, it seems a decent bet that Jays fans will see him with the big league team at some point this season.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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I’m an economics professor in the GTA whose lifelong love for the Jays was reignited by that magical August of 2015 and the amazing moments since.