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'Under-the-radar' McGuiness named AFL MVP

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Chris McGuiness is the kind of player who prefers to be more of an under-the-radar kind of prospect. He may have blown his cover by winning the Arizona Fall League's Joe Black Most Valuable Player Award this fall.

"I don't like being in the spotlight," said McGuiness, who was on hand prior to the AFL championship game at Scottsdale Stadium on Saturday to accept the award. "I wasn't a high draft pick. It's good and bad. You're in the spotlight, but you get more chances to succeed or fail [as a high pick]. It's the same game.

"The way I look at it, if you play and put up good numbers, someone's going to want you out there and want you to put on their uniform. I'm going to be under the radar and do what I can."

McGuiness certainly put up some numbers this fall. The Rangers first baseman led the AFL with 27 RBIs in 25 games, a big reason he was chosen by the league's managers and coaches for the award.

"It's a huge honor," McGuiness said. "I just wanted to come out here -- you always hear how good the league is -- and compete, try not to get lost in the mix with all these good players. Everybody out here is really good. It depends on who's hot at the right time. Everybody out here can be an MVP. I was lucky to have good guys in front of me, and I was able to drive them in. Being out here and having your name thrown in with some of the best prospects, it's definitely humbling."

The Citadel product was initially a 13th-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, then was traded to Texas in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia deal in 2010. After playing in just 55 games in 2011, McGuiness turned in a solid 2012 season, his first at the Double-A level, finishing tied for fourth in the Texas League with 23 homers and seventh with 77 RBIs for Frisco. It's that ability to drive in runs that has allowed him to stand out.

"Chris left off from the season he had in Double-A," said Jason Wood, McGuiness' manager here in AFL who also hails from the Rangers organization. "He's learned to hit to all fields. He's proven that throughout the entire Fall League. He's got that knack, as you can see from his numbers, to drive in runs. That's something that goes a long way for a ballclub. To see him drive in as many runs as he has, he's proven to me that he is the MVP of this league."

McGuiness wanted to be playing on Saturday, but his Surprise Saguaros needed to win on Thursday with Peoria losing. Neither happened, so the first baseman figured he would head home on Friday. Then, he got word from the league about earning MVP honors and he was more than happy to alter his travel plans.

"I called my folks," McGuiness said. "I knew we had to win the last game, told them I'd be home Friday afternoon, Saturday morning at the latest. When I found this out, I told them about it. They were all excited and said, 'If you're going to be late, this is a good reason to be late.' Any time you get the chance to get an MVP trophy, it's worth hanging around for."

Picking up hardware like that, though, will make it tougher for him to stay incognito in the baseball world. He'll move up to Triple-A in 2013, and the bar may have gone up just a bit in terms of expectations for the left-handed hitter. He'll head into the offseason working on his versatility -- seeing if he can add some left-field play to his repertoire and be a Mitch Moreland-type player. Wood, who's worked both with Moreland and McGuiness, sees that as a distinct possibility.

"In all honesty, I think he likes it the way it is," Wood said of McGuiness' desire to stay out of the spotlight. "But he's definitely on a lot of radars now, for the season he's had."

Texas Rangers, Chris McGuiness