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What scouts and Reese McGuire see in McGuire

November 26, 2019

Reese McGuire’s improbable season with the Blue Jays turned heads and changed minds. But before the 24-year-old catcher could do just that, he needed a shift in his own mindset. After getting his first big league callup in September 2018, McGuire’s 2019 season began at Triple-A Buffalo, where he hit

Reese McGuire’s improbable season with the Blue Jays turned heads and changed minds. But before the 24-year-old catcher could do just that, he needed a shift in his own mindset.

After getting his first big league callup in September 2018, McGuire’s 2019 season began at Triple-A Buffalo, where he hit .247/.316/.366 with five home runs, 12 doubles, one triple and 29 RBIs in 72 games.

“I made the most of it down there and I feel like I took a lot of strides by doing that,” McGuire said. “Obviously I wanted to make the team out of Spring Training, but when I got to Triple-A, I either had the option of being bummed I didn’t make the team and letting all of a sudden April just sneak by and the next thing you know, I’m not really focused on being the best I can be.

“But that’s actually what went right is the moment I got there, I took it upon myself to be a leader, deal with the pitching staff that I had right away, be excited for where I was at, try to be the best I could be, stick with my routines, develop a routine in the cage, recovery in the training room, weight room postgame, whatever it was. I really developed that consistency to where I was ready at any moment, being down there.”

When Toronto’s No. 25 prospect was recalled by the Blue Jays at the end of July, he proved that readiness. In 30 games in the Majors, McGuire -- known more for his defensive prowess -- slashed .299/.346/.526 with five homers, seven doubles and 11 RBIs, posting a 1.0 bWAR and a 1.2 fWAR in his limited stint.

What the scouts say
“Of all the players I can think about, he was the one more than anyone else who changed my mind,” one scout said. “Because when I saw him in Buffalo, he was really struggling. He was struggling both offensively and defensively, and I can’t believe how well he played in Toronto.

“The thing that blew my mind about McGuire is just how well he swung the bat. He’s more of a line drive, gap-to-gap guy who has some power, and really athletic, he can run. He’s still got to make strides behind the plate, but he’s got good enough hands and feet. He’s got a very strong arm, but it’s not as accurate as you’d like it to be all the time. But he’s got a chance to be one of the better young catchers.”

“I didn’t like him on both sides of the ball in Buffalo, but that’s why you keep an open mind,” a National League evaluator said. “Not only was he hot up there in Toronto, but he showed me some bat speed, he can drive the ball, he showed some power, and the athleticism -- I think he’s going to be fine behind the plate because he has good hands, he can move back there, and he has the arm strength.”

Making the grades
Evaluating himself using a Major League Scouting Bureau report and the 20-to-80 scouting scale, basing his grades on the standards set by the Bureau and only among others at his position, McGuire noted that there are a number of factors that should be taken into account that the evaluation missed.

“Anything from work ethic, why you play the game of baseball, because there are multiple reasons why people would play,” the Seattle native said. “Some play for the money, some play because they don’t have anything else to do but they’re good at baseball, some love the competition aspect.

“It’s hit or miss. There are guys who are very good at this game who would tell you that they don’t even like baseball. There are some guys who love baseball and they work the hardest at it, and then they’re not even as good as that guy who doesn’t like the game.

“It’s more about knowing the character of the person -- is this person going to continue to work hard? Is this person going to continue to push themselves even when they sign a contract? Because at the end of the day, you’re still competing. Everyone’s No. 1 thing in baseball should be to win a World Series and if it’s not, that’s probably a red flag.”

Beyond the numbers
McGuire also believes that scouting young players can be hit or miss. The Pirates’ first-round pick -- 14th overall -- in the 2013 Draft believes that trying to predict the future goes beyond the traditional evaluation questions.

“I feel like a lot of scouting coming up, they were wondering about your family -- ‘How tall is your dad? How tall is your grandpa? Did you guys play sports?’” McGuire said. “They’re trying to get the background, and that’s probably good information, but at the same time we’ve all seen the one kid who’s 6’5” and his parents are both 5’10”, so you never know. If that 6’5” kid was 5’6” when they were getting scouted and they thought he was going to peak at 5’10”, they’re going to miss out.”

If McGuire offered one thing to the Blue Jays this year, it was his ability to make sure he didn’t miss out on the chance he was given.

“You never know when that opportunity will come,” he said.