First Pitch: Would the Pirates Be Taking a Risk With Reese McGuire?


How much of a risk is Reese McGuire?

How much of a risk is Reese McGuire?

Greg Rosenstein of ESPN had an article today talking about the risk with high school catchers. Rosenstein quoted an NL West scout who said “High school catchers don’t make the big leagues.” The article went on to explain the risks with high school catchers, noting that they’re not physically mature, there are mental issues to worry about, and there’s uneven performance.

That has to be concerning for Pirates fans, especially since all signs point to the Pirates using their first pick on prep catcher Reese McGuire in tomorrow’s draft. But if the article is the only reason you’re concerned, I wouldn’t be too concerned.

For one, the article was very absolute with the “High school catchers don’t make the big leagues” approach. It noted flaws, and then made some unsubstantiated claims about the odds of catchers making it versus other positions. We actually have a pretty good idea of the odds for catchers to make the majors, as well as every other position. Baseball America did a study a few weeks ago, looking at all of the top 100 picks from 1989-2008, and giving the percent chance of those picks making the majors, and becoming impact players. Here is how it broke down.

Chance of Making the Majors

Position – Prep/College

Catcher – 32%/52%

First Base – 34%/43%

Second Base – 0%/41%

Third Base – 28%/57%

Shortstop – 33%/48%

Outfield – 28%/47%

Most of the article is based around a comparison of prep catchers to college catchers. If you’re taking that approach, then you’re going to be correct that prep catchers aren’t going to be as successful and have a smaller chance of making the majors. But that’s true of any prep player. In fact, prep catchers have the third best chance of making the majors out of any position. They fall behind first basemen (probably because of the bats) and shortstops (because that’s where the best athletes play). Catchers fall into that shortstop category for athletes, as they can move to another position. Note that the above stats count everyone drafted, regardless of whether they switched positions later.

Chance of Being an Impact Player

Position – Prep/College

Catcher – 11%/12%

First Base – 13%/18%

Second Base – 0%/14%

Third Base – 10%/21%

Shortstop – 8%/12%

Outfield – 12%/13%

Again, catchers have pretty favorable results. And actually the difference between a prep catcher becoming an impact player in the majors, and a college catcher becoming an impact player isn’t that great. When you look at the difference here, and look at the difference in the “making the majors” category, it seems that college catchers get credit for graduating a lot of players who don’t really make an impact.

Chance of Sticking at the Position

Position – Prep/College

Catcher – 22%/38%

First Base – 34%/43%

Second Base – 0%/36%

Third Base – 13%/34%

Shortstop – 8%/25%

Outfield – 27%/42%

I’m not sure that this tells us anything when comparing to other positions. 32% of prep catchers drafted made the majors. About two-thirds of those players remained catchers. So you’ve got a 22% chance of getting a future major league catcher if you take a prep catcher. Again, that’s better than shortstops or third basemen.

The Individual

I wrote this in response to the Baseball America research, and I’ll write it here. It’s important to keep in mind the odds of each position. You want to keep those in mind so you don’t make a pick based solely on a player’s position. The more important thing is the individual player.

I had Jim Callis on the podcast this week discussing the draft. We discussed McGuire, and Callis said that he has what it takes to stick behind the plate, and that he could be an All-Star catcher in the majors one day. That’s the individual scouting report on McGuire. So do you trust that, or do you just go with the overall odds and pass on McGuire because the odds for prep catchers are historically low?

Here’s the flaw with the “overall odds” approach, and why the individual approach is better. The overall odds approach would be against guys like Manny Machado and Francisco Lindor. The odds for shortstop are extremely worse than the odds for catchers. Shortstops have about the same chance of making the majors, but a smaller chance at being an impact player, and a much smaller chance of sticking at short. So if you go with the overall approach, you pass on Machado and Lindor. You’re also probably passing on every prep player and only taking college players.

Here’s the problem. You’re eventually going to need a shortstop. And if you keep passing on shortstops because they’re risky, then you have a 100% chance of never landing a shortstop. So you use the scouting reports, look at the individual player, and decide if guys like Machado and Lindor are worth the risk.

It’s the same argument with catchers, and any other position. You keep in mind the odds for the individual position, but the most important thing in the individual report.

The alternative to McGuire tomorrow is probably going to be one of a group of two prep outfielders (Austin Meadows, Clint Frazier) or a prep left-handed pitcher (Trey Ball). The odds for those guys aren’t much better than McGuire. So the whole “high school catchers are risky” argument doesn’t really work. I would probably prefer Frazier or Meadows over McGuire, but ultimately that’s splitting hairs. I could definitely see an argument for McGuire, especially if you believe he can stick at the position. Frazier and Meadows might have more upside, but getting an outfielder with their upside is more common than a catcher with McGuire’s upside.

Check back in the morning for all of the updates before the draft, and be sure to check out our top 100 rankings and the draft podcast linked below.

Links and Notes

**Save $8 On The Pirates Prospects Books With the MLB Draft Sale. The sale only runs for one more week, so act quickly!

**Check out the latest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 7: Talking Pirates Draft With Jim Callis of Baseball America. The show features an interview with Baseball America’s Jim Callis, who breaks down the potential options for the Pirates, including Reese McGuire, Hunter Renfroe, and D.J. Peterson. Also on the show, John Dreker and I go over the Pirates Prospects 2013 Draft Top 100 Tiered Rankings.


**Pirates Prospects 2013 Draft Top 100 Tiered Rankings.

**P3 Episode 7: Talking Pirates Draft With Jim Callis of Baseball America.

**Draft Prospect Watch: Former Pirates Picks and Where They Could Go.


**Prospect Watch: Cole Picks a Good Time to Step Up; Pimentel Bounces Back.

**Minor League Schedule: McDonald Moves Rehab Up To Indianapolis.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Pirates Lose Two, Adames Hits First Homer.


**Rodriguez Leaves With Forearm Tightness; Who Could Replace Him?

**All of Your Super Two/Arbitration Clock Questions Answered.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

First Pitch: Do the Pirates Have the Top Farm System?

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First Pitch: Reactions to the Day One Picks

  • emjayinTN

    Tim: I like McGuire and always have. However, if Trey Ball is available at No. 9, the Pirates have to take him, IMHO. I like McGuire over any of the other position kids because he has a head for the game, has played on the biggest stages, and when he was not Catching he was helping out in the infield for the 18U USA Team. Same reasoning for Ian Clarkin at No. 14. He was the pitcher in the Gold Medal Game in Korea for the 18U USA Team last September and went 6 strong innings. Possibly the best breaking ball in this draft – that is taken from BA.

  • Lee Young

    Tim…you talked me back into liking McGwire.


  • elgaupo

    I’m kinda proud of you for landing Callis on draft week. PP is legit.

    Also, Callis sold me on McGuire. McGuire and Ball is my dream scenario.

    • Ian Rothermund

      I completely agree with your dream scenario. I think it’s very unlikely, but would be a great haul for the first two picks this year. I’m still very interested to see who is taken after this first round. Two picks in the first 14 really seem to be taking all the attention. Normally I’d say anyone in the first few rounds is going to be an exciting player to watch. I just hope the Pirates are able to fully invest in the latter half of the first 10 rounds this year, and not punt in the hopes of saving money.

  • nvo12


    Where would some of these players assumed to be available slot into your top prospects list?

    • Tim Williams

      That will come next week.

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