First Pitch: The Reason For the Adjustments For Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire

It might be difficult to surpass the talent that the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted in 2011. Not only did they land Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell in the top two rounds that year, but they also drafted breakout pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow, and other talented pitching prospects like Clay Holmes and Jason Creasy. If there is one other Pirates’ draft that could match the potential success of the 2011 group, it would have to be the 2013 draft.

The Pirates entered that draft armed with two picks in the top half of the first round, due to the compensation pick they received for not signing Mark Appel. They ended up going for upside, selecting Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire with the 9th and 14th overall picks, respectively. They also selected JaCoby Jones, Cody Dickson, Chad Kuhl, and a few projectable players currently in the lower levels. This list doesn’t include players who have been traded, such as Blake Taylor (for Ike Davis), Buddy Borden (for Sean Rodriguez), and Shane Carle (for Rob Scahill).

There is a lot of potential for success here, but the real impact comes with Meadows and McGuire. As I reported this week, both hitters made adjustments to their swings this off-season. Meadows lowered his hands, so that he could add more power. McGuire also lowered his hands to try and remove his bat wrap, while also adding 15 pounds of muscle.

Both hitters made similar adjustments with their hands, so I wanted to see if that was a common approach the Pirates were taking with all hitters, or just a coincidence with these two. I asked Pirates’ Minor League Hitting Coordinator Larry Sutton about this, since he worked with both players during the Fall Instructional Leagues on the changes. Sutton said that the similarity with the two cases was getting the hitters to a strong hitting position.

“As we individually evaluate each hitter, every hitter is different,” Sutton said. “They all have different hitting personalities. There is no cookie cut way that we do things. Ultimately, if we can get hitters in a consistent, strong hitting position, now it’s just a matter of how can we get from there.”

Sutton pointed out that McGuire’s adjustment was made to get rid of his bat wrap. The adjustment for Meadows was due to his hands being too high last year, preventing him from squaring balls up. He actually came into Spring Training with his hands too low this year, and had to adjust them back to the new spot.

“The idea is, with young hitters if we can minimize movements — whether it’s a big leg kick or a big stride — and we see that 93 and 94 is giving them trouble, then we just start talking about the possibilities of minimizing movements,” Sutton said. “When we make just a small adjustment in their set-up, where their hands are at, it just helps them to be just a little bit shorter to get into that strong hitting position.”

Meadows has a ton of power potential, and could be a starting outfielder for any team, including the Pirates. You can envision a scenario where it might make more sense for the Pirates to go with Meadows and let Andrew McCutchen walk, assuming Meadows reaches his potential. That’s not to say that Meadows will be as good as McCutchen. It’s just saying Meadows could be good enough that the Pirates would be better off going with him, rather than spending $25 M per year for what could be McCutchen’s declining years.

McGuire has plus defense behind the plate, and if he learns to hit, he’ll be an All-Star catcher in the majors. The current “catcher of the future” is Elias Diaz, although McGuire has more upside, and would supplant Diaz, especially if the bat picks up.

We’ve seen the Pirates have success with their young, projectable pitching prospects, making adjustments to help them reach their potential. There has also been success developing young, projectable hitters, although it’s not on the same level yet. Meadows and McGuire could be two big success stories if the new adjustments work and help them reach their offensive potential.

**I’ve been working on an article this weekend that might be one of my best articles in this site’s history. It started with a question in the weekly Q&A, expanded into it’s own article after I started breaking down video and creating GIFs, and really took on a life of its own after two very candid and very detailed interviews. The best thing is that this article is a culmination of conversations I’ve had with one specific player about one specific adjustment over the last four years. So going into the article, there was already a lot of background on the subject, which really allowed things to take off. I’m hoping to have the article up tomorrow, but it might be delayed until Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on whether I feel it needs one final piece of information.

**We have less than 100 paperback books of the 2015 Prospect Guide remaining from the final shipment. I don’t anticipate ordering another shipment this year. That means once the current batch is gone, the paperback version will be sold out. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.

**Every day I upload content on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the video features on YouTube. Be sure that you’re subscribed to all of those sites to follow everything we upload throughout Spring Training (there is different content for each social media site).

**What Happened To Nick Kingham’s Command In 2014?

**The Changes Reese McGuire Made To Improve His Hitting

**An Update On The Tommy John Rehab For Clay Holmes

**Reese McGuire And Luis Heredia Will Start The 2015 Season In Bradenton

**Jameson Taillon Getting Closer To Pitching To Live Hitters

**Draft Prospect Watch: Top Prep Pitcher Struggles With Command In Season Debut

  • Tim, I haven’t seen articles covering the spring games – or the prospects in them. Seems like something your site would usually cover. Is that something coming any time soon?

    • Tim has said that he stays behind at Pirate City to get the kind of prospect info like he presented above. Much more content than what could be derived from watching the upper level guys get a few innings at the back end of ST games.

    • I don’t really cover the Spring games, because they don’t matter. I’ll cover the overall stuff, like the chances of a guy making a roster, or progress a guy is making with a change to his game.

      My day usually consists of going to either McKechnie or Pirate City by 7:30 (depending on whether I need anything from McKechnie), then going to Pirate City until close to 1:00. Then I head over to McKechnie again for the start of the game (unless it’s a road game…then I stick around PC for interviews and writing until around 4). I’ll watch about 4-5 innings while writing. Then the starters come out and I’m down in the clubhouse interviewing players while the rest of the game is going on. So I don’t get a chance to see the portion of the games when the prospects are playing. But based on how this team is set up, I’ll get to see them in a few weeks when they’re down in minor league camp.

      • I know that they “don’t matter” in your opinion, but us readers really do like hearing about how those players are doing against some tougher competition. I really don’t care much about low level prospects, they are just too far away to care. Noone in Minor league camp this early in the spring has any interest to me. AA players and above is all i really care about in spring training. I know you can’t be everywhere, but I second the opinion that i’d like to see more coverage of those games. Maybe bringing on a local freelance writer next spring would be worth having some additional coverage, or maybe you focus next year on more game coverage until some of the first or second cuts are made and then go back to the minor league camp full time. Just throwing out ideas cause right now all i have to look at is box scores. I’d love to hear about the prospects battling out for the last few spots, even the AAAA guys whom are NRI and how they are looking so far.

        • First I’ll say that no one is really battling for a spot on the team. The roster is basically set. And when I write about the bullpen battles, those articles get the lowest amount of traffic because no one really cares about who gets the final bullpen spots. Eventually I will write about that, but later in camp when it’s relevant and pitchers have had more than a few innings.

          There is literally nothing to write about in big league camp. It’s to the point where some people are just making up stories, because they have to cover the big leagues and they have to come up with a story every day.

          As for the NRI guys and prospects, I had an article tonight on Clayton Richard. I had articles last week on Mel Rojas and Willy Garcia. There are some guys who haven’t played enough to really warrant an article. And eventually these guys will get cut, and I’ll see them get a lot more playing time in minor league camp, which will provide more material for articles. But I’m not going to ignore everyone below Double-A, because that’s the heart of this site.

          The game coverage wouldn’t be possible, because all of the reporters are in the clubhouse for the second half of the game. If we had a second writer here, that writer would either be in the clubhouse getting interviews during the second half (which is when I got the interviews for the referenced articles above) or that writer would be over at Pirate City getting more minor league coverage.

          • You can break apart one sentence of what i’m saying, but i’m really just saying that i love your site, and at least a portion of the content, but i miss having some game coverage of the prospects whom are in big league camp.

            Even putting up a box score and throwing up stats for the prospects or AAA players vying for a spot in the organization or the 40 man roster whom played in the game would be better than nothing, I don’t need full articles, but how about some information? …….right now, there is literally barely a mention of any of the spring training games or anything happening in them unless someone has some sort of injury, when this is the one time of the year, anyone whom pays $15 can be a scout for a day in Bradenton. We get recaps of the ridiculously irrelevant Australian league all winter long from Drekker (he does a fantastic job by the way) but then we get to spring training and have to go to another site to see how Hansen did or if he played today, or if Glasnow is pitched. This is information we come here for. A lot of us might want to see this stuff, even if you don’t care about it.

            • It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that readers of the site in general don’t care. We’ve posted MLB ST recaps in the past, and no one reads them. That’s probably because you can find that info anywhere if you want it. We’ve always been focused on providing info that you can’t find anywhere else. We only provide the common info if it’s really important to the big picture, like an injury or transaction.

  • As I understand the logic from reading other swing analysis articles, the lower hand position helps keep the barrel in the hitting zone longer while still allowing some lift to be generated. Seems like a decent enough idea to me.

    Sal Perez is just about a perfect comp for Reese McGuire, which gives you an idea of how important it will be for McGuire to add some power.

    As for Meadows, looks like his bat is going to have to carry his overall game, so the more value the better. As a decent runner with fringy arm, he’d make a pretty darn good fit in LF at PNC.

  • Bill Harvey
    March 9, 2015 9:33 am

    Should be a good article on Taillon and reducing the drop in his delivery. Is there any perceived correlation between reducing that drop and his Tommy John surgery? Does the article delve into that? I have a lot of questions, but I guess I should wait and see if that is even what the article is about.

    • A drop and drive delivery surely didn’t hurt Tom Seaver any.

      • That isn’t what I was saying. The Pirates have worked with Taillon on removing the drop from his delivery. It is still there to a degree, but not as pronounced as it originally was. I was more wondering if the reduction in his drop may have been a factor in the injury.

        • Bill, I understand and wasn’t being critical of your comment, just basically pointing that out about Seaver.

      • Seaver was listed at 6’1″, whereas Taillon is listed at 6’6″. If Taillon drops and drives it negates his height and the natural downward plane to his fastball that occurs if he stands tall on his plant leg and pivots down from it. Drop and drive makes Taillon a worse pitcher than he will be if he stands tall. On the otherhand someone like Jeff Locke, who is listed at 6’0″, might be an ideal candidate for the “drop and drive” style. Like almost everything there isn’t a “one style that fits all” that will always help every player reach their potential.

        • Spare me the physics lesson. I wasn’t even talking about how effective the delivery made Seaver, that is pretty evident. It was the fact that he suffered no physical problems. And I disagree with the rest of your assertions also, byhe way.

          • I read Bill Harvey’s comment as questioning whether the change away from drop and drive lead to the TJ surgery. You commented that drop and drive didn’t hurt Seaver, implying perhaps that by staying with drop and drive Taillon would not have been hurt, but also inferring Seaver is a good comp for Taillon. I disagree because of the differences in height. Sounds like you disagree with Jim Benedict and Ray Searage as well, since they have been working diligently to reduce the drop in Taillon’s form.

            • You sure infer a lot of things about my simple comment about Tom Seaver ! Nitpick away pal. And check out my reply to Bill, it might help you.

  • Scott Kliesen
    March 9, 2015 5:25 am

    Nice tease there at the end of the article, Tim.

    I feel sorry for Austin Meadows if he is looked at as the reason Cutch is traded or allowed to leave. Hard enough to be the guy following THE GUY, let alone being looked at as the guy kicking THE GUY to the curb.

    The whole extending Cutch during his perceived declining years for $25mm +/- debate makes me almost wish the NL had the DH rule. It would sure make that decision much easier for NH. If runs/game keep declining the DH may be coming sooner rather than later.

    Looking forward to the aforementioned article, Tim. High expectations. Kind of like the expectations I have for Meadows and McGuire’s hitting this year.

    • pikebishop65
      March 9, 2015 9:08 am

      Worked out pretty well for Dave Parker following Clemente, but yeah that’s a tough gig

    • I remember when people were upset that McLouth was traded to make room for Cutch, and the Pirates were a loosing team then lol. Still, people will forget about it when the new guy does well. We didn’t know Cutch would be an MVP, but he still did well.
      .
      I agree at first, people will be upset if Cutch leaves and Meadows is the replacement, but as long as Meadows does well, it will be okay. I hope by then the Pirates have at least one WS title and are still contending. A few years ago, before the Pirates broke the streak, I predicted the Pirates would play in the WS in 2015, I hope I was right and not completely out of my mind. Although, back then, I couldn’t have foreseen that the Nationals would have 5 aces in their rotation by 2015.

      • I was upset, because there was no reason you couldn’t simply just move McClouth to left field, It was an asanine reason for making a trade. Getting Charlie Morton i guess was better than the hit and miss years mcclouth had, but i’m still a big mcclouth fan, i still wish we had held onto him a couple years back as a 4th outfielder

        • Have to sell high sometimes. Chuck, Locke, and Gaby were parts to the turn around and the winning seasons.

      • Scott Kliesen
        March 10, 2015 5:19 am

        No matter what type of player Meadows turns out to be, and I hope he’s an absolute stud for the Pirates, there’s virtually zero chance he comes in and performs anywhere near MVP level to start his career.

        Unfortunately, the fans will compare him to Cutch of his prime if he does in fact replace him. And I expect certain segments of the media to fan those flames, too.

        I like your prediction for this season. Now that Pirate killer Adam LaRoche is off the Nats, I think we can whoop ’em and their 5 Aces.

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