As I reported yesterday, Reese McGuire will be heading to Bradenton to start the 2015 season. I had been wondering whether McGuire would make that jump, and the answer wasn’t clear. His defense is as advertised, ranking as the best in the system behind the plate, and some of the best defense for a catcher in the minors. The problem was that his offense was behind the defense. Last year he only posted a .641 OPS in West Virginia, which raised the biggest questions as to whether his bat was ready to move up.
I have been watching McGuire for the last week, and I’ve noticed something different about him this year. The same day I reported that Austin Meadows changed his hand position to simplify his swing and add more power, I noticed McGuire doing the same thing. He has dropped his hands a bit, eliminating the bat wrap he had last year, and aiming for more solid contact. I confirmed that this was the case in my interviews with McGuire and Pirates’ minor league hitting coordinator Larry Sutton (interviews and video of McGuire’s new swing can be seen in the video below).
For comparison, here is McGuire’s old swing, via a Baseball America video last year, compared to his new swing this year.
The new swing has him holding his hands lower at the starting point. The overall swing is more compact, with less action when he loads his hands. He also finishes stronger and more balanced. The new swing should make it easier for him to make solid contact, and to get to inside pitches, which will really help him in the upper levels.
McGuire has the defense to one day become a Major League catcher, and his advanced approach at the plate projects well for his potential to eventually hit in the big leagues. In addition to the new approach at the plate, he added 15 pounds of muscle this off-season, which should also help him make solid contact at the plate. The new muscle didn’t take anything away from his abilities behind the plate, which is a good thing.
If McGuire can develop his bat, he could be a starting catcher with All-Star upside. He’s going to be one of the youngest players in Bradenton this year, and that will really give him a challenge, especially with the new approach at the plate going up against better stuff than he has seen before. Elias Diaz currently projects as the catcher of the future in the short-term, but McGuire’s skills are good enough to make him the starting catcher whenever he’s ready.