Baseball America has released their top 20 list for the South Atlantic League and two Pittsburgh Pirates players made the cut. They ranked catcher Reese McGuire fifth overall and center fielder Austin Meadows was one spot behind him.
The two were ranked 1/2 in our West Virginia Power top ten list, with Meadows ranked higher due to his advanced bat and overall game. McGuire has advanced defense at an important position, but his .642 OPS likely kept him lower on the BA list. He had just 18 extra-base hits and 24 walks all season. There aren’t any questions with his defense or athleticism, but he will have to show more with the bat before he is considered a future all-star as opposed to a defense-first catcher. When I saw McGuire, it seemed like he was just trying to put the ball in play as opposed to making solid contact and the results were a lot of bloops and grounders.
Meadows had an .874 OPS in 38 games with West Virginia, so all the missed time with a hamstring injury probably cost him a few spots. He hit for both power and average while playing center field when he returned to action late in the season. Both Meadows and McGuire were 19 years old this year, with Meadows turning 19 during the season, so what they did in full-season ball is impressive.
Injuries kept Harold Ramirez off the list, though it is a bit surprising that he didn’t make the top 20 at all. He was ranked first in the NYPL last year by Baseball America and before he got hurt the second time this season, he ran a hit streak up to 23 straight games. The streak only stopped due to shin splints, which kept him out the last two months. He played the whole season as a 19-year-old, turning 20 last month, which makes that streak all the more impressive. Ramirez will have to prove he can stay healthy next year, since he had two separate leg issues and speed is a big part of his game.
Age probably kept shortstop JaCoby Jones and pitcher Buddy Borden off the list. They both put up impressive numbers, though they both turned 22 early in the season.
Update 11:00 AM
The scouting reports have been posted. There is a lot of praise for McGuire’s defense, though they do mention that he doesn’t have an elite arm and his throwing relies more on the quick feet, strong mechanics and quick release. They were also impressed with his ability to go the other way and mentioned his lack of power, while also saying he has 10-15 homer potential.
For Meadows, the only non-injury knock was his hitting against left-handed pitching. He had a .784 OPS against left-handed pitchers last season, but that dropped to .466 this year. Both numbers can be considered small sample sizes since he has 106 career plate appearances against southpaws. Meadows crushes right-handed pitchers, posting an OPS of 1.040 as a rookie and 1.065 this year. That gives him a .932 OPS in his first 93 games as a pro. The reports on his defense mention he needs some work on routes, but he handles center field fine and has above average speed.
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