The Pirates Prospects 2016 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2016 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find. Subscribers to the site get free and discounted books, with Top Prospect subscribers getting the 2016 book for free, and Annual subscribers getting $10 off. Both levels of subscribers can also get the book for just $5. Details on all three promotions can be found on the products page, and you can subscribe to the site or upgrade your current plan on the subscriptions page.

While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks. The reports will only be available to site subscribers, including those with a monthly plan. You can subscribe here, and if you like these reports, be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site to get much more analysis on every player in the system.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Willy Garcia, RF
19. Clay Holmes, RHP
18. Mitch Keller, RHP
17. Max Moroff, 2B
16. Chad Kuhl, RHP
15. Cole Tucker, SS
14. Stephen Tarpley, LHP
13. Steven Brault, LHP
12. Yeudy Garcia, RHP
11. Kevin Newman, SS
10. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B
9. Nick Kingham, RHP
8. Elias Diaz, C

We continue the countdown with the number 7 prospect, Reese McGuire.

7. Reese McGuire, C

McGuire is the best defensive catcher in the Pirates’ system, and might even be the best defensive catcher in all of minor league baseball. The only problem so far is that his offense hasn’t caught up, at least not on the stat sheets.

Defensively, McGuire does great work communicating with his pitching staff and knowing their tendencies, while also showing a lot of skills with his receiving and blocking. The receiving skills display a quiet glove and good framing, allowing him to get extra strikes. He excels at blocking, which gives pitchers confidence to throw any pitch they want, even low in the dirt. His arm might be the best in the system, or at least good enough to challenge Elias Diaz, but what makes it play up is his quick transition and release. He can catch the ball, stand, and fire a perfect strike with a pop time consistently in the 1.8-1.9 range, all in one fluid motion. Sometimes he even fires a strike from his knees down to second, showing plus arm strength.

The problem with his game at the moment is his offense. That’s a common thing for strong defensive catchers in the lower levels, as they have to spend so much time on their defense. There are some positive signs here that point to future hitting ability. McGuire rarely strikes out, making good contact, and driving the ball hard to the gaps. He impressed with his solid contact in the AFL, even though the results didn’t show up in the stat line.

The Pirates will have an interesting decision to make in 2016. McGuire has good hitting tools, but they haven’t consistently carried over to the games. His numbers don’t indicate that he’s ready for Double-A, but the Pirates would be blocking catchers below him by keeping him back in Bradenton. They could give him an aggressive push and hope that the offensive tools finally click and lead to on-field results. He will make the majors based on his defense alone, and has the offensive upside to be anywhere from a guy who can hit enough to be a strong defensive starter, all the way to a two-way catcher who would rate as an All-Star and Gold Glove candidate.

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  1. Looking at BP’s catching data for McGuire (last 2 seasons combined), it say he was worth 2.7 blocking runs, and -0.6 in throwing runs. Framing not available for his level.

    Judging by the leaderboards from 2014 and 2015, that is elite blocking ability. Nice to see the new metrics agree with scouting!

    • Thank goodness we didn’t sign Fister to that contract. He was a complete train wreck last year and can’t get past 89 on the gun.

      • Yeah, it definitely looks like the old trick of buy low and rehabilitating might now be out of the Pirates range if a guy who can’t hit 90 and puts up a 1.4 WHIP is worth a base of $7M.

        Rich Hill is another one….104 IP pitched from 2010-2015, with just four starts, and he gets $6M.

        The golden age of reclamation is over…let’s just hope the pitchers working their way up the system are worth something.

        • Bud Norris is the one I can’t figure… still hits 96mph, is a year removed from a sub-4 ERA, and only signed for $2.5m…I don’t get it…

          • Yeah, Bud made me scratch my head….best I could find was $2.5M with no incentives with this:

            2009 – 2014: 4.13 FIP with 900+ innings.

            Gotta think he’s kicking himself now for signing so early…especially since the Pirates kicked $2M to RV with $3M in possible incentives.

            That’s one the Bucs should have been all over…but who knows what plan they were working with at that point?

    • Teams have to be shying aware from Latos over makeup at this point, right?

      He’s literally the last non-broken arm starter available.

        • yes pay the man 20M per year for 5 years. everyone is spending. time the PBC realizes it needs to get with the program. Trade the prospects… way too many flame out and i have seen too much of that. Plus his wife is hot. *kidding all the way around on this one guys*

    • Nah, not at the 3/39 he’s looking for.

      3/27? Maybe…but that’s even a lot to be paying a catcher for his 31-33 seasons with only as many two productive seasons under his belt.

      Besides, what’s the use of acquiring and developing guys like Diaz and McGuire if the team is just going to block them by paying guys for their decline years? Seems the opposite of what a small market team should be doing.

        • He may be…and someone will pay him. But if Diaz is 80% as productive…is that worth having that $12.5M/year million to spend in other places? I think so.

          I’m with you on the crystal ball thing…but I’ll guess anyway. So long as Diaz doesn’t implode at AAA this season…

          If the Pirates are in contention, Cervelli walks away at the end of ’16.

          If they’re not, Cervelli’s gone at the deadline and the Diaz era begins.

          • I definitely agree. would be a waste to spend 3/30 or 3/39 when we have him for 1/3.5 and Diaz in the wings. With McGuire around the corner. We need to concentrate on extending our core. Would that 40M be better spent on extending Cole or Cutch a couple of years? Maybe Polanco and one of Glasnow/Tallion provided they play well this year?

          • That 20% could get you into the playoffs. Man its only money. This club is at $96 million. This catcher based on last year’s performance would be big for this club. Prospects are good but I remember a great prospect who came up Ronny Paolino. How did that work out?

            • I still can’t tell if you’re f’n with me 🙂

              That extra $10M is a whole bunch of money…it’s basically the difference between Vogelsong and Happ. And, with in-season acquisitions, arbitration (Cole, in particular), and built in raises, you’d be assuming the Pirates would be upping the payroll to ~$120M for ’17.

              Not really sure I see that happening.

              • No Blaine not f’in it’s about time the PBC realizes that everyone is spending and prices will only get higher. I think Cervelli had as much to do with this team winning last year than anyone. IMO the gamble is will he continue to produce. I am not a fan of keeping prospects in the hope they perform at the MLB level. Diaz and McGuire maybe be Johhny Bench and Mike Piazza but I seen many prospects flame out quick. Trade Diaz for a starter keep McGuire.

                • They undoubtedly have a guy with spreadsheets all over the place looking at future payrolls, future revenue projections, and future league-wide spending. All with zillions of different scenarios.

                  He’s called a capologist in the NFL, not sure what MLB calls him. But he’s there. They’ve got it under control.

      • I think 3/39 would be pretty good value on him, but if there’s no need to spend the money because we have a cheaper option who could replace that value internally available, then, well, there’s no need to spend the money.

        That said, Cervelli on a 3/39 contract would be a very movable asset with good value on the trade market if he remains a 3-4 WAR catcher. Still might not be a bad idea to extend him.

        • I agree…if he performs well this year, someone will pay him that. I just don’t think it needs to be the Pirates if Diaz is capable of providing something rather close.

          Of course, the downside of him being a ‘movable asset’, is that you’re banking on him hot getting banged up…with a team like the Bucs, committing that much payroll to a guy is quite scary if he goes south.

            • I don’t know if you give the player that much power when it’s a 30+ year old catcher with a history of injuries. If I have to sign him, I go the other way and do team options…which, I’m sure, he wouldn’t go for.

              But this still doesn’t answer the Diaz question. Why block prospects with more expensive options?

              Again, nothing against Cervelli, if he plays well this season, someone will give him something. Maybe not 3/39, but, at least, 3/33. And good for him. But Diaz appears quite capable. If he’s not, I’m sure the Yankees will deal us another catcher 🙂

      • I fear that 7-8-9 spots will be easy outs without Cervelli in 2017. If we had a SS who could hit consistently I would feel a lot better about letting Cervelli go. When Mercer was hot last year, I loved our line up.

        • If they go with the DH? Meh…off the top of my head, I’d say that Jaso. So then you’ve got Diaz and Mercer at the bottom.

          Jordy is what he is with the bat…probably a little better with an actual hitter behind him. So, now you’ve got Diaz in there…he hit well enough in AAA to make me think he won’t be a liability…nothing exciting, but not disastrous. I’m guessing something between Mercer and Cervelli.

          • I’ve never been a Jordy Mercer fan. I think we overrate him a bit, because he’s been better than his predecessors, but I think they should be shooting higher. Thats why I was excited for Kang playing SS. Those days may be over now given the injury, but having a power bat at SS just makes your lineup so much stronger.

            I think the wildcard could be Hanson and/or Moroff. If Hanson can start off well in AAA and come up and prove that his bat is legitimate, then you could move Harrison back third, move Hanson to 2nd and have Kang man SS. If either Hanson or Moroff can become productive bats as 2nd basemen, I’d prefer that over the current situation.

            Hanson essentially would be substituting for Mercer in the lineup even though they play different positions in the field. He would also have the edge in speed, he could steal some bases where as Mercer doesnt have that ability.

            • Outside of immediate family, I don’t think there are too many folks ordering Mercer jerseys.

              He is what is he though…solid fielder, low cost, and not horrific with the bat. The Pirates definitely could do worse than him…and spend more money in the process.

              I’d rather have him as the utility guy, as well…but don’t know where that other SS is going to come from as I have no idea whether Kang has lost a step or if the Pirates even want him there anymore after the injury.

              I kinda think he’s going to be in this position until the Pirates acquire someone or he leaves as there really aren’t any true SS’s within 3 seasons of replacing him.

              • Lots of If’s in this but if decent options become available at 2nd other than Harrison, i.e. Hanson/Moroff and if Kang feels like he could handle the spot at SS still and wants to, then I’d move Harrison back to 3rd, Kang to SS and either Hanson or Moroff at 2nd. Mercer becomes late inning defensive replacement, utility/bench player.

                Except games against the Cubs. Kang will be at 3rd. Dont want to get plantar fascitis again.

                • That is a lot of ifs 🙂

                  Personally, just my gut feeling, I think the team is much, much more likely to see Hanson succeed at 2nd than see Kang return to SS.

                  Which leaves Harrison the odd man out…which, by default, makes S-Rod the odd man out.

                  If it plays out that way…not only is S-Rod the odd man out, but Harrison still might be, as well, after the season…because you’ve gotta wonder if the Pirates want to carry and $8M utility man.

                  Should be interesting….

        • I hear what you’re saying. The Barajas, Barmes, pitcher 7-8-9 days really weren’t that long ago and are enough to make a lot of people apprehensive.

        • Yeah… because it is only money. This team cannot have established players with pay at established player rates across the board. Stupid to consider signing Cervelli to any extension given what we have him at for 16 and where Diaz and McGuire are developmentally. Diaz is closer than Bell…

  2. There were a bunch of comments on the Diaz thread…I”ll just carry them over here…

    The Pirates have been, uncharacteristically, very aggressive with McGuire. He’s never mastered any level with hitting, but he keeps getting promoted.

    Sooner or later, the kid is going to have to repeat a level…at least for half a season.

    • Maybe this is the year they do that. Absolutely no rush if you ask me. Start him in Bradenton and finish him in Altoona. Maybe this gives him an arrival date of June 2018 which is about 5 years after they drafted him but again, why rush him if he needs to refine his hitting. Just a thought.

      • I won’t mind spending my $4 to stroll over and watch him play for quite a bit down here in Bradenton this year…lol

        • Hmm, off the top of my head they’re a little light down there right now for this season. Garcia, Newman and Tarpley? This would be a good year to live in Altoona or Indy. Um, that being said I wouldn’t uproot my family from Florida over prospects. But that’s just me……….

          • Luplow, Suchy, Joe, Kramer, and Polo as well. Some potential breakouts in there. I think Bradenton will be fun to watch this year.

              • I’ve been to plenty of Blue Rocks games. Still haven’t seen the Iron Pigs though. I can hear Aberdeen Proving Grounds from my dad’s house too. I go to Phillies and Orioles games too.

                • That reminds me. I think you went to the Phillies game the day after I did. I got to see Burnett dominate. Did you go to the Francouer game?

                  • I did go to the Francouer game. I actually missed that play cause it was uncharacteristically cold and my wife was freezing so we decided to take off an inning early. I was frustrated anyways with the Pirates blowing a lead in that game. I love going to games in that park though. Even when the Phillies suck, the atmosphere is good, there’s not a bad seat, and they have a solid beer selection.

                    • I won’t take my wife or kids to a Pirates game at Citizens Bank because then I can’t actually enjoy the game. Or curse for that matter. It’s a nice park and I did take my 4 year old once but he got cranky and I had to leave early and miss the Cutch inside the park HR. Which happen all the time so I wasn’t pissed at all that I missed it. Not at all.

  3. I think about all the catching prospects that failed and I wonder if one should be traded or keep both and see if one works out.

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