FSL notes: Bucs' McGuire showing maturity

Bradenton backstop, 2013 first-rounder knows he still has work to do

The 14th overall pick in 2013, Reese McGuire is hitting .294 over his first 10 games. (Marty Morrow/Bradenton Marauders)

By Guy Curtright / Special to MiLB.com | April 22, 2015 10:00 AM

As much as the Pittsburgh Pirates would've liked to be able to re-sign catcher Russell Martin, they hope to have a potential successor already in their pipeline. Of course, nothing is a given -- and that especially holds true with young backstops.

Only one catcher in the Major Leagues is a regular with the team that drafted him out of high school. That is Cincinnati's Devin Mesoraco, the 15th overall pick in 2007.

Reese McGuire, taken by the Pirates with the 14th pick in the 2013 Draft, also hopes to be an exception. A native of the Seattle area who didn't turn 20 until March 2, he's certainly made a good early impression.

The Bradenton catcher is mature beyond his years behind the plate and has the physical tools to develop into a two-way player with some pop in his left-handed bat. The Pirates, though, won't rush McGuire despite the loss of Martin to Toronto as a free agent, and the youngster knows he still has work to do to be close to Major League ready.

Actually, he would've liked Martin to have re-signed with the Pirates so he could take advantage of Martin's mentoring.

"Just being around him a little bit was great," McGuire said. "It would have been nice to get to work with him a little bit. But his leaving is the business part of baseball.

"I don't think of it as more of an opportunity for me -- I'm just working to get better ever day. That's the only thing I can control. When my time comes, I'll be ready."

Although McGuire, ranked No. 63 among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects, is one of the younger position players in the Class A Advanced Florida State League, he has had no problem holding his own so far.

A South Atlantic League All-Star a year ago, the left-handed-batting McGuire delivered seven hits over his first four games with Bradenton and had a .294 average with just two strikeouts after 34 at-bats.

"I'm more confident this year," said the Pirates' No. 5 prospect. "I had some ups and downs last season at the plate, but I learned a lot from each at-bat.

"Defense comes first with a catcher, but I take pride in both sides of my game. I put in the time at each."

Many catching prospects spent time at other positions. In fact, Martin was a junior college infielder and even played some third base in the Majors.

Despite his athleticism, McGuire became a nearly full-time backstop by the time he was 10 or 11.

"I used to split pitching with my older brother Cash, but he had a growth spurt and took over," McGuire said. "I caught him and fell in love with catching."

McGuire, who received a bonus of nearly $2.4 million from the Pirates, had a head start on learning the finer points of handling, and his leadership skills are perfect for the position.

Plus, McGuire has the agility to block pitches and the arm to keep runners honest. He threw out 39 percent of would-be base stealers with Class A West Virginia last season.

McGuire didn't get to spend much time with the Pirates in Spring Training, but he does have a perfect Grapefruit League batting average.

Called on to pinch hit in the sixth inning against Toronto on March 28, he delivered a double. It came off fellow Minor Leaguer Wil Browning, but that hardly mattered.

"It was awesome," McGuire said. "It was the third time I had been called over to catch in the bullpen, and I didn't think I had any chance to get into the game. They changed pitchers after my hit, so I got to stand on second and soak it in."

Next Spring Training, McGuire will likely see a lot more action. Then a year or two later, Pittsburgh may beckon. The Pirates will likely still have the opening.

That McGuire ended up as a catcher and was then drafted by Pittsburgh actually only seems fitting.

His grandfather, Jack McGuire, played that position on a Duke University team that made the 1952 College World Series. The star of that team was Dick Groat, the National League MVP when the Pirates won the 1960 World Series.

In brief

Rookie matures: Tampa right-hander Rookie Davis dazzled in his first three starts, striking out 19 while walking just one over 16 2/3 innings. The New York Yankees' No. 23 prospect was 1-0 with a 0.54 ERA and a WHIP of 0.66. Davis, who turns 22 on April 29, had allowed no more than four base runners in any of his three outings. The North Carolina native was a 14th-round choice in the 2011 Draft and went 7-8 with a 4.93 ERA for Class A Charleston in the South Atlanta League last season.

Speed to burn: St. Lucie outfielder Champ Stuart was finding ways to get on base and creating havoc once he did. The 22-year-old had a .457 on-base percentage thanks to nine walks in 10 games and led the Florida State League with seven steals in eight attempts. Stuart, a sixth-round choice in the 2013 Draft by the New York Mets, had a .314 average with a homer and four RBIs despite 15 strikeouts in 35 at-bats. Stuart had 29 steals in 33 attempts last season with Class A Savannah.

On the shelf: Shortstop J.P. Crawford, Philadelphia's No. 1 prospect, opened the season on the Clearwater disabled list because of an oblique strain suffered during Spring Training. The 20-year-old was the 16th overall pick in the 2013 Draft and is expected to eventually to fill the spot left open in Philadelphia when Jimmy Rollins was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Another prominent name on the disabled list was Dunedin catcher Max Pentecost, the first-round pick by Toronto last year out of Kennesaw State University in Georgia. The Blue Jays' No. 4 prospect had a scope performed on his throwing shoulder during the offseason to clean out the joint.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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