Q&A: McGuire a leader behind plate

Bucs' first-rounder settling into role as top catching prospect

Reese McGuire hit .323 over 50 games in his first professional season. (Mark Olson/MiLB.com)

By John Parker / MiLB.com | February 11, 2014 10:00 AM ET

The last eight months have been busy ones for 18-year-old Pirates prospect Reese McGuire.

Before he graduated from Kentwood High School in his home state of Washington, McGuire was selected with the 14th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. He signed with Pittsburgh on June 18 and made his debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League on the Fourth of July.

After ranking third in the league with a .330 average in 46 games and earning a spot on the GCL postseason All-Star team, McGuire joined short-season Jamestown for its New York-Penn League playoff push. Known for strong defense and an above-average arm (he threw out 44 percent of potential basestealers last year), he heads into his first Spring Training as MLB.com's No. 7 catching prospect.

We spoke to him shortly before he departed for Pirates camp in Bradenton, Fla.

MiLB.com: What have you been up to during the offseason?

Reese McGuire: I came back home to Washington and have been working with a personal trainer. At first I was told to report to Spring Training on Feb. 24, but I'm going to head down [to Florida] on the first of the month to get a head start.

MiLB.com: By the time the Draft came around last June, you must have had an idea that you'd be selected pretty early. How did you follow things on Draft Day?

McGuire: It was kind of a regular day, really. I went to school, like usual, although I left one period early. I had a bunch of family over and we sat on the couch and watched the Draft on television.

MiLB.com: The Pirates took you five picks after Austin Meadows, with whom you went on to play in the Gulf Coast League and New York-Penn League. How did you guys get along?

McGuire: I actually already knew Austin from Perfect Game showcases and tournaments during high school. After it kind of sunk in that the Pirates had taken me, I looked down the list and said, "Hey, that's my buddy Austin."

We called each other the night of the Draft and talked about getting to play together. It's been awesome -- he's a great player and an even better person.

MiLB.com: Obviously, he's several years older, but you went to the same high school as Matt Hague, who's been in the Pirates organization since 2008. Have you talked with him about the pro game and what to expect as you move up?

McGuire: Matt's been a good contact, for sure. I actually just saw him at the fitness center recently.

MiLB.com: What was the biggest surprise during your first year as a pro?

McGuire: The majority of players [on the GCL Pirates] were Latin, so at first there was kind of a language barrier in the clubhouse and between pitchers and catchers. But as time went by, we all figured each other out, especially up at Jamestown.

MiLB.com: At one point, Jamestown had 12 international players from nine different countries, I can imagine it being tough to communicate sometimes. How much time did you spend working with the pitching staff as opposed to getting offensive work in like the other position players?

McGuire: As a catcher, defense always comes first, but we get just as much time in the cage as the other hitters. There's a lot to learn on both sides.

MiLB.com: Scouting reports describe you as having the proverbial "cannon for an arm." Did you ever consider pitching?

McGuire: When I was younger I used to switch off between pitcher and catcher with my brother, Cash. He's only a year older, so we were often on the same teams. At some point, though, he went on this massive growth spurt -- like at 12 years old he became the same size he is now -- so he became a dominant pitcher and I stayed behind the plate. I played a little at shortstop, but catching has been my thing for a while.

MiLB.com: Cash plays the infield at Seattle University -- the McGuires are from about 25 miles from Seattle -- and your younger brother, Shane, is on the Kentwood High team. What was the competition like as you grew up together?

McGuire: There's a three-year gap between my younger brother and me, so we've never played together much. Being closer in age, Cash and I have played a lot. We challenge each other and learn from each other and support each other, and I think it's made us better ballplayers.

MiLB.com: You had committed to go to college, in your case the University of San Diego. It's tough to look past being drafted so high -- how difficult was your decision to turn pro?

McGuire: College was always my main goal. My mom's a teacher, and for us it's always been school first before baseball. It wasn't until my junior year, when I'd already committed to San Diego, that going pro even seemed like a possibility. I started to think about it more and talked about the options with people. It was a tough decision, but it's a great opportunity.

MiLB.com: You don't strike out much -- only 19 times in 50 games last season. Is that something you concentrate on?

McGuire: No one likes striking out, but I don't think it's something I've particularly concentrated on. I feel like I can put the ball in play, but sometimes I wonder if my approach is just to make contact or if I'm hitting the ball as hard as I can.

MiLB.com: You're a natural right-hander. How did you start hitting lefty?

McGuire: It's funny. I wondered that and asked my dad, who hits righty -- he said I just picked up the bat that way when I started. It's nice being a few feet closer to first base.

MiLB.com: Catchers have a lot of responsibility and are often considered team leaders. Is it strange to have that burden in the pros when you're only 18 years old?

McGuire: The teams I've played on have really prepared me for that. I've been a catcher for a long time and always played a couple years older than I was. And playing for Team USA was a big deal for me, learning how to be a leader. It's something I take seriously.

MiLB.com: Who were your favorite players growing up?

McGuire: Dan Wilson was my hometown [Mariners] catcher, so I always liked him. And Jason Varitek, for being not just a good player but a captain and a leader. Yadier Molina is amazing. And I really like Buster Posey -- obviously, he's a great player, but I especially admire the way he carries himself, his poise.

MiLB.com: Is there any particular reason you wore No. 7 last year?

McGuire: I'd been wearing 21 for years, but after being drafted by the Pirates I realized early on that I'd have to change. [Roberto Clemente's 21 has been retired by the Pirates.] So I asked what they had available and took seven since I'd worn that when I was really small.

John Parker is an editor for 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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