When the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Reese McGuire in the first round last June, they added a player with loads of potential as a defensive-minded catcher.
Despite being only 19 years old, McGuire is more than holding his own in his first full-season assignment with the West Virginia Power in the South Atlantic League.
McGuire entered the weekend with a 51 percent caught stealing rate, which is off the charts for a minor league catcher.
To compare, Ryan Hanigan, now a catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, led Major League Baseball in caught stealing percentage in 2013 for the Cincinnati Reds at 45.5 percent.
McGuire’s arm is considered near elite, and he’s not afraid to show it off aggressively in games. Augusta GreenJackets baserunners went 0 for 2 in stolen base attempts against him in the two games he caught this past series.
“With the percentages and throwing guys out, I credit my pitchers,” McGuire said. “They give me a chance with the controlled running game we’ve been preaching and working on here. It’s definitely showing.”
He had a 1.8-second pop time while throwing out one GreenJacket on Wednesday. A pop time is the measured time between the pitch hitting the catcher’s mitt and his throw hitting the fielder’s glove at second base.
A 1.8-second time is considered well above average for the major league level.
McGuire also shows a feel for hitting. He entered Friday’s game on an eight-game hitting streak, spraying the ball with some authority around the field. He consistently makes contact and avoids strikeouts at a high rate.
McGuire hasn’t shown power as a professional hitter yet, but his contact-oriented swing should develop gap power in
He’s also athletic for his position and can run at an average time for a catcher.
“I’m just trying to have a consistent approach,” he said. “I’m looking for that ball to drive the other way or pull gap. When I get two strikes, go to a two-strike plan and get a feel for who I am at the plate right now.”
McGuire signed out of high school for $2.369 million. He’s the top-rated catching prospect in the Pirates system, with nothing but his own development between him and Pittsburgh’s starting catching spot.
YOUTH MOVEMENT: The current top hitter and pitcher in the South Atlantic League stat-wise are only teenagers, a sign of a youth movement in the league.
Rome’s Victor Reyes entered the weekend leading the league with a .386 batting average, more than 20 points higher than Greenville’s Jantzen Witte.
Reyes, a 19-year-old switch-hitter, shows a feel for finding the barrel of the bat consistently. He has avoided high strikeout totals and shows an approach the plate, walking 10 times.
Kannapolis’ Tyler Danish leads the league with a 0.71 ERA in seven starts. The 19-year-old right-hander, drafted in the second round in 2013, has allowed just three earned runs in 38 innings.
Danish has a unique delivery, throwing from a low arm slot and getting almost no help from his lower half.
He has an arm-heavy motion that generates hard sink on his low-90s fastball, and he adds a strong slider.