2014 Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects: #29 – Deck McGuire
Deck McGuire warms up in Manchester, New Hampshire before a game on June 29, 2013. Mandatory Credit: Jay Blue
Name Deck McGuire
Position Starting Pitcher
Date of Birth June 23, 1989 (24)
Acquired Drafted in the first round (11th overall) of the 2010 draft ($2 million signing bonus)
High School Deep Run HS (Glen Allen, GA)
University Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
Height/Weight 6’6″/235 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments
2011 Florida State League Mid-Season All-Star
2009 First Team All-America (Collegiate Baseball)
2009 Second Team All-America (Baseball America)
2009 ACC Pitcher of the Year
2009 All-ACC (First Team)
2008 First Team Freshman All-America (Collegiate Baseball)
2008 Second Team Freshman All-America (NCBWA)
Though Deck isn’t being considered a ‘Top Prospect” by many people anymore, it’s not as if he’s simply gone away. After a meteoric rise through High-A to Double-A in his first year of professional baseball in 2011, the scouts and fans were feeling pretty good about the Jays highest pick (11th overall) in a long time. 2012, however, was a giant step back for McGuire who didn’t get the job done in a full season at the Double-A level.
Playing for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, McGuire saw his strikeout rate plummet and his walk rate and batting average against rise in 2012, seeing a jump in his ERA to 5.88 and his FIP to 5.26. After this horrible season, most fans had already written Deck off as a bust and he was passed on many Top Prospect lists going into 2013 (he didn’t even appear on the Jays Journal 2013 Top 25).
Why is Deck back? Is it just the fact that we’ve expanded the Top Prospect list to 30 this year? I’d like to think that it isn’t. I had Deck at #25 on my list and the reason is that I think he has a very good chance of making the majors at least in a relief role. His 2013 season proved that he doesn’t lack stuff or the ability to log innings and he came out looking quite good when all was said and done.
The first thing that people will notice with McGuire’s 2013 season is the fact that he had a high ERA of 4.86. Considering the fact that this is almost a full run better than his 2012 season, we can already see the improvement. Additionally, McGuire’s FIP outperformed his ERA, coming in at 3.58. The reason this happened is because McGuire did three things much better in 2013 than 2012. The first was that he struck out far more batters, going from 15.1% in 2012 to 21.3% in 2013. He also dropped his walk rate almost a full point (from 9.6% to 8.8%) and lowered his home run per nine inning rate from 1.38 to 0.69. All three of these things influence FIP in a big way.
The reason why Mcguire’s ERA was so much higher than his FIP was because of situational pitching. McGuire tends to lose focus with runners on base and is susceptible to big innings. He started to improve this towards the end of the season in 2013. McGuire made 26 starts last season and in his first 13, he gave up five runs or more three times but he did so only once in his last 13 starts (it was actually his 14th start that was his last five-run performance of the season).
By looking at another measure, if you look at Game Score (a stat devised by Bill James to measure the quality of a start) McGuire had a game score of 50 or over five times over his first 13 starts. Over his last 13, he bested the 50 Game Score eight times and three of his last four were over 60 (including a complete game performance on August 14 that tied his season-high Game Score of 73).
The biggest thing about McGuire’s back half of the season was that it was more consistent than anything he had done at the Double-A level up until then. In the next section, we’ll see what he’s able to do it with.
Well, this is the best video that I’ve been able to find of McGuire. It appears that he doesn’t use the windup at all either in the video or in the photos that I took of him warming up in Manchester this summer. You can see that he doesn’t have a high leg kick at all and appears to be able to generate his solid velocity without a lot of visible effort and has very clean mechanics. This is what leads most scouts to think that he can be a really durable workhorse-type pitcher. I haven’t heard of any arm injuries to McGuire and his big frame allows him to generate quite a lot of power without taxing his arm too much.
Note: My assessment of McGuire’s repertoire comes from the start in which I scouted him on June 29th.
In the start that I saw, McGuire was throwing his fastball 90-91 mph consistently (touching 92) from start to finish, throwing 95 pitches. He threw a slider around 83-85 mph and a changeup around 82 mph. His curveball came in in the 75-77 mph range. From my perspective, his fastball had some nice movement on it and his slider had nice bite. He didn’t use his curve much, using it as a show-me pitch in that particular outing. In an interview with McGuire from 2012, Clayton Richer got this little tidbit when he asked McGuire what his out pitch was: “I guess my out pitch is whatever is working best that day. That’s kinda my calling card, is being able to throw any pitch in any count.”
I saw a very good slider (which is the pitch that most scouts think is his best pitch) and was very impressed by his changeup which had very good movement and arm action on it. Talking to pitching coach Tom Signore the next day, I learned that the club had been trying to get him to throw the change more (you can read my scouting report and piece on McGuire over at Blue Jays from Away and you can read the full transcript of my interview with Tom Signore there as well).
If I had to rate McGuire’s pitches individually, I’d say that the fastball was a “fringe-average” pitch (slightly below major league average) with an average curveball, a potential plus changeup and a plus slider. His stamina is excellent and he’s probably one of the few pitchers in the Jays system who hasn’t shown himself to be injury prone.
2014 Outlook, Risk and ETA
The biggest questions with McGuire are mental. Can he keep his focus for every pitch? He’s eminently hittable when he gets the ball up in the zone and he doesn’t stay on top of it. If he uses his 6’6″ frame and keeps the ball down consistently, McGuire could certainly be a #5 starter.
McGuire will likely be in a very good, young pitching rotation in Buffalo in 2014. The veteran savvy of Triple-A hitters will be a very big test for McGuire’s ability to stay focused and stay within his delivery. While the risks of “flaming out” are very low at this point, the question of whether he has turned the corner and is ready for better competition still hasn’t been answered. To me, he’s shown that he has big-league stuff but he has to prove that he can put it where he needs to when he needs to do it.
If you like what you’ve seen by Jay Blue, read his work and listen to his podcast on Blue Jays from Away and follow him on Twitter: @Jaysfromaway.