Coming into the 2021 season, the Toronto Blue Jays had an interesting scenario when it came to who was going to be behind home plate to begin the season.
Danny Jansen was a guaranteed lock for the opening day roster, even though his slash line was not impressive last year and has not improved so far this season. The organization promoted top prospect, Alejandro Kirk, to the big league squad towards the end of last season, cruising to a .375/.400/.583 through 25 plate appearances. The sample size was small, but fans were liking what they were seeing from the get-go.
Also on the 2020 roster was Reese McGuire, who was not performing well and was the brunt of many jokes due to his arrest earlier in the season. With the emergence of Kirk last year, McGuire was optioned back down to the alternate site late in the campaign, taking his abysmal .073/.073/.146 slash line with him.
With injuries befalling the catching staff for the Toronto Blue Jays, the club has called upon Reese McGuire to fill in with Kirk and Jansen on the IL. So far the former first-round pick is doing well, which could benefit him and the Blue Jays in the long run.
This spring training was eye-opening on a few levels because while many knew that Jansen was going to be with Toronto to begin the year, nobody was quite sure who would be the other catcher on the roster in terms of Kirk or McGuire.
Eventually, the hard-hitting Kirk won the battle and McGuire would be designated for assignment, eventually settling down in AAA with the Buffalo Bisons when no other team picked him up on the waiver wire. I was a bit surprised that no other team took a flyer on McGuire, especially since he is more of a “defensive first” kind of player, something that teams could benefit from in the catcher position.
Nevertheless, McGuire reported to AAA but would not suit up for the Bisons, as Kirk would find himself placed on the injured list in early May and the Blue Jays needed McGuire back up in the major leagues. Now with Jansen on the IL as well, McGuire has been splitting the catching duties with prospect Riley Adams, and the Seattle, Washington native is not letting the opportunity go to waste.
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Through 25 games this season, McGuire is currently slashing .290/.338/.435 with a .733 OPS to go along with one home run and five RBI. He has also been stellar behind the plate as well, throwing out 36% of base stealers, and owns a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage with just two passed balls.
One can obviously argue that the sample size is small given he only has 75 plate appearances on the year, it is encouraging to see that when the so-called “regulars” like Jansen and Kirk are not available, that the options down the line are able to produce above the Mendoza line and keep the bottom of the order somewhat competitive.
Overall, has McGuire done enough to keep a spot on the major league roster?
Most likely not, only because of what lies beneath him in the depth charts when it comes Kirk, Adams, and a red-hot Gabriel Moreno down in AA. There is a good chance that the lefty batter will fall victim to the numbers game when Kirk returns from the IL and the 40-man roster gets a bit crowded, but he is setting himself up in terms of trade value if Ross Atkins is able to swing a deal (nothing fancy but something in return). This may actually benefit the former Pittsburgh Pirates draft pick, as a new environment could lead to more playing time if fewer players stand in his way.
Knock him for all you want, but compared to how Jansen and Kirk have performed early this season (before hitting the IL), technically McGuire is performing better than both when it comes to the slash line. While he ultimately may not be on the roster for the whole season, the lefty-slugger is proving quite a few people wrong (including me) and the Blue Jays are benefitting from it.