Last week we wrote about Chicago Cubs rookie Dillon Maples, who went from forgotten prospect to the major leagues in one year. Another rookie with a similar path is Deck McGuire of the Cincinnati Reds, a one-time top prospect who fizzled but has worked his way back into relevance.
McGuire made his major league debut this month and is expected to make his first major league start on Tuesday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
A highly-respected college pitcher at Georgia Tech, McGuire was considered close to major league-ready when the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in the first round in 2010. He pitched well in A-ball in 2011 but struggled for the first time on reaching Double-A in 2012. He spent the ‘12, ‘13, and ‘14 seasons in the upper levels of the Jays system without regaining his former glory, eventually ending up at “forgotten prospect” status.
McGuire was sold to the Oakland Athletics system late in 2014, then signed up with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a minor league free agent in 2015. He performed well with the Dodgers (3.69 in 137 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 119/36 K/BB) but by this time was considered inning-soaking roster-filler rather than a true prospect. He moved on to the St. Louis Cardinals as a free agent in 2016 but didn’t have a great season in Triple-A, posting a 5.10 ERA in 134 innings, 111/50 K/BB.
2017 brought another free agent contract, this time with the Cincinnati Reds who sent him down to Double-A Pensacola. He anchored the Blue Wahoos starting rotation and had his best campaign since his junior year of college, posting a 2.79 ERA in 168 innings with a 170/57 K/BB.
McGuire has no lack of size at 6-6, 220. Born June 23rd, 1989, McGuire features a four-pitch mix: a fastball at 92-95 MPH, a slider in the 82-86 range, a curve in the 75-80 range, and a change-up in the 80-83 range.
In college and the low minors McGuire would mix up his pitches effectively and throw four solids for strikes. However, over time he lost zip on his fastball: it was down to 88-92 MPH by 2014. He lost some bite on his secondary pitches as well and his command, while generally good, wasn’t quite good enough to compensate.
This year the fastball kicked back up a notch and, perhaps not surprisingly, he got his old effectiveness back. His breaking stuff has been sharper too and in general he looks a lot more like the guy the Blue Jays thought they were drafting seven years ago.
That said, McGuire was a 28-year-old with a lot of experience going up against Double-A hitting this year so some skepticism about the Pensacola rebound was warranted. However, the Reds saw enough to bring him to the majors for September and so far he’s done quite well, throwing 5.2 scoreless innings with four strikeouts out of the bullpen.
Will this continue now that he’s getting a chance to start?
My wild guess: he gives up two runs in six innings tomorrow, allowing seven hits on two walks and five strikeouts. This performance, combined with his work during the minor league season and his successful September bullpen MLB trial, will take him into spring training with a shot as a long reliever/fifth starter.
What do you guys think?