Let’s talk about Reese McGuire
2 years ago
So how about Reese McGuire? Before the season, he was designated for assignment and taken off the 40-man roster as the Blue Jays wanted to move forward with a Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk tandem. Unfortunately, Kirk got injured just over a month into the season meaning that Reese had a second chance with the team.
As he was out of options, he was placed on waivers. No one took him due to a terrible 2020 season and an off-field incident. Speaking of which, there will be no jokes in this blog, if you want to know my thoughts, read my pinned tweet.
The Jays rolled with Jansen and Reese for about two months before Jansen injured himself on the basepath in early June.
In this blog, I will be discussing why Reese has hit so well, whether or not he can maintain it, his defensive abilities, and what they’ll do once Kirk and Jansen return.
After platooning with #16 prospect Riley Adams, Reese eventually caught fire and has become their starting catcher. So far in June, Reese has 48 PA. In those PA’s, he has a .370 average, .396 OBP. He also has a wRC+ of 162 which is well above average. Overall this season he has a .324 average, 3.67 OBP and a wRC+ of 127.
One thing I haven’t mentioned however is Reese’s BABIP. This season it’s a staggering .404, meaning that Reese has been an incredibly lucky hitter. In his current hot streak (June), his BABIP is .457, meaning if he hits a ball, it nearly has a 50/50 chance of being a hit.
This is unsustainable, as well as the numbers he is currently putting up. A big reason why his BABIP is so high is because the opposing team doesn’t really know how to play him. Reese hits the ball in every part of the field. He is usually shifted and as a left-handed hitter, that means a large hole is open. With the shift on, he has had 42 plate appearances and has hit the ball for a .333 average. A large chunk of that has been in a traditional shift (36 PAs), where that average drops to .278.
When the defence plays in the shift against Reese, he pulls the ball 40.5% of the time, hits it up the middle 35.7% of the time and hits it the opposite way 23.8% of the time. This means that if there is a hole on the left side of the infield, Reese has the ability to hit it there.
In the minors, Reese was a defence-first catcher. We’ll speak more about this later, but what this means is that his offence struggled in the minor leagues. His minor league slash line is .261/.325/.347 with an OPS below .700. In the majors, he has hit .267/.307/.449 with an OPS of .756. However, if you remove 2020 which has an explanation for the terrible season he had, he has hit .307/.352/.510 in 70 games.
Some people hate it when I mention Jansen, but I’m going to use him as a comparison here. In the minor leagues, Jansen was a good hitter in the minors. He had a .269/.367/.410 slash line with 33 home runs. However, his defence was always lacking. To his credit, Jansen has worked to improve that to make the MLB and is now a serviceable, if not a good MLB defensive catcher. However, his production with the bat has dropped off significantly as he’s hitting .200 for his career.
Reese on the other hand was NOT an offensive catcher but a defensive catcher in the minors. While a sample size of 218 plate appearances is not enough to judge whether or not he’s a good hitter, his major league hitting stats minus 2020 have been enough to show me that he must’ve figured something out.
I mentioned that I’ll talk about Reese’s defence, let’s do that. I will again be using Jansen, the only other qualified catcher on the Jays roster. Reese’s framing is average, as it’s Jansen’s. Per Baseball Savant, both McGuire and Jansen have been middle of the pack with Runs Extra Strikes. Reese has a lesser strike rate (47.1% compared to Jansen’s 48.3%), but both are solid at framing. Where they differentiate is with blocking and throwing runners out.
I do believe that Jansen is one of the best at blocking. In 290.1 innings caught, he has allowed only 7 wild pitches. Reese has allowed the same amount of wild pitches, but with only 194.1 innings caught. He’s also allowed 2 passed balls.
Reese’s arm however is a different story. In 14 steal attempts, Reese has thrown out five runners. Jansen has only thrown out two runners on 19 stolen base attempts. With Reese behind the plate, runners are less likely to move to second with a walk or a hit.
Using one of my favourite metrics, defensive runs saved, we can see that Reese’s DRS is +1 while Jansen’s owns a -2 DRS.
I believe Jansen is solid behind the plate, however, in my opinion, Reese is the better all-around player at the moment. I believe his bat will taper off as he’s not a .300 hitter. We can tell by his BABIP, though it is still possible for Reese to be a .230-.250 hitter.
What about Kirk and Jansen?
Kirk is available to come off the IL in early July and Jansen had been taking batting practice for the Thunder Bisons a week ago. I believe both will be ready in the near future. That begs the question though, what happens with Reese?
In my eyes, there are a few options.
Firstly, he can be traded for bullpen help. Reese has hit well at the major league levels, but the question stands whether or not he can maintain that for a full season. Right now his value is at its highest as he’s an above-average defender and has hit the ball for a good average with a little bit of luck. This is probably the most likely scenario, however, it’s not the best. Reese has hit righties incredibly well this season at .344. Furthermore, with him being a left-handed batter, it breaks up the right heavy lineup.
The second option is that Reese is DFA’ed. This would be dumb. I’m not going to sugarcoat that. No doubt he has shown other organizations that 2020 is likely a farce and that he is at least worth the waiver pick up.
Thirdly, Kirk could be optioned as he’s never hit above high A in the minors. I’m not a fan of this idea either as I believe he’s shown that he can handle a bat at the major league level. He walks at almost the same rate as he strikes out which Reese does not. However, while Reese’s BABIP shows that he is a lucky hitter, Kirk’s BABIP shows that he’s an incredibly unlucky hitter (.194).
Lastly and my favourite scenario would be that Jansen is optioned. Before clicking away or yelling at me, hear me out. Firstly, we know Jansen has been able to hit well before. This organization has optioned both Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel before and they came back better hitters. Why not give Jansen the same opportunity? Furthermore, this would allow Reese to continue to get regular at-bats at the major league level and perhaps his trade value could continue to rise.
Even if he regresses with the bat, Reese will give you above-average defence, which Kirk may not be able to provide.
With five catchers on the 40 man roster, including two young highly touted prospects, McGuire and Jansen will eventually become expendable. Whether this is just a hot streak, or Reese has suddenly become a solid hitter is to be foreseen. With both Jansen and Kirk returning in the near future, the Jays will have to make a decision on what to do.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. If you want to know why I didn’t make any jokes, read my pinned tweet.
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