Who Ya Got? Austin Meadows vs. Reese McGuire

Austin Meadows - Glendale Desert Dogs - 2015 Arizona Fall League (Bill Mitchell)


Feature Photo: Austin Meadows, OF, Pirates

Having two picks in the first 14 spots in the draft is an excellent way to replenish a farm system ravaged over the years by big league promotions, but hitting on those picks is far from a given, especially when selecting prep players. It’s far too early to label Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire as successful first-round selections for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013, as neither has spent any substantial time in the upper minors, and both figure to be at least a year away from their big league debuts, but in terms of development to-date, the pair has done everything that the Pirates could have hoped.

Meadows – a long, lean outfielder with an effortless swing – has shown the hitting prowess of a much older player in his first two professional seasons. His teammate McGuire has shown a similar aptitude towards the catching position, baseball’s most important defensive responsibility. Despite their youth, both have characteristics that make it hard to envision them becoming anything other than major leaguers, yet their roles upon arrival are still quite undetermined.

Thus creates a fun debate offered up by 2080’s Jeff Moore, who has seen both players multiple times, most recently in AFL action.  Jeff offers his insights on their future below. It’s a debate that leaves the Pirates with few negative outcomes, but still a fascinating discussion nonetheless.

So today, we ask the question: Who will have the better major league career, Austin Meadows or Reese McGuire?

Austin Meadows, OF, Pirates

Austin Meadows, OF, Pirates (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’3″/200 | B/T:  L/L | Age (as of 12/1/15):  20y, 7m
Coming out of high school as the #9 overall pick in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft, there were those that were concerned with Meadows profile as a potential “tweener” in the outfield – not fast enough to handle center field but not hitting for enough power for a corner. Two years later, there are still scouts who have those concerns, but their numbers are dwindling.

Meadows can flat-out hit, and that has a way of making up for a lot of other perceived flaws, which is actually an overstatement of his issues. Meadows isn’t a pole-to-pole type defender, but with plus raw speed and good natural instincts, he’s an above-average defender up the middle, something not everyone expected him to become.

And the power is there. While Meadows doesn’t necessarily profile as a middle-of-the-order hitter, he does show average raw power in batting practice. It’s the translation into games that is still a work in progress, though he showed more of a propensity towards driving the ball this fall than he did during the Florida State League season (FSL) – perhaps a product of acclimating to the hitter-friendly AFL after finishing up in the pitcher-friendly FSL.

As a player who should be able to handle center field, (and at the very least be a plus defender on the corner) and with a plus hit tool, Meadows’ high floor is as equally impressive as his moderately-high ceiling as a potential first-division regular.

Reese McGuire, C, Pirates

Reese McGuire, C, Pirates (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’0″/181 | B/T:  L/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  20y, 8m
Speaking of high floor, perhaps no player in the minors has a higher one than McGuire. Coming out of the same 2013 Draft class as Meadows – and just five picks later in the #14 overall slot, McGuire’s defensive prowess-alone will carry him to the majors and should allow him to have a long career. While McGuire is more of a sure thing to maintain his defensive value, his bat is far more of a question than his fellow Pirate prospect, with a ceiling not nearly as high.

McGuire’s contact skills are on par with Meadows’, in terms of limiting his swings-and-misses, but his contact skill hasn’t translated into balls driven consistently hard as the tool has for Meadows. McGuire offers virtually nothing in the power department thanks to just average bat speed. And he doesn’t project to grow into much more power thanks to a frame that looks fully developed. The offensive bar at catcher is quite low, which plays into McGuire’s favor, but without much power production, he’ll really need to see his hit tool and plate discipline reach their respective ceilings. But if the bat come together and produce even average batting and on-base abilities, McGuire should have no issue fulfilling his potential as a first-division catcher.

That said, his defensive abilities aren’t just solid – they’re a legitimate weapon. Paired with his plus receiving and blocking skills are a double-plus arm. And McGuire is already comfortable unleashing it thanks to refined footwork and clean mechanics. Those skills translate well to the big leagues, even all the way from High A ball, and leave little doubt about McGuire’s ability to contribute defensively at the major league level almost immediately. His leadership skills behind the plate and handling of a pitching staff also draw rave reviews, and the transition into staff favorite should be short.

So two Pirates’ prospects, both potential first-division regulars, and both likely to stay in the middle of the field. One has more offensive potential while the other is more of a sure thing to be a defensive stalwart. With those variables in place, who ya got? — Jeff Moore

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