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Aspiring Jays: Deck McGuire

This week, our weekly prospect column focuses on Double-A starting pitcher Deck McGuire, a former first round pick.


So what I want to do with this column is highlight one particular player most weeks, if not every week. This player could be a high-profile prospect, or a player we thought would be good but has been terrible, or a player we thought would've been terrible but instead has performed very well. My role is providing thoughtful analysis that will hopefully not be a complete waste of everyone's time.

The reason I wanted to talk about Deck McGuire this week is that he is the best non-injured starting pitcher prospect in the upper minors. I say non-injured because Sean Nolin and Chad Jenkins are on the Double-A disabled list. So Deck McGuire, being the former first round draft pick he is, might start looking like a savior to some Jays fans, if the big league team's rotation keeps making each and every club's hitters look like Miguel Cabrera. Seriously, did you see that one guy on the Tigers? Jays' pitching made him look like a real good lookalike! But the answer to these pitching woes is not named Deck McGuire. The answer is either patience or, eventually, despair. Although this will not score me any originality points, I still want to point you to this song, for your benefit.

The reason we, the (wise?) folk of Bluebird Banter, preach patience is not because we do not experience agony over horribly pitched games. The reason is not that we do not want this team to win every game, or that we don't care as passionately about it. Nor is the reason that we think that it's all due to bad luck. No, games have in fact been pitched badly (although some bad luck has hurt too) and it has been painful to watch sometimes, or actually, most of the time. But these pitchers have good track records in the major leagues, whereas Deck McGuire had a 5.88 ERA in Double-A last season. The difference in expected performance between McGuire and the current Jays starters was enormous at the start of the season, and is only slightly less enormous right now. So the answer to the question you might want to ask, which is "can we have a McGuire?", is no. Not now, and maybe never. I'll go into more detail on why you may never see him as a starting pitcher for the Jays in the rest of this piece.

After two starts in Double-A McGuire has a 3.09 ERA, 4 walks and 12 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings pitched. It might be best for McGuire to pretend like 2012 never happened, and we skipped from 2011 straight to 2013, to avoid any Mayan calendar-related problems. We could help him by pretending the same, and in that light his current line looks like a simple continuation of 2011: good strikeout numbers, decent but definitely not great control, and a high number of flyballs. The flyballs are mainly what concerns me about McGuire's stats, if we do not count the fact that McGuire was horrible in all aspects of the game in 2012, the season that never happened.

So let's talk about fly balls for a minute. While strikeouts are obviously good and walks are obviously bad for a pitcher, flyballs are not that obvious. Yes, flyballs sometimes go for home runs, and they are simply the worst thing for a pitcher to give up. But if a pitcher can limit the number of flyballs that leave the park, they might not be so bad. After all, high flyballs are caught more often than not, so flyball-pitchers like Matt Cain and Johan Santana often give up very few hits, and don't even need to strike out that many to do so. The problem is, successful flyball pitchers are often the happy owners of a superb fastball, a mind-blowing changeup or a combination of both. Deck McGuire's scouting profile is not the profile of a successful flyballer-to be, as he's often described as a pitcher with various decent pitches, but no great ones. A pitcher with that profile should have great control (McGuire doesn't seem to have that), and a knack for inducing weak contact, which McGuire doesn't seem to have, either, if you look at his batted ball profile.

At this point, it looks like McGuire's best case scenario is to become a reliever in the mould of Casey Janssen, though probably not as good. Relieving would allow his fastball to gain a bit of velocity, which it probably needs, and it'll let him focus on his best offspeed pitch(es). Of course, scouting is an inexact science, so perhaps McGuire's fastball and/or changeup are real weapons to get major league hitters out. But I wouldn't count on it.

Others - short notes

Anthony Gose - .292/.370/.417, 2 walks and 3 Ks in 6 games. Last 2 games for Buffalo have been rained out.

John Tolisano - .375/.516/.792 for New Hampshire. Not too old (24) to be a late bloomer. Unlikely, though.

Aaron Sanchez - 10 IP: 2.70 ERA, 3 BB, 7 K. Keeping the walks in check so far.

Christian Lopes - .400/.423/.560 for Lansing, 6 games. What's this? An actual 2B-prospect?