Monday, the Jays managed to pull off a trade just minutes before the deadline. Jays sent Drew Hutchison to the Pirates for Francisco Liriano and two prospects. While the immediate concern is trying to get Liriano turned around to his former self, the real haul of this trade is the two prospects the Jays received in return.
Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez were both top ten prospects int he Pirates system before the trade. According to the updated prospect rankings on MLB's official site, they are now both top 5 prospects for the Jays. This is great news as the Jays' front office attempts to build a strong farm system to make the Jays a perennial contender. So here's a look at the Jays' two newest prospects.
Ramirez was originally signed out of Colombia in 2011. Ramirez started the year as the Pirates #6 prospect. Early on, Ramirez was playing all over the outfield, but seems to have found a home in the corners. At 5'10", 220lbs Ramirez isn't very tall, but is a stout player. Ramirez's weight has been a topic of discussion for Ramirez in recent seasons, although it hasn't seemed to affect his play. He's missed some time with leg issues, but this hasn't seemed to affect his development.
Ramirez's ticket to the show will be his offense. He's a right handed hitter, and holds a career slash line of .304/.362/.409 across 5 minor league seasons. He doesn't have tons of pop (13 career homeruns), but he does have a good swing that can produce lots of doubles and triples. He's an aggressive baserunner with decent speed. He's stolen 73 bases in his career, but only has a success rate of 62.4%. Hopefully, some time with Tim Raines can help make him a more efficient baserunner.
Ramirez will need to continue to improve his plate vision as his BB/K rate is only .39. This will hopefully improve as he matures.
Defensively, Ramirez is an average fielder with a below average arm. It's encouraging to see that he's made progress defensively almost every season. He's spent most of this season playing center field in Double-A. The Jays will continue to let him workout there, but his future is most likely as a corner outfielder (probably left field).
Ramirez has spent all of 2016 with the Pirates Double-A affiliate, Altoona, and is headed to New Hampshire for the Jays. He's played well there as he's slashing .306/.354/.401. Ramirez should be in big league camp next spring. If the Jays really do lose Bautista and Saunders, then Ramirez could be competing for a big league job. But, expect Ramirez to start next season in Buffalo before finding his way to Toronto at some point in 2017.
Once in the big leagues, Ramirez should be a very solid outfielder for the Jays. If he can improve his plate awareness, then we can expect him to be a solid hitter who should pair well with many of the Jays other upcoming players.
McGuire could end up being the crown of this trade. Coming out of high school in 2013, McGuire was the highest rated catcher in the class. This led to him being drafted 14th overall, and since that time he's been exactly as advertised. McGuire started the season as the Pirates #5 prospect, and the 5th rated catching prospect in all of baseball. This is big for the Jays, who lacked catching prospects to back up an aging Russell Martin.
In contrast to Ramirez, McGuire's best tool is his defense. McGuire is a very good athlete behind the plate, with excellent receiving skills. In the little video I can find, he plays with good form, and can get out of his stance in a hurry. In 2404 innings behind the plate in the minors, McGuire has only allowed 20 past balls.
His transfer is quick and he gets the ball out of his hand in a hurry. He's got a strong arm that should be able to hold runners in check. McGuire has thrown out 35.5% of runners through his minor league career, but has improved that to 39.3% this season.
McGuire is good at calling games and works well with his pitching staff. His pitchers trust him and he knows how to handle each of them. These are skills that are highly underrated by fans, but scrutinized deeply by coaches and scouts.
Offensively, McGuire is a fair hitter with potential to improve. He's a left handed hitter, with a good wing. For his career, he's slashing .269/.324/.332. He doesn't have much power (4 career homeruns), but makes up for it with the way he runs bases. McGuire has stolen 31 bases in his career with a 69% success rate. He's actually got more career triples (6) than homeruns, which is interesting to see in a catcher.
What really gives me hope for McGuire is how he continues to improve his approach at the plate. McGuire had a BB/K ratio of .55 in 2014 (which is already a respectable number), and then improved it to .67 in 2015, and 1.12 this season. He's got a good understanding of the strike zone and this should help him continue to make progress at the plate.
While no one will ever confuse McGuire for Buster Posey, his defense is great and his offense should be average for a catcher. His leadership skills are applauded by coaches, and should fit well into any locker room. He reminds me a lot of Russell Martin, which is convenient as he'll most likely be Martin's successor.
McGuire has spent all season with Ramirez at Double-A, Altoona. The Jays haven't announced where McGuire will be headed, but my guess is New Hampshire. McGuire should get the invite to spring training next season, but will probably start the year in Buffalo. I wouldn't be shocked to see McGuire get a mid season call up at some point in 2017. McGuire could push an aging Martin for the starting job by the end of next season.
Once he is the starter, there's a lot to like. His defensive prowess, and leadership make him a perfect fit for the Jays as they look to developing young pitchers in the next few years.
These were two excellent additions to a Jays' farm system that needed to add some upper level talent. Both guys represent potential starters for the Jays in the years to come.