ShareThis Page

Pirates prospects Meadows, McGuire help bolster top-rated farm system

| Friday, March 14, 2014, 11:30 p.m.
Pirates outfield prospect Austin Meadows takes batting practice at Pirate City on Friday, March 14, 2014, in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates outfield prospect Austin Meadows takes batting practice at Pirate City on Friday, March 14, 2014, in Bradenton, Fla.
Pirates catcher prospect Reese McGuire watches a workout at Friday, March 14, 2014, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher prospect Reese McGuire watches a workout at Friday, March 14, 2014, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — A baseball maxim suggests high school players have more professional potential than their college counterparts.

But there's a catch. They also require more patience. And patience is a rare commodity in baseball.

Until last June, the Pirates had not selected a prep position player in the first round of the draft since taking Andrew McCutchen in 2005.

Eight years later, the Pirates called the names of two high school players in the first round. Austin Meadows was taken ninth overall last June, a compensation pick for failing to sign Mark Appel a year earlier, and catcher Reese McGuire went 14th overall.

While prep players have longer paths to the major leagues, the Pirates did not have to wait long to see results with Meadows and McGuire.

Meadows dominated Gulf Coast League pitching in his debut last summer. He ranked as the No. 1 GCL prospect by Baseball America. McGuire hit better than expected and was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the GCL.

This spring, both are regarded as consensus top 10 prospects in a farm system that is rated as the best in the game by Baseball America.

MLB Network analyst John Hart said small-market clubs should focus on upside with early-round picks.

“I think Meadows might be the steal of the draft where they got him,” said Hart, a former general manager of the Rangers and Indians. “He has the ability to be a front-line, impact, both-sides-of-the-ball guy. McGuire has a chance to be an All-Star catcher.”

Meadows and McGuire are hundreds of innings and plate appearances away from Pittsburgh, but their promising debuts might have accelerated the timetable. Both players were promoted to short-season Jamestown, N.Y., last summer, and they will open 2014 with Low-A West Virginia.

Meadows entered last spring regarded as the top high school player available but slid because of an uneven spring performance. Meadows acknowledges he felt pressure during his senior season at Grayson (Ga.) High School.

“Of course everybody is going to have a little pressure,” Meadows said, “but during the season, I was able to get used to it.”

Meadows, who will remain in center field for now, appeared to be free from any pressure in his pro debut. He slugged .517 and reached base at a .399 clip in the GCL. He belted five home runs, silencing questions about his power potential.

“My swing was the same. The approach was a little different,” said Meadows, who is sidelined with a mild hamstring pull in minor league camp. “I knew they were going to come after me.

“The GCL is a pitcher-friendly league. They are trying to come at you with a lot of fastballs. I was trying to get ahead of the count and put a good swing on it.”

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said: “We love how he impacts the baseball. The ball jumped off his bat as an amateur. … You hope guys get off to a good start because it breeds confidence.”

The Pirates liked McGuire so much they might have selected him at No. 9 had Meadows not dropped. McGuire is regarded as one of the best defensive prep catchers to come along in years. His catch-and-throw times to second base already are major-league caliber, and he has been calling his own game since he was 10 years old. McGuire's bat also has exceeded expectations.

“We've always loved the defense,” Huntington said. “(Our scouts) felt the attributes were there to hit.”

High school catchers are a risky commodity because it is the game's most demanding position. But some of the game's best catchers have come from the prep ranks, like the Yankees' Brian McCann.

“We certainly believe we can impact an 18-year-old as much as any college program, if not more, because (baseball) becomes their sole focus,” Huntington said. “It's easy to dream on an 18-year-old.”

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.