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Pirates minor league notebook: McGuire powers West Virginia

Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Pirates introduce their second first-round draft pick, catcher Reese McGuire, during a press conference at PNC Park on Tuesday, June 18, 2013.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Ryan Pritt
Saturday, June 21, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

After finishing on a 14-game losing streak and ending the first-half of the season with a South Atlantic League-worst 20-48 record, no team probably welcomed the All-Star break and a resetting of records like the West Virginia Power.

But buried in the abysmal record were some positives.

Take 2013 first-round pick Reese McGuire.

The catcher had his ups and downs, but ended with three consecutive two-hit games, hit his first professional home run in the next-to-last game of the first half, and carried that momentum into the all-star game Tuesday, tripling and hitting a sac fly for the Northern Division team. (The game ended in a 4-4 tie after 10 innings.)

McGuire, the No. 14 pick overall in 2013, registered a 19-game hitting streak during the first half, falling just short of Starling Marte's 22-game streak in 2009 that stands as the Power record since the club became a Pirates affiliate in that season.

He finished the first half with a .277 average, good for a tie for third-best on the team as he goes through his first full year of professional ball.

“Just trying to be consistent everyday, going up there, controlling what I can control and that's getting a good swing on the ball, picking a good pitch to hit early in the count,” McGuire said. “Other than that, (I'm) not going up there trying to get a hit, but just hitting the ball hard.”

The 19-year-old has also shown quite the ability to put balls in play, striking out just 19 times and walking 17 times in 173 first-half at-bats.

“Just being a catcher, seeing a lot of pitchers, and having a good feel for what's a ball and what's a strike,” McGuire said about what he's learned as a pro. “It can be a positive and a negative. Sometimes you might tap one at someone and wish you had put a better swing on something.”

Striking out in strikeouts

West Virginia pitching had the fewest strikeouts (424) in the league, trailing next-to-last Asheville by 41. Relievers Felipe Gonzalez and Yhonathan Barrios are the only two hurlers on the team averaging a strikeout per inning or better, with Gonzalez punching out 46 in 45 innings and Barrios 28 in 27 23 innings.

Extra bases

Third baseman Erich Weiss finished as the team's leader in batting average, hitting .307, good enough for a tie for seventh among the league's leaders. He also played in the All-Star Game, going 1 for 2. ... Outfielder JaCoby Jones led the club with eight home runs to go with a .260 average and 34 RBIs. ... Outfielder Austin Meadows, who was selected ahead of McGuire in the 2013 draft at No. 9, is still listed on the Power roster but remains on the DL with a hamstring injury. He has yet to make his debut with West Virginia.

Ryan Pritt is a freelance writer.

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