Former First-Rounder Deck McGuire Heads to Triple-A

Mention Deck McGuire‘s name to fans of Canada’s only major league team, the Toronto Blue Jays and you’ll probably hear the dreaded “b-word” a lot. No, not that b-word, the one that rhymes with “must.”

Drafted 11th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2010 draft, McGuire was selected ahead players like Chris Sale, Kyle Parker, Jesse Biddle, Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Taijuan Walker and Nick Castellanos and he was given a $2 million signing bonus to sign on with the Blue Jays out of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

If you’re not a Blue Jays’ fan, you might wonder what the problem is? A highly touted college pitcher getting selected in the first half of the first round and getting a big signing bonus isn’t all that unusual but McGuire’s struggles have been well documented among Blue Jays blogs and followers of the team.

Deck’s first professional season, in 2011, couldn’t have gone better. Assigned to the Blue Jays’ High-A affiliate in the Florida State League, McGuire dominated, throwing 104 2/3 innings with a 2.75 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 2.68 K/BB ratio before getting moved up for four successful appearances with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

And then the wheels fell off. Mcguire struggled to a 5.88 ERA (with a 5.26 FIP) in 144 innings in 2012, still at the Double-A level. The Blue Jays sent him to the Arizona Fall League (where he had a 5.75 FIP despite a 3.95 ERA in 13 2/3 innings) and then back to Double-A New Hampshire for 2013.

In 2013, he was off to a rough start but turned things around, pitching to a 4.86 ERA (3.70 FIP), raising his strikeout rate by over 2.00 per 9 innings and bringing his walk rate back down to 2011 levels.

I saw McGuire pitch in 2013 and also spoke to to his pitching coach at the time, Tom Signore. Basically what I saw was a pitcher with solid, big-league caliber stuff who was failing to maintain his focus throughout an entire game. It’s something that many young pitchers have to deal with and it seems like McGuire is turning the corner. Added to the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster this offseason, McGuire headed into Spring Training looking to move up in the organization.

I interviewed him for the Canadian Baseball Network Podcast this spring and he said that he’s put the poor season behind him and is looking to remain focused and keep moving through the system, and it looks like that time has finally come after to returning to Manchester, New Hampshire to start 2014.

As you can see from the tweet, McGuire has been sent to Louisville to meet the Buffalo Bisons (the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate). It’s a move that I’ve felt has been coming for a long time but McGuire was trapped in a numbers game with several Blue Jays pitchers starting 2014 in Triple-A Buffalo (including Marcus Stroman, Sean Nolin, Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek and Liam Hendriks). All McGuire has done this year is show more consistency and has put together two very strong outings in a row. In the first, he threw 7 1/3 innings allowing two runs on four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts and in the second outing, he went eight innings, allowing just one run on four hits and two walks with nine strikeouts.

While few people believe that McGuire will have the kind of impact that some of the guys drafted behind him have already had, he hasn’t turned 25 yet and has solid stuff that he’s finally figuring how to make the best use of. McGuire may not have the ceiling of an Aaron Sanchez or Noah Syndergaard but he seems to be hitting his stride.