Could Deck McGuire Make A Splash With Toronto Blue Jays In 2014?

By Thom Tsang
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Though he’s struggled in his in two seasons double-A thus far, could 2014 be the year that Toronto Blue Jays prospect Deck McGuire figures it out?

It’s a question that will become more pertinent as the offseason rolls on, as the 24-year old was recently protected from the Rule 5 draft by being included on the team’s 40-man roster. The move itself was not entirely surprising as the former no. 11 pick was at risk of being picked up by another team given his pedigree, but it does perhaps say a little something about what the Blue Jays are expecting to see from him moving forward.

Yes, he’s still relatively young and not at his prime, but the fact that’s he’s now had two subpar seasons in double-A should be of some concern for the team, as time isn’t exactly on his side when it comes to his development. One more poor season at age 25, and you’re looking at someone going into his age-26 season that hasn’t figured out the minor leagues yet.

Even considering the volatility of prospects in the bigs, that he was drafted that early and hasn’t panned out could be considered a disappointment, especially for the perpetually pitching-needy Blue Jays. That said, you’d think there’s was a pretty good reason for the team to protect him from the Rule 5 over their other candidates; could his struggles not be as bad as they seem?

Not that there should be a whole ton of stock being put in minor league numbers, but if you were to look at his 2013 stats, the picture that starts to emerge is that says well … maybe he was actually pretty good.

The 4.86/1.32 ERA/WHIP over 157.1 innings won’t tell you that, even though it is a significant improvement from the 5.88/1.56 he posted in 2012. What is more important, however, is how his peripherals compared to his counting numbers. The most obvious thing here is the fact that while McGuire’s ERA and FIP was fairly similar in 2012 at 5.88 and 5.26 respectively, there was a major discrepancy in 2013 at 4.86 and 3.58.

That’s a major 0.62 to 1.28 ERA-FIP difference, suggesting that he actually significantly outperformed the counting numbers he put up in 2013, compared to when he was actually that bad in 2012.

His other numbers would back that up too: not only did he bump his strikeout rate from 6.06 K/9 in 2012 to 8.18 in 2013, he also walked fewer batters at 3.88 BB/9 vs. 3.38. The biggest difference-maker, however, may be the fact that he figured out the homer-prone tendencies that’s bothered him since his arrival to double-A in 2011, cutting his poor 1.38 HR/9 by half to a strong 0.69.

All of that, combined with the fact that he had a BAA of 243 compared to .282 in 2012, suggests that this is a very different pitcher from the one in 2012 who was legitimately getting hit hard and struggling. The 2013 Deck McGuire didn’t put up great numbers, but perhaps his somewhat unlucky 62.3 percent strand rate had more to do about that than his stuff?

In short, they might not have to look for the righty to figure things out at that level … because he seems to have already done so.

Moreover, it punctuates the reason why the Blue Jays wanted to make sure no one could pick him up in the Rule 5 draft. He’ll still end up starting the season in double-A, of course, but after the improvements he’s already made at age 24, it might not take very much longer until the counting numbers emerge there too.

Would it be a bit wild to suggest that his timeline to the bigs is much closer than it looks? Take away the ERA/WHIP, and it might not seem so far away.

Thom is an MLB writer for Follow him on Twitter @BlueJaysRant, or add him to your network on Google

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