McGuire always played up a level or two with his older brother Cash—a freshman infielder at Seattle in 2013. And the two pushed each other to be their best.
"Growing up, I kind of always played up in age with my older brother, Cash," said McGuire, who turned 21 years old back on March 2. "He always played up an age, so I was playing up two ages. So I've always kind of been the young guy on the team. But I've always been a leader and never let age affect the play."
McGuire has been catching ever since he started playing—and it shows.
Reese spent the summer of 2012 playing for Team USA. With the 18U team he hit .400/.522/.514 with four doubles and 11 RBIs over 35 at-bats. He led the team in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, hits, RBIs, and walks. Not only that, but McGuire did so while shuffling between catcher, third base, first base, left field and designated hitter. He was named the Dick Case 2012 player of the year for USA Baseball.
In 2012, Reese helped Kentwood win Washington’s 4-A state title and verbally committed to San Diego for after he graduated in 2013.
McGuire was a good student.
He is very tough, very hard working, doesn’t say a whole lot, just really goes about his business and has that blue-collar type of mentality. He is fully involved in every moment, and nothing matters more than winning.
McGuire has a quiet personality and could stand to become more of a vocal leader behind the plate, but he already excels in another key department: toughness. That was on display when the 18U team spent a morning in the summer of 2012 training on a base in San Diego working out with Navy SEALs.
“Their sergeant had our players go through a push-up drill,” USA 18U coach Scott Brosius said. “So, as a coach, you kind of watch and see who’s doing it, who’s willing to do it, which guys are kind of complaining. Some guys were kind of sighing, like, ‘What are we doing?’ and not really doing the full push-ups properly. Then I look over and see Reese, and the whole entire time, he’s doing finger-tip push-ups. So, not only is he doing them, he’s going above-and-beyond. Not saying a word, just cranking through these push-ups.” (Conor Glassey-Baseball America-3/5/2013)
June 2013: The Pirates made Reese their first-round pick (#14 overall), out of Kentwood High School in Covington, Washington. (The Pirates had picked OF Austin Meadows only five picks before McGuire, with the 9th player chosen overall.) McGuire signed via scout Greg Hopkins.
- McGuire is known as a good defensive catcher with a strong arm. McGuire said his father, uncle and grandfather were catchers as well, and his dad and uncle coached his Little League team. It was then, McGuire said, that he began calling pitches himself.
"I think it's a tremendous aspect to have, being able to call my own game," McGuire said.
May-June 2013: Reese went to the prom, graduated from high school, got drafted by the Pirates, and signed a $2 million pro contract. For an 18-year-old, that's a lot to handle in such a short time. But the thing that concerned McGuire the most?
"I was a little worried about the urine test, because in the past, I've had a little stage fright, or it took me a while," McGuire said at an introductory press conference at PNC Park, drawing laughter from the room. "So I was most worried about how long it was going to take for me to go to the bathroom. But I was actually asking for the cup this time because I really had to go."
The Pirates announced they signed McGuire for $2,369,800 million, which was $200,800 below the slot value, via scout Greg Hopkins.
He was a 2012-2013 Gatorade Washington Player of the Year winner and received the 2012 USA Baseball Dick Chase Award for his role in Team USA's 18-and-under gold-medal run at the IBAF 18U World Championship in Seoul, South Korea, last September.
The 6-foot-1 left-handed hitter batted .436 with 13 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 20 RBIs as a senior.
Reese played all over the diamond growing up. When he and his older brother, Cash, were in Little League, they would switch off as pitcher and catcher. But Cash, who just finished his freshman season as an infielder for Seattle University, started developing into a pitcher at age 11, so Reese was happy to stay behind the plate. "I grew a passion and love for the position," McGuire said. "I wanted to be in the play every pitch."
Scott recalled his son was the first of his Little League teammates to steal signs from the opposing team. But there's much more to McGuire's game than just strong defense and baseball IQ. Huntington said McGuire has the chance to develop into a legitimate power hitter with a few years of growth and maturity.
While Scott and Robin are back in Washington, they won't get a chance to see their son mature and play every day like they've grown accustomed to. But today's technology makes it much easier to connect with him and track his progress on the field, Robin said. "You may not be there in the room with him, but you can see him, talk to him, that kind of thing," she said. "So it makes it a little bit easier." (Petrella - mlb.com - 6/18/2013)
In 2014, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook had McGuire as the 8th-best prospect in the Pirates organization. And he moved up to #5 early in 2015, then was #6 in the winter before 2016 Spring Training.
He was at #13 in the spring of 2017, after being acquired by the Blue Jays. And he was at #15 a year later, early in 2018. But he fell to #28 in the spring of 2019, but he moved up to #23 in the spring of 2020.
Reese has off-the-charts leadership skills.
2016 Season: McGuire reached Double-A, starting with Altoona for the Pirates and then joining the New Hampshire Fisher Cats after he was traded with Francisco Liriano and Harold Ramirez for Drew Hutchison. Over the course of that season, he hit a total of .254/.335/.332 in 365 plate appearances but his prospect shine was starting to wear off as his bat wasn’t coming around.
McGuire learned to have a consistent routine to go through every day, in 2016. And Reese said that focus was pivotal to his development. He has set his routine and is consistent with it, a point of emphasis he expects to pay dividends.
“In the past, I’d say my first year or two, later in the season my legs would start to get tired and I’m thinking, ‘I feel a little tired today—let’s go lighter on that activity,’” Reese said before 2017 spring camp opened.
“But here at the big league level, you hear guys talking about the need to be consistent with your routine no matter how you’re feeling. That’s what it takes.”
2017 Season: McGuire spent most of the year injured, only playing in 45 games total (34 at Double-A with three in Advanced-A Dunedin and eight in the GCL). He did start to show more with the bat in his 34 games in New Hampshire, hitting .278/.366/.496 with five doubles, a triple and 6 home runs.
2018 Season: McGuire broke into the major leagues, although he played most of the season in Buffalo (96 games) with a .233/.312/.339 slash line. When called up, he played in 14 games and had a stellar .290/.333/.581 slash line with three doubles and two homers at the major league level.
Seattle is home for Reese. McGuire’s family is from nearby Kent, about a 20-minute drive from T-Mobile Park, so there will be plenty of McGuire jerseys in the bleachers when Reese and the Blue Jays visit for a weekend.
“It’s a dream come true,” McGuire said. “This is the ballpark I grew up in, watching the Mariners. I remember when it was Safeco Field. It’s going to be awesome. The family is one thing, but it’s more the teachers, classmates, and everyone along the way that’s been a part of everything I’ve been able to do. I wouldn’t be here without them.”
McGuire and his brothers attended Mariners’ home games with their father, and often made the trip to Arizona to see them play in Spring Training. Like any Mariners fan, McGuire was an Edgar Martinez guy. He liked Dan Wilson, too, the Mariners’ catcher from 1994-2005. And there was a Yunieski Betancourt phase mixed in there, too.
“That was right when I was in the Little League regionals, and we were preparing for the Little League World Series as a team,” McGuire said. “We’re like 12 years old. So I’m doing the, ‘Hi, my name is Reese McGuire, my favorite player is Yunieski Betancourt.’ I remember saying that.” (Matheson - mlb.com - 8/23/2019)
October 10, 2019: Opportunity knocked at the right time for Blue Jays catcher Reese McGuire, whose strong finish to 2019 in the Major Leagues has set him up for a more central role going forward.
Entering the season, McGuire acted as Triple-A depth behind Danny Jansen and Luke Maile. But it was safe to presume that he was one year away from joining Jansen as the No. 2 in Toronto. When Maile hit the injured list with a left oblique injury in July, McGuire joined the big club and quickly shifted those perceptions.
McGuire hit .299 with five home runs and an .872 OPS over 30 games with the Blue Jays. Back in 2018, he was similarly hot at the plate over a 14-game cameo, making him a player who’s performed much better in the Major Leagues than the Minor Leagues to this point.
This performance clouded the Blue Jays’ catching situation, but in a good way.
What went right in 2019?
Across seven Minor League seasons, McGuire has proved most of his Draft reports from 2013 right. He’s played well behind the plate as his bat’s trailed behind, hitting a combined .261 with a .672 OPS.
Something clicked in the Majors, though, which McGuire credits to his preparation at Triple-A Buffalo where he worked with manager Bobby Meacham and hitting coach Corey Hart.
“That’s actually what went right is the moment I got there,” McGuire said. “I took it upon myself to be a leader, deal with the pitching staff that I had right away, be excited for where I was at, try to be the best I could be, stick with my routines, develop a routine in the cage, recovery in the training room, weight room postgame, whatever it was. I really developed that consistency to where I was ready at any moment, being down there.”
Manager Charlie Montoyo liked the surprise power he saw from McGuire, but he was even more impressed with his two-strike approach and ability to go the other way.
What went wrong in 2019?
Given the expectations for McGuire entering the season, it’s difficult to find something that went truly wrong. Instead, let’s look at the areas in which the 24-year-old wants to improve.
Catching for the Blue Jays, who used 21 different starters in 2019 including openers, is a unique challenge. Rare are the days that McGuire will catch a six-inning starter followed by a few single-inning relievers, so he’s placing a heavy focus on adapting his game calling and preparation to this new reality.
“Something I look forward to working to get better at, because it’s always a work in progress, is the way we’re going to pitch nine innings,” McGuire said. “We’re using the opener here and there, sometimes it’s the starter going out there, so where I think I can be better, and we can be better as a team would be really being in the know of how we want to attack today’s game.”
Best moment in 2019?
The Blue Jays’ trip to Seattle is best known for the invasion of Canadian fans. But it was a homecoming for McGuire, who grew up close to the stadium in Seattle and was able to play in front of many friends and family. Montoyo made sure that McGuire started two of those three games behind the plate.
Prior to one of the games, McGuire laughed as he thought back to playing in Little League regionals and recording a video saying, ‘‘Hi, my name is Reese McGuire, my favorite player is Yuniesky Betancourt.”
Jansen took tremendous strides as a defender in 2019, which the Blue Jays were thrilled with. He hit just .207 with a .640 OPS and, while that should rebound with a more balanced focus in 2020, McGuire has wedged himself into the conversation.
Catching depth is thin across Major League Baseball, so Montoyo views this as a position of true strength for the club going forward. (K Matheson - MLB.com - Oct 10, 2019)
In February 2020, McGuire was arrested after a witness claimed that Reese was pleasuring himself in a Florida parking lot.
2020 Season: Back in February, Reese was arrested for exposure of sexual organs in February as he was arrested in a mall parking lot. He ended up pleading no contest which resulted in him getting fined $500.
This was set up to be an embarrassment for the organization and especially for himself, as well as a potential distraction in the clubhouse. While we don’t know what kind of impact this made in the clubhouse, McGuire caught a bit of a break with something much worse going on, the COVID-19 pandemic. Some thought that the Jays would look to move on from McGuire, similar to what they did with Roberto Osuna when he was arrested for domestic assault back in 2018, but Ross Atkins shut those speculations down.
Advanced stats: McGuire really struggled this year. He didn’t hit a single off-speed pitch and his expected batting average (XBA) against fastballs was only three points higher than his .100 average off that pitch.
As he batted .073 this season, his XBA was higher at .117 which is still bad nonetheless. His XBA off breaking balls was also higher at a .122 clip than his real batting average of .063. The breaking ball was the pitch he hit a home run on which was off Pete Fairbanks of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Grade: McGuire had a terrible season. Perhaps the legal incident played a bit into it as it can be tough having a legal case hovering over you while being a professional athlete. It’s important to note that the case wasn’t settled until halfway into the season which could have made it hard on McGuire. (Reuben Gasee - Oct. 29, 2020)
2020 Season: McGuire was set to come into 2020 as the Blue Jays’ back-up catcher and he hit .200/.238/.400 in nine spring training games, hitting a home run. But McGuire made the news in spring training for another, less impressive accomplishment: getting arrested for public exposure. While his arrest and all the issues around it were resolved (and he didn’t have to remain in the US during the season due to the COVID shutdown), it was definitely not a great mark on his resume.
When baseball began, McGuire was the Blue Jays’ backup catcher but failed to hit enough to stay in the lineup. He was sent to the Alternate Training Site on September 5, effectively ending his regular season. He was brought back to be on the playoff roster and got into one game, playing as a defensive replacement.
Overall, in 2020, McGuire got into 19 games for the Jays and had a .073/.073/.146 slash line with three hits in 45 plate appearances, hitting one home run. McGuire’s contact (in a small sample size) was not nearly as good as it had been in the past. His exit velocity, which averaged 86.7 mph in 2019, dropped to 82.1 mph in 2020 while his launch angle, averaging 13.1 degrees in 2019, fell to 1.5 degrees in 2020.
Again, 2020 sample sizes are small, but the drop-off in launch angle and exit velocity and corresponding advanced metrics are all worrisome. Will he recover in 2021? (Dec 29, 2020 - Jay Blue)
On the road and at “home” this year, Reese has maintained an on-the-go lifestyle. He bounces from one hotel to the next, living out of a suitcase in the most literal sense. Such is the case for all the Blue Jays — whose temporary home in Dunedin, Fla., will be replaced by a temporary home in Buffalo, N.Y., next month. But McGuire’s journey in the first two months of the season has included an extra stop or two.
McGuire failed to make Toronto’s roster for Opening Day 2021; Alejandro Kirk usurped him for the backup catcher role. On April 1, McGuire was designated for assignment.
“I was truly heartbroken when it all happened because I love these guys, love this clubhouse and was thinking there for a second I might be elsewhere,” McGuire said. “And a lot of teammates thought the same.”
Instead, McGuire cleared waivers and was outrighted to the Blue Jays’ alternate site in Dunedin for a month. Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said McGuire spent that time working on “everything.” But primarily, his efforts were geared more toward the mental side of the game. McGuire wanted to regain the confidence that had carried him through 2018-19, when he posted a .297/.343/.539 slash line in 138 at-bats.
In early May 2021, he was assigned to Triple-A Buffalo. At about the same time, though, Kirk strained his hip flexor and landed on the injured list. And then . . . “All of a sudden, once I got to Trenton, another change of script,” McGuire said.
On May 5, McGuire was added back to the 40-man roster and selected to rejoin the Blue Jays. He’d been given a second chance. And so far, as Danny Jansen’s backup, McGuire has made the most of that chance. He’s batting 6-for-15 (.400) in seven games, with one walk, one hit-by-pitch and three runs scored. With a restoration of his confidence, McGuire is hoping to continue to provide value from the bottom of the lineup. (Horrobin - mlb.com - 5/21/2021)
One source of Reese's confidence is internal, as McGuire tries to maintain an excitement for the sport. Instead of getting bogged down in his own statistics, he remembers that baseball is a game he has played since early childhood. On some level, it’s supposed to be fun.
Another source is his family, which keeps an active group chat and is always following along with his games, as well as those of his younger brother, Shane, who plays for the University of San Diego. “Through the computer, on the TV, whatever it may be,” McGuire said. “So we’re kind of always our biggest fans and rooting for each other.”
There’s plenty to root for with McGuire’s performance of late, and that’s not lost on the Blue Jays. “He deserves a lot of credit because when he went down to the [alternate site], he worked really hard on his game, his overall game,” Montoyo said. “It looks really good. It looks like 2019.” (Horrobin - mlb.com - 5/21/2021)
2021 Season: Perhaps no Blue Jays player improved his stock within the organization more than Reese McGuire in 2021. After initially being left off the 40-man roster, McGuire was reactivated when Alejandro Kirk got hurt in May.
McGuire responded by hitting .253 with 15 doubles over 198 at-bats. He also threw out 35% (11/31) of would-be base-stealers, 12% better than league average. For his career, Reese has thrown out 22 of 73 runners (30%), 4% above the average.
Like Jansen, McGuire is prone to getting hot. From June 1st to 24th he hit .370 (17-46) with his lone home run of the season, six doubles, and four RBI. He enjoyed his most sustained run of success in 2019, hitting .299 with five homers, seven doubles, and 11 RBI in 97 at-bats. (Graeme Wallace - Jan. 27, 2022)
2022 Season: 166 PA, .225/.261/.285, 0 HR, 19.9% K, 3.6% BB, 54 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR
The Sox signed McGuire to be a light-hitting backup who could control the running game and frame pitches well, and they got exactly what they paid for. McGuire cut down 11 of 36 baserunners trying to steal, which is impressive given how poor White Sox pitchers are at holding runners. (P NOLAN - OCT 13, 2022)
2023 Season: The Positives
First and foremost, he made only one defensive error in 2023, which should be celebrated as a bright spot in our team’s ridiculously spongy defense. His 2023 season was decent enough compared to his career numbers, as well as the standards to which we hold catchers across the league. We don’t expect monster production from catchers, and McGuire fits in there. He posted a .267/.310/.358 slash line, one home run, 16 RBIs, with a .668 OPS.
He served as backup to Connor Wong but at times (like much of September) he went nearly one-for-one with Wong, making starts and providing rest. McGuire’s value is highest here: his ability to relieve Connor Wong of some of the wear and tear of daily life at the catcher’s position.
After missing about six weeks over the summer with a strained oblique, McGuire returned to the lineup with a bang, smacking a solo home run as well as a sacrifice fly in his first game back.
Let’s not forget that he had two stolen bases on the year; good for him and his seventeenth-percentile sprint speed. Those two stolen bases represent his career best.
The NegativesAs mentioned above, McGuire missed significant time after straining his right oblique. This injury, and a lesser one—his thumb was bruised as he took warmup pitches from Tanner Houck at end of September—made him good for only 72 games this season.
It’s possible that his 2023 will be remembered for an absolutely awful baserunning mistake on August 5 against the Blue Jays. McGuire was on second and incorrectly judged a Connor Wong fly ball as a home run; he pointed to the sky and began to trot accordingly, thinking the Sox had walked off the game. Notably, he neglected to track the ball behind him. To be fair, that sucker did travel, and was caught by Kevin Kiermaier after a small jump at the base of the Monster in left-center. Replays seem to show McGuire going with his first impression and perhaps being convinced by watching Wong watch the ball. That’s some Little League nonsense right there. He had absolutely no chance of getting back to second base where he belonged, and was thrown out to end the game and seal the loss. Though some blamed since-fired Carlos Febles, who was gesturing from the third-base line (I don’t think he was waving McGuire home, but communicating with the runner at first), this was a real bad look for McGuire.
Though this might be attributable to his injury, a couple of McGuire’s stats were notably higher than they’ve been in his career (barring the anomaly that was 2020 and typical rookie-season outlier stats). His strikeout rate of 25.7% is higher than it’s ever been, other than his rookie season. His ground-ball rate is way up at 51.8% after hovering around 36% for most of his career. (Maura McGurk Dec 1, 2023)
June 2013: The Pirates made Reese their first-round pick (#14 overall), out of Kentwood High School in Covington, Washington. McGuire signed via scout Greg Hopkins.
August 1, 2016: The Blue Jays traded RHP Drew Hutchison to the Pirates for LHP Francisco Liriano, RF Harold Ramirez and C Reese McGuire.
April 3, 2022: The Blue Jays acquired catcher Zack Collins from the White Sox in exchange for catcher Reese McGuire.
Aug 1, 2022: The Red Sox traded LHP Jake Diekman to the White Sox for C Reese McGuire.
- Jan 15, 2023: Reese and the Red Sox avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal for $1.2 million.
- Jan 11, 2024: Reese and the Red Sox avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal for $1.5 million.