Then & Now is a weekly feature at Indians Prospect Insider during the offseason that takes a look at a prospect’s past and present while also offering a possible glimpse into the prospect’s future.
In a change from a typical edition of Then & Now, this week’s edition will look at a player that really cannot be designated as a Cleveland Indians prospect.
For this week, we’ll look at first baseman Chris McGuiness, who was selected in last week’s Rule 5 Draft by the Indians. It just seems fitting to highlight McGuiness’ career since many Tribe fans may be in the dark in regard to what he brings to the table.
The 24-year-old left-handed hitting McGuiness completed a full season this past summer at Double-A Frisco, which is the Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
Like many of the Indians players featured in Then & Now, McGuiness has a significant amount of minor league experience as the former Citadel Bulldog and 13th round selection of the Boston Red Sox has been honing his craft in the minor leagues since 2009.
Yet, those days of toiling around in the minors could soon be over for McGuiness. With his selection in the Rule 5 Draft, McGuiness is going to get a genuine chance to earn a spot on the Tribe’s opening day big league roster.
So, with that being said, let’s take a look back at the career of a man who Tribe fans could start to see a lot more of in 2013.
McGuiness was drafted as junior by the Red Sox in the 13th round of the 2009 Draft out of the Citadel. McGuiness chose to forgo his senior season and quickly signed with the Red Sox. Before long, he made his debut for Single-A Lowell of the New York-Penn League and then ended the season at Single-A Greenville.
All things considered, McGuiness held his own in his first professional season. In 60 games between the two affiliates, the left-handed hitter posted a .245/.369/.412 line with six home runs, 39 RBI, 39 walks and 45 strikeouts. McGuiness had been known for his patient, advanced approach, and his strikeout to walk ratio helped indicate that.
While his plate discipline might have gotten him recognized in 2009, he was recognized for something else the following season — power.
McGuiness began the first part of the 2010 season back at Greenville where he began to put up some impressive numbers. In 78 games, McGuiness posted a .298/.416/.504 line with 12 home runs, 46 RBI, 53 walks and 59 strikeouts. The Charleston, South Carolina, native’s stock was high, and the Red Sox recognized this as they then traded him to the Rangers as part of a deal for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. McGuiness ended his season with the Rangers’ High-A affiliate, Bakersfield, where he posted a .250/.381/.450 line with seven home runs in 32 games.
McGuiness seemed poised for big things in 2011, but that unfortunately was not the case. McGuiness spent time on the disabled list on three different occasions that season and dealt with knee, upper back and oblique injuries. The final results for the season were not too pretty. Overall, in 55 games between High-A Myrtle Beach and the AZL Rangers, McGuiness posted a .214/.320/.296 line with only three home runs.
From a performance standpoint, it was evident that the injuries had taken a considerable toll, and McGuiness seemed to almost immediately go from a promising power-hitting prospect to a question mark moving forward.
Thankfully, McGuiness was healthy during the 2012 season, and he seemed to recapture much of his 2010 success.
In 123 games with Double-A Frisco, McGuiness posted a line of .268/.366/.474 with 23 home runs, 77 RBI, 69 walks and 107 strikeouts. The home run total was a new career-high for McGuiness, and the home run total also ranked fourth in the Texas League.
The season was also special because it indicated that McGuiness was not overwhelmed by the upper levels of the minor leagues. He had excelled as a power hitter at the Double-A level, so there was some hope that his bat might translate to the Major Leagues.
Though McGuiness’ strong 2012 season did not end when the minor leagues closed shop. McGuiness represented the Rangers this fall in the Arizona Fall League where he was very impressive and actually earned league MVP honors. Overall, he hit .283/.370/.467 with four home runs, 27 RBI, 13 walks and 16 strikeouts.
It was a fitting end to what had already been a fantastic year for the 24-year-old slugger.
With his selection in last week’s Rule 5 Draft, it’s safe to say that McGuiness’ future looks bright. As a Rule 5 selection, the Indians have to keep McGuiness on their Major League roster all season long or otherwise offer him back to the Rangers.
At this point, it really could go either way with McGuiness. While Sunday’s signing of Mark Reynolds ensures that he will not get a chance to become the regular first baseman, it would not be too surprising to see him stick with the Indians. The team now has some flexibility by no longer carrying a full-time designated hitter, so McGuiness can still fill a variety of roles.
McGuiness and Russ Canzler could possibly platoon at designated hitter, which makes sense because one player bats left-handed and the other bats right-handed. Either player could also fill in at first base so Reynolds could get some time at designated hitter.
However, the Indians are currently carrying a handful of first basemen, so McGuiness likely will still have to earn a roster spot in spring training. Besides Reynolds, Canzler and McGuiness, Lars Anderson, Mike McDade, Yan Gomesand even Matt LaPorta are all potential Major League first base/bench candidates.
Perhaps the best option for McGuiness would be for him to try his hand in the outfield, which is what the Rangers had reportedly planned on doing before he was selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Indians. This would help improve the versatility, and the Indians would also be able to find more creative ways to get his bat into the lineup.
Regardless, it’s safe to say that at this point, the future looks pretty good for McGuiness. The opportunity is there for him to contribute and help the big league club. Now it’s just up to him to go out and seize that opportunity.
Let’s hope he’s up to the task.
Previous Then & Now profiles:
- Dec. 8, 2012: Trey Haley
- Nov. 27, 2012: Adam Abraham
- Nov. 20, 2012: Jesus Aguilar
- Nov. 15, 2012: Cord Phelps
- Nov. 6, 2012: Tim Fedroff
- Nov. 2, 2012: T.J. McFarland
- Oct. 27, 2012: Chen-Hsiu Chen
- Oct. 16, 2012: Danny Salazar
- Oct. 10, 2012: Paolo Espino
- Oct. 5, 2012: Jared Goedert
- Sept. 24, 2012: Hector Rondon
- Sept. 17, 2012: Nick Weglarz