Name: Chris McGuiness
Position: First base
DOB: April 11, 1988
Acquired: 2010 trade from Boston with RHP Roman Mendez and RHP Michael Thomas for C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
The feature portion of this piece is an updated version of this interview, which appeared late in the 2010 regular season.
As Chris McGuiness came out of James Island High School in Charleston, S.C., he was often told by coaches and scouts that his path to professional baseball would likely come via his work on the pitcher's mound.
But the more McGuiness was allowed to hit, the more he produced.
The former two-way prospect entered his freshman campaign at The Citadel practically splitting his pitching and position-playing at an even 50/50. After logging 70 total innings on the mound in his freshman and sophomore years, he eventually gave up pitching to become a full-time position player.
McGuiness' move immediately paid dividends and certainly helped boost his draft stock. The first baseman went on to bat .359 with 15 doubles and 15 homers in his junior campaign with the Bulldogs. He posted an incredible .525 on-base percentage, leading the nation with 65 walks (versus 22 strikeouts) in 59 contests.
The Boston Red Sox were intrigued by McGuiness' bat and selected him in the 13th round of the 2009 MLB Draft. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound lefty chose to forgo his senior season of college to sign his first professional contract.
McGuiness had a strong debut with short-season Lowell in the summer of '09, posting a .255/.374/.434 slash line while showing excellent plate discipline to go along with a little pop.
The 22-year-old began his first full season at Single-A Greenville of the South Atlantic League, and his numbers were even better. In 78 games, he batted .298 with 20 doubles, 12 homers, and 53 walks (against 59 strikeouts).
The Texas Rangers acquired McGuiness––along with two other prospects––from Boston for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the July 31 trade deadline. His strong production in Low-A led the Rangers to give him an immediate promotion, sending him to High-A Bakersfield.
After joining the Blaze, McGuiness continued his strong production. He went 30-for-120 (.250) with seven round-trippers and 24 free passes in 34 contests. The prospect earned a promotion to Double-A Frisco for the Texas League playoffs.
The addition of McGuiness helped fill an organizational need for the Rangers, who are thin at first base throughout the minor league system. On the flip side, first base may have been Boston's strongest position, as the club had prospects like Lars Anderson and Anthony Rizzo waiting in the wings. Rizzo has since been traded, going to the Padres in exchange for All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
Also See: McGuiness finding way with Rangers (August 16, 2010)
Top Prospects, Top Tools (January 14, 2011)
Batting and Power: McGuiness is perhaps best known for his excellent strike-zone discipline, which rates as best in the Rangers' system. The prospect led NCAA Division I ball with 65 walks at The Citadel in '09. He followed it up by drawing 77 free passes in 112 contests between the Low- and High-A levels last season. Some scouts believe McGuiness may even be selective to a fault at times.
A left-handed hitter, McGuiness has a line-drive stroke with slight lift. He projects for average to solid-average power, coming in around 50-55 on the 20-80 scouting scale. His hit tool is fringe-average––grading out around 45––though the plate discipline should allow him to maintain a strong on-base percentage.
Base Running and Speed: McGuiness is about a 40-grade (below-average) runner that isn't much of a threat on the base paths. He has stolen only three bases in eight attempts during his 172-game professional career thus far. While he's an intelligent player that shows good awareness, his speed won't be much of a factor.
Defense: The first baseman is smooth around the bag and projects as an above-average defender. Though his athleticism doesn't particularly stand out, McGuiness is a strong fundamental player with good footwork and soft hands. His range and arm strength both rate as solid-average, and his miscues are relatively few and far between. The South Carolina native committed just six errors in 100 games (.993) at first base last season.
Projection: In a perfect world, McGuiness could become a second-division starting first baseman in the big leagues. He doesn't have any big-time tools, but he's a solid all-around prospect. Unfortunately, ‘solid' often isn't good enough to play everyday at first, and McGuiness may be more of a bench bat down the line. He could hit in the .260-.270 range with a strong on-base percentage, some pop, and a plus glove. While he has only one full year of professional experience, he's fairly polished and almost a finished product tools-wise.
2011 Outlook: McGuiness split his 2010 regular season between the Low- and High-A levels, and he earned a promotion to Double-A Frisco for the Texas League playoffs. With a strong showing in Spring Training, McGuiness could begin the 2011 campaign at Double-A. But it's perhaps just as likely that he'll return to the High-A level, where he appeared in only 34 games last season. Regardless of where he begins, the 22-year-old should end up playing the majority of his season with the RoughRiders. The recent acquisition of first baseman Jose Ruiz, who is likely slated for Double-A out of camp, clouds the situation a bit.
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