When the Texas Rangers acquired first baseman Chris McGuiness from Boston as part of the Jarrod Saltalamacchia deal, the club filled an organizational need. The departure of Justin Smoak (in the Cliff Lee trade) left the system lacking in first base prospects.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, were swimming in future first basemen. On top of 2010 first baseman Kevin Youkilis, the organization had upper-level prospects like Lars Anderson and Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo, of course, helped Boston trade for franchise first baseman Adrian Gonzalez over the offseason.
McGuiness certainly realizes that the trade to Texas could help his career. While the Rangers' system is deep, first base is probably the thinnest position in the organization.
The South Carolina native joined the professional ranks as Boston's 13th round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft. He made his full-season debut with the Single-A Greenville Drive last season, posting a solid .298/.416/.504 slash line in 78 contests.
McGuiness was promoted to High-A Bakersfield immediately after joining the Rangers' organization. In 34 games for the Blaze, he hit .250/.381/.450 with 24 walks, seven home runs, and 22 runs batted in. He earned a promotion to Double-A Frisco for the Texas League playoffs.
As the prospect explains below, he broke the hamate bone in one of his hands around mid-season but played through the injury. He elected to have surgery on his hand during fall instructional league.
The 22-year-old now looks forward to his second full professional season, and his first as a member of the Texas Rangers organization. He'll be starting out at High-A Myrtle Beach but should get an opportunity to reach Double-A Frisco before the All-Star break if he performs well. McGuiness also says he'd like to continue getting his walks while cutting down on the strikeouts.
McGuiness is perhaps best known for his plate discipline. After leading all of NCAA Division I baseball with 65 walks (leading to a .520 OBP) during his final year at The Citadel, he drew 77 free passes in 112 games last season. He had a 16.3 percent walk rate and a 21.8 percent strikeout rate at Bakersfield in 2010.
The lefty hitting, lefty throwing first baseman was profiled in this in-depth scouting report over the offseason. And after an extended look at spring training, there wouldn't appear to be much to change on the scouting report.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with the Myrtle Beach-bound first baseman after a recent spring training game.
Jason Cole: When you came over from the Red Sox last season, how much of an adjustment was there both between the two organizations and going across the country?
Chris McGuiness: It was a big shock culture-wise. I had never been to the west coast. That, and then Bakersfield is another monster there. I had to get used to that, too. But it was alright. The guys with Texas were real welcoming. They were nothing but nice to me. I was a little bit nervous, trying to find my role with the team. But everybody was real nice, they welcomed me, and made me comfortable. I was able to play pretty well. The transition went pretty good.
Cole: You got a promotion to Frisco for the end of the regular season and the Texas League playoffs. What was that experience like?
McGuiness: It was a good experience. Frisco is more like what I was playing at in Greenville––a nice atmosphere and a nice stadium. It was definitely an upgrade from Bakersfield. I didn't show as well as I would've liked to. But it was good to go out there and get your feet wet––get the first-game jitters out of the way. Hopefully if I get to play up there this year or whenever, I'll be used to it and be able to play to the best of my ability.
Cole: And you also went to instructs after last season. Did you play on the advanced side there?
McGuiness: I was supposed to be in advanced instructs. I did two workouts, and I had been dealing with a hamate issue since June or July. It had been nagging me. We had the x-rays back, and they knew it was broken. But it was playable, so I ended up playing through it.
I thought instructs would be a good time to go ahead and take it out, and Texas thought the same thing. So we went ahead and got it taken out of the way. I just rehabbed for five weeks here and then continued it in the offseason. So I didn't get much playing time.
Cole: So you had a minor surgery after the season?
McGuiness: Yeah. We removed the hamate in October.
Cole: Even though you were able to play through it, how difficult is that? Were you losing some strength in your hands during the season?
McGuiness: Yeah, I'd say a little bit at first. But you get used to the pain medicine and I guess your body gets used to the pain. There were days where it would flare up and be real bad, but other than that, it almost became normal to me. I knew what it felt like, and I was able to play through it. It wasn't anything too bad, but it feels good now to be able to get it out of the way and never have it flare back up again.
Cole: What are some of the things you've been working on offensively this spring?
McGuiness: The main thing that I've been trying––to have a more consistent approach both mentally and physically. I want to cut down on some of the movement pre-pitch. I've been working on that a good bit. And just trying not to put too much weight on my back side––to keep me from lunging forward at the ball. Other than that, you try to get in a good hitting position every time and be more consistent.
Cole: How do you feel you've been playing out here?
McGuiness: I started off slow. Like I said, we were working on a lot of things. I was carrying it over into the game, and during the games I was just doing what was natural. I think, over time, the two kind of merged together and now I feel really good at the plate.
Cole: You got a couple at-bats during a big league game against the Mariners early this spring, didn't you?
McGuiness: Yeah, I got two during the first week that we were here. I went up for one game. I grounded out one time and then I walked in the second at-bat.
Cole: I know you probably hadn't seen much live pitching––if any at all––at that point. What was it like going up there?
McGuiness: We got out here on the 20th, so I had seen a few live at-bats here. But it wasn't ideal. They had kind of a three-quarter low arm slot lefty, which––I'm not going to do well with that mid-season, so throwing me out there to see that in spring training was kind of rough. But I got in a hitter's count and just kind of rolled over a ball. I felt decent. The second at-bat was against a righty. I saw the ball well and ended up drawing a walk. Overall, I took a positive out of it.
Cole: You played in the Myrtle Beach game today. I assume you'll be starting with them.
McGuiness: Yeah, I am.
Cole: Tell me what you're looking for out of yourself in your first full season with the Texas organization.
McGuiness: Last year, I hit for a little better average than what I had in the previous year. I'd like to continue to improve upon that without giving up any of my power numbers. I don't want to be a 30 home run guy with a .240 average, but I don't want to hit .310 and have two home runs, either. I want to find a nice happy in-between.
I want to just go out there and take my walks and try to cut down on the strikeouts. They preach about trying to be a professional hitter when there are guys on third in an RBI situation––don't miss it and get the runner in. I just want to put up the best numbers I can. Like they say, the numbers don't lie and hopefully I'll be able to move up to Frisco and go up there and contribute with them.
Cole: You're obviously from South Carolina. After playing last season in Greenville, you're now starting off in Myrtle Beach. Pretty lucky, don't you think?
McGuiness: I was talking to my buddy the other day, and he told me I was one of the luckiest guys he know. He said, ‘Yeah, it has worked out good. What are the chances of you being with Boston in Greenville? And then you get traded to Bakersfield, California, and the next year they move two hours away from your house.'
I'm a big believer that everything happens for a reason, and you're in the spot that you're in right now and you just kind of embrace it and roll with the punches and see where you end up.
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