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Deck McGuire among top college pitchers available with No. 1 pick

If the Washington Nationals bypass junior-college catcher Bryce Harper in June's draft and select a college pitcher with the top overall selection, one of the logical names in discussion will be Georgia Tech right-handed pitcher Deck McGuire. The Richmond native who was undrafted out of high school has worked his name into the category of Louisiana State's Anthony Ranaudo and Mississippi's Drew Pomeranz.

In his most recent outing against then-No. 4 Virginia, McGuire showed why he is among college baseball's top pitchers while also revealing areas that still need improvement. He allowed only one hit in the game's first five innings but struggled with control and ran out of gas in the seventh inning. His final numbers included six runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings, while striking out six and walking four.

Nonetheless, McGuire is 5-2 this season in eight starts with a 2.26 ERA. He has 60 strikeouts to 15 walks and has completed two games. McGuire throws four pitches: fastball, curveball, slider and change-up. He said his out pitch is his slider. The fastball, which sits in the low 90s, has sinking action, and he throws a four-seam fastball away to left-handed hitters.

"He can throw all four of them for strikes," Georgia Tech Coach Danny Hall said after McGuire's start against Virginia. "I think that's what makes him so good. He can use all his pitches in any count. It doesn't matter what the count is. Several times tonight, at 3-2, he was throwing breaking balls and change-ups, as opposed to most guys, who will throw fastballs."

Virginia Coach Brian O'Connor said McGuire's ability to throw the slider in a hitter's count "makes him very difficult to hit" -- a sentiment echoed by two Virginia hitters who faced McGuire and expected a slider on a count than usually calls for a fastball.

At 6 feet 6 and 218 pounds, McGuire improved his conditioning upon arriving at Georgia Tech. He played football in high school, which stalled his progress. Hall identified it as a reason why McGuire was not drafted.

During the past two seasons, he's worked on his body and his control and transformed into one of college baseball's elite prospects -- although not at the level of the pitcher the Nationals drafted with the top overall pick last season.

"He has solid stuff," Hall said. "He's not Stephen Strasburg, but not many guys are. Strasburg is more of a stuff guy. Deck is more of a pitcher. If I had to compare to someone I watched pitch, I'd compare him to a John Lackey -- someone like that. He's a solid, solid starter."

Virginia third baseman Steven Proscia faced Strasburg in Virginia's 5-1 victory over San Diego State in last season's NCAA regional, recording three hits against the Aztecs and a home run against the Yellow Jackets on Friday. Proscia said McGuire's "off-speed stuff is one of the best I've ever faced."

"Obviously, Strasburg has a better fastball," said senior shortstop Tyler Cannon, who hit a home run off McGuire and went 0 for 4 against San Diego State. "Other than that, he has just as good stuff as Strasburg. There's a reason why he's so highly touted, one of the best pitchers in this year's draft."

O'Connor raved about the improvement McGuire made from last season, when McGuire finished 11-2 with a 3.50 ERA and was named the ACC's top pitcher.

"He's your traditional power pitcher, and I think he's really one of the elite guys in college baseball," O'Connor said. "That guy's a horse. I can't see how any Major League club could pass up on that guy. He's pretty special."

McGuire said he has not seriously considered the possibility of being selected No. 1 by the Nationals, but said it would be "so cool" to pitch close to home and added "it would be a real honor to go number one." He does not focus too much on the progress of Harper and Ranaudo -- the two names often associated with the top pick -- and said he's paid little attention to the draft during the season.

After logging 100.1 innings last season, McGuire bypassed the Cape Cod summer baseball league to rest his arm. Hall wanted McGuire to take a break in the summer or the autumn, and McGuire preferred the break during the team's offseason instead of when he had the opportunity to play with his teammates during fall practice. He said he considered the draft implications, but was told it would not have an effect on his stock.

"The one unanimous thing was that a break would not be a bad thing," McGuire said.

He did not want to discuss signability, revealing that he'll think about that issue when it arrives. More immediately, McGuire turned all draft questions into his current situation at Georgia Tech.

"I just try go out and pitch every Friday," McGuire said. "It's really cool [to be drafted], it's been a goal since I was a kid. But right now, my only focus is first winning the ACC, and getting a chance to go to Omaha."

By Zach Berman  |  April 14, 2010; 10:14 AM ET
 | Tags: Deck McGuire, Draft  
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Comments

I think this is the type of guy Rizzo would really like to draft. An established, college, "horse" pitcher, who seems to be as close as possible to major league ready.

I don't think Harper lock by any stretch.

Posted by: SpashCity | April 14, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Zach for the insightful piece. I do believe this may be of more interest to Pirates or Orioles (all 3 of them) fans as he will not be the Nats pick. Rizzo et al. can front all they want, but the only pitcher with the upside of Harper is the HS pitcher Tallison. Harper is a lock here. The Nats need power bats and position players.

Posted by: jfromPG | April 14, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

"while also revealing areas that still need improvement... struggled with control and ran out of gas in the seventh inning."

Our current starters struggle with control and run out of gas in the 4th inning (except Livo!)

Posted by: mlantry | April 14, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I like the Virgina connection, but maybe Jameson Taillon deserves some love too. I hear they have five names on their board including B. Harper. McGuire is going to have to pitch better than he showed against UVA to be overall number one. I haven't seen anything lately on Taillon, but with some of their 2007 pitching picks back on track, maybe they can afford to pick a High School pitcher with exceptional talent.

Posted by: Juliasdad | April 14, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

No way the Nats don't draft a kid who was on the cover of SI; the pr debacle would be worse not drafting him then if we took Harper and he sucked.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 14, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

No way the Nats should make draft picks based on a hypothetical PR debacle.

Posted by: SpashCity | April 14, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Harper screams out future Hall of Famer. That will be tough to pass on even if we have to wait a couple of years. The GT pitchers sounds like a nice player but not 1st overall material.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | April 14, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

This team needs sure things. My only 3 hesitations with Harper is:

1) Boras$ as his advisor
2) Bore-as$ as his negotiator
3) PED testing

Other than that, Draft him!

Posted by: dmacman88 | April 14, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

SplashCity, should they not draft Harper and he turns out to be the player so many scouts say he is then we'll never hear the end of it. Moves like that can ruin a franchise, just like not drafting SS last year because of potential signability.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 14, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Nice article and pretty compelling case why Harper is the guy! McGuire would be a good guy to keep your fingers crossed over if we had the 10th pick again this year.

Posted by: Section314 | April 14, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

"I just try go out and pitch every Friday," McGuire said.
____________________________

Sounds a little like a Strasburgian statement.

Posted by: dmacman88 | April 14, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Harper has a lot more leverage than Strasburg. Harper is only 17 and can easily turn down an offer and stay in school.

These negotiations will be tougher than the Strasburg negotiations.

Posted by: dmacman88 | April 14, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

SCNatsFan - This isn't like Strasburg. The decision is whether they go after talent that can help sooner rather than later at the MLB level.

Posted by: dmacman88 | April 14, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Cross Tallin of your list. He has been hit hard in high school this year. He is a high upside HS pitcher that is nowhere near Mlb ready.

Posted by: EXTRA1E | April 14, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

This is like choosing between Lebron James coming out of HS (unknown as to how he will do in the NBA, but extremely talented) and Antawn Jamison (good college player with a track record). Jamison has become a very good player, James a superstar. Harper is worth the gamble.

Posted by: jfromPG | April 14, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

nats will draft and sign harper. he's proven he wants to play up soon as he can. and he can't improve over going first overall. he'll get to the majors fast with the nats. and he'll get to arbitration faster if he signs this year. supposedly next top 10 players are pitchers? even more reason to take harper.

i've read a few places recently that even boras acknowledges harper is not equal to strasburg's talent level. that's nice to hear for a few reasons. strasburg is awesome and boras is reasonable.

i think harper signs for between 10-12 million and is playing right field before his 20th birthday.

Posted by: longterm | April 14, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for this, Zach.

Now, someone needs to identify the other three possible picks on the Nationals list.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 14, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Nice post Zach.

Very interested in McGuire, sounds like the type of guy the Organization is missing a guy who has command of 4 pitches.

Posted by: markfd | April 14, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

i think harper signs for between 10-12 million and is playing right field before his 20th birthday.

Posted by: longterm | April 14, 2010 11:51 AM |

Ok, then get him signed up! I know everyone wants to find the next Jason Heyward who can play and start at 20 years old.

Posted by: dmacman88 | April 14, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

And you may have noticed that they don't give a damn about "PR debacles."

******************
No way the Nats don't draft a kid who was on the cover of SI; the pr debacle would be worse not drafting him then if we took Harper and he sucked.
Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 14, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

No way the Nats should make draft picks based on a hypothetical PR debacle.
Posted by: SpashCity | April 14, 2010 10:55 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 14, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Draft Harper in 10, see Harper play in the show by 14. So that means probably none of the current crop of Nats (except SS) will ever suit up with the guy. Come to think of it, that might not be a bad idea.

Or is Harper one of those guys who takes the Bor-ass bait and doesn't sign w/ DC until August, knocks the cover off the ball in the AZ Fall League, wows'em in Viera in March 2011, plays a month in Potomac, three weeks in Harrisburg and then gets the call to be at Nats Park in late May. Hmmm, where have I seen this movie before?

Posted by: TippyCanoe | April 14, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Serious question: Why is the first week of the season a laughably small sample size for a team, but 6-2/3 innings (or even seven games) an important showing for a college pitcher?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 14, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Or Kwame Brown...
*************
This is like choosing between Lebron James coming out of HS (unknown as to how he will do in the NBA, but extremely talented) and Antawn Jamison (good college player with a track record). Jamison has become a very good player, James a superstar. Harper is worth the gamble.

Posted by: jfromPG | April 14, 2010 11:45 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 14, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Quien es más macho: Hanley Ramirez o Bryce Harper?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 14, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Great stuff Z.

Go Nats!

p.s. Go Caps

Posted by: nattaboy | April 14, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

OK, I just need to make this rant. Baseball isn't basketball or football. It annoys me to no end when people say "you need to get to get butts in the seats."

Nothing reliably sells tickets like winning. Do you think Philly fans drive down here to see Ryan Howard? Jayson Werth? No. They're here to see a score of 11-1.

There are precious few people who'll pay to see a ballgame (basketball or football, maybe) based on one marquee player. In baseball, those guys who sell tickets on their own are Pedro, Koufax, a few others.

SO, you draft players who you think, overall, give you the best chance to make your team a winner. Strasburg is that guy. If you ask me, Harper is more likely to be that guy than McGuire, but I really don't think the nats make their draft decisions on "will this guy directly sell tickets??". If so, they deserve to continue to be the sorry, no-account team they are today.

Posted by: Section406 | April 14, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Stats, schmats, I just like the guy's name. Deck's Pun-Making Potential (PMP) is off the charts. :-)

In other news, I saw a couple of former Nats in the Dodgers home opener yesterday. I was clicking around a bit and discovered that MLB Network was broadcasting it. Vin called the whole thing. (I guess because it was opening day?) Anyway, I tuned in around the 5th, and "old friends" Jamey Carroll and Ramon Ortiz got into the game later. Ortiz looked good for his first two batters, then things went south. Don't know where Belli was. He's still a Dodger, right?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 14, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Completely agree 406! The question is, would everyone here be making such a big deal about Harper if he hadn't been on the cover of SI last year? Or would he just be 1 of the 5 that the front office has narrowed it down to. THAT is the source of the "PR debacle" SCNats was talking about.

I really hope that Rizzo & Co. aren't making their decisions based on who is on the cover of a magazine or who they think the fans want. They should absolutely pick whoever they think is best for the Nats. If that guy is Harper, great! Pick him, sign him, and figure out if he can play catcher at the major league level. If it is a college pitcher who can be a solid 2nd or 3rd starter behind Strasburg in 2012, so be it.

Go Nats!

Posted by: SpashCity | April 14, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

"Serious question: Why is the first week of the season a laughably small sample size for a team, but 6-2/3 innings (or even seven games) an important showing for a college pitcher?"

Well, that's what scouts are for. Because you're right, it's not statistically significant. But a guy who knows what he's looking for and looking at, can look at that and see "ok, he knows what he's doing here." or "well, it's obvious he got lucky with his curveball there, and professionals will know to lay off that and wait for a fastball."

And while in a lot of cases, scouts are overrated, they *can* fill in the gaps of knowledge. For instance, Bryce Harper's hitting .421 with a wood bat against JUCO pitchers. Well, that's encouraging. But has he seen anything remotely resembling a real curveball? Who knows. A scout might be able to tell you that. Or how he reacts to a JUCO curveball might tell him that. Part of why he's using a wood bat is to eliminate another piece of that uncertainty. The sweet spot on a wood bat is about 1/4 as big as that of a metal bat. But this demonstrates he's hitting the ball squarely, and is one less thing you'll have to account for when trying to translate his college performance to professional.

Posted by: Section406 | April 14, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Harper does have the option of not signing and re-entering the draft in subsequent years.

However, he left HS early and got on this JuCo team with a plan. There is speculation that under the next collective bargaining agreement that the MLB and the Union may agree to a hard slotting system - the player and the agent take the slot dollars or wait to be redrafted - or challenge the system. If that happens, 2010 would be the last draft where open negotiations are permitted.

Posted by: comish4lif | April 14, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Boswell always says pitchers are much harder to scout than hitters. And they are more fragile. I would take Harper in a heartbeat just because the potential upside is huge, especially if he remains a catcher. Here is the harvest we have reaped from the Nats drafting pitchers in the 1st and early 2nd round (with Strasburg as the exception):

Ross Detwiler 2007 1st pick--hurt; 1-6 with the Nats
Jordan Zimmermann 2007 2nd pick-Tommy John surgery, future uncertain
Josh Smoker 2007 1st round supplemental--pitching A ball in Hagerstown
Aaron Crow 2008 1st pick--did not sign

Posted by: HistoryBoy | April 14, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

McGuire doesn't sound like an overall #1 pick. Time for the Nats to grab a bat.

Posted by: dclifer97 | April 14, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

No way you can waste the #1 overall pick on a guy who throws "in the low 90's", unless a guy has an over powering fast ball with another great pitch, should a pitcher be considered at numner 1 over a hitter.

Posted by: tcostant | April 14, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

The Nats might say the top 5 choices are Harper, McGuire, Pomerantz, Taillon and somebody else. In truth, the top 5 choices are Harper, Harper, Harper, Harper and Harper. A 17-year old dude with an OPS of over 1.400 with WOOD bats against 20-year olds? There's just no other choice which is what Goessling said yesterday and Kris Kline all but validated.

Posted by: Section314 | April 14, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

And just think how much better we are going to be once we nail down the #1 pick in the 2011 draft too!

Posted by: HistoryBoy | April 14, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

R U KIDDING ME!!! This guy McGuire is a solid college pitcher with an upside. That's all well and good. But if they take him over Harper then that just shows that either they've got guy's doing the scouting who used to work for the KC Royals or they're getting cheap on us. I'm starting to believe both are true. While I believe they should keep all options open the clear choice right now is Harper. He's got Joe Mauer potential. Are you listening Nats people??? No matter where you put him on the field he's gonna be real good - I'm having a hard time reading some posts actually questioning if there's a spot for him position-wise. THERE ARE NO MICKEY MANTLES down there on the Nats farm!!! Harper will be as close as you can get to that. He's not your normal 17 year old for one thing, he's got all the tools to be a great one. Nobody flinches when they sign a young 17 yr old Dominican kid but a kid that's 17 playing High-level JUCO and tearing it up??? What are you people thinking. 2 years in the minors tops and he's playing in the majors. Maybe quicker. Draft him!!!

Posted by: billm32 | April 14, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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