Outfielder Andrew McCutchen has been on the prospect map ever since high school – when he was selected in the first round by Pittsburgh in 2005. The Florida native has been one of the Pirates’ top offensive prospects since signing his first pro contract and he spent all of 2008 in Triple-A at the age of 21.
McCutchen was originally supposed to develop into a five-tool player, but his power has not developed as planned (.115 ISO in 2008), although he did steal 34 bases in 53 attempts last season. Overall, he hit .283/.372/.398 in 512 at-bats. McCutchen also posted rates of 11.7 BB%, which was higher than his career average, and 17.0 K%. His strikeout rates have lowered from where they sat earlier in his career, which shows he’s making adjustments and coming to grips with the type of player that he is (ie. Not a power hitter). Defensively, McCutchen is an above-average fielder, but his arm is just average for center field.
The Pirates organization has slowly gathered together a very impressive young outfield that will eventually include McCutchen, Jose Tabata (obtained from the Yankees in the Xavier Nady deal), and Brandon Moss (obtained from the Red Sox in the Jason Bay trade). Toss in the already-established Nate McLouth and the powerful Steve Pearce (who could see time at first base as well) and you have five players with bright futures.
Word out of Pittsburgh is that the club plans to have McCutchen begin the season in Triple-A again, but he has also received the most at-bats of any player this spring – although he is just 1-for-13 with seven strikeouts and may be pressing. Pearce, McLouth and Moss appear to have the inside tracks on starting jobs. The club also has veteran utility player Eric Hinske on hand, as well as the speedy Nyjer Morgan. Tabata has been slowed by injuries this spring and should also be in Triple-A to begin 2009.
McCutchen likely won’t be down for long and could very well push Pearce or Moss to a platoon or part-time role by the All-Star break. If McCutchen gets half a season at the Major League level, expect a batting average of around .270 and 10-15 stolen bases. He won’t be a star immediately, but he could definitely help Fantasy owners in the second half of the season who are in need of cheap steals. McCutchen is a great choice for keeper leagues too.
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