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Back-End Bucco Starter: Daniel McCutchen

Posted By David Golebiewski On April 1, 2009 @ 4:53 am In Prospects,Starting Pitchers | 1 Comment

Yesterday, we put the twice-traded Ross Ohlendorf under the microscope, noting that his low-90′s heat and slider are likely best suited for the bullpen. Today, let’s look at Pittsburgh’s other prospect named McCutchen: Daniel McCutchen.

Like Ohlendorf, McCutchen is a 26 year-old college product. The Yankees selected the Oklahoma Sooner in the 13th round of the 2006 amateur draft. That the 6-2, 195 pounder actually signed on the dotted line was something of a miracle: he was drafted three other times before he became a member of the Bronx Bombers.

Baseball America’s 2006 draft coverage noted that “scouts are becoming a bit jaded about righthander Daniel McCutchen, who turned down the Yankees as a 47th-round pick out of Grayson County (Texas) Community College in 2003, the Devil Rays as a 29th-rounder in 2004 and the Cardinals as a 12th-rounder in 2005.” Talk about playing hard-to-get.

McCutchen’s debut was further stalled by a 50-game suspension for a positive drug test from a prescription taken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder while attending Oklahoma. He threw 29 innings in 2007, mostly in the South Atlantic League, with a 29/6 K/BB ratio. The righty just snuck on to BA’s top 30 list for the Yankees, placing 30th.

Finally donning a professional uni over a full season in 2007, McCutchen showed polish, if not power at High-A Tampa. In 101 innings pitched, he turned in a 3.52 FIP, with about 6 K’s per nine and 1.9 BB/9. Promoted to AA Trenton during the later portion of the year, he lowered his FIP to 3.03 in 41 frames of work. McCutchen Mcwhiffed 7.9 batters per nine innings while issuing 2.63 BB/9. BA took note of his stellar pitching, bumping McCutchen up to 14th on the Yankees’ prospect list.

BA noted that he could reach the low-90′s with his four-seam fastball, sat 89-91 with the two-seamer and backed the heaters up with a plus overhand curve and a decent changeup. However, they also said that “some in the organization want to channel his aggressiveness into the bullpen, believing his stuff will play up as was the case with Ross Ohlendorf.”

McCutchen trekked back to Trenton to kick off 2008, where he posted rates of 8.83 K/9, 3.06 BB/9 with a 3.29 FIP in 53 innings. Sent to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after easing through the Eastern League, he displayed impressive strikeout and walk ratios (7.42 K/9, 1.41 BB/9), but McCutchen was often bombed as a Red Baron, surrendering 1.28 homers per nine innings with a 3.91 FIP.

Sent to Pittsburgh as part of the swag for Nady and Marte, McCutchen was assigned to AAA Indianapolis for the remainder of the year. His K’s and walks were nearly identical with his new organization (7.69 K/9, 1.31 BB/9 in 48 IP). However, his gopher ball issue grew far worse, with an astounding 12 big-flys leaving the yard (2.25 HR/9) to bloat his FIP to 5.30.

As a strike-tosser with decent velocity and a good curve, Daniel McCutchen has his virtues. Still, the homer-happy tendencies and flyball orientation (career 41.6 GB% in the minors) give one pause. Most major league equivalents and 2009 projections feel that McCutchen will post an adequate K/BB ratio, but that he’ll also dish out dingers as if they were going out of style:

Minor League Splits 2008 MLE: 166 IP, 5.82 FIP, 6.41 K/9, 2.44 BB/9, 2.06 HR/9
CHONE 2009 Projection: 120 IP, 4.88 FIP 6.6 K/9, 2.85 BB/9, 1.50 HR/9
Zips ’09 Projection: 114.2 IP, 5.41 FIP, 5.42 K/9, 2.28 BB/9, 1.88 HR/9

Given the current state of affairs in Pittsburgh’s rotation, simply having most appendages and converting oxygen into CO2 gives you a puncher’s chance at seeing time in the Bucs’ starting five. McCutchen will likely get a shot sometime this summer. It’s possible that he becomes a Paul Byrd-type pitcher, able to paint the corners enough to post league-average production and overcome a tendency to cough up a few too many homers.


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