We are in the midst of Spring Training and opening day will soon be upon us. Baseball season is here! As we all know there are a few favorites for the MVP, CY Young, and all the other major awards. I am not sure if this guy is considered a sleeper for the award but Andrew McCutchen could breakout and make a serious case for the NL MVP. The 24 year old, right-handed outfielder has emerged as one of the game’s top outfielders.
Last year, McCutchen hit .286/.365/.449 in 653 plate appearances. He had 16 homeruns, 94 runs, 56 RBI, and 33 stolen bases. He had the second best BB/K among center fielders last year (0.79) and he had a WAR of 3.3. While those numbers aren’t MVP-esque, McCutchen has the tools to get even better.
I expect huge things out of McCutchen in 2011. He is a 5 tool player which all teams love to have. Last year we saw his excellent speed on display as well as his great hitting abilities; the makings of a very good leadoff hitter. He is constantly developing and fine tuning his plus skills in the pursuit to get better and better. Well what can we expect out of McCutchen in 2011?
As I mentioned above, McCutchen showed great speed, contact, and the ability to get on base very often. He stole 33 bases last year and was caught stealing ten times. McCutchen should steal even more bases this year for a few reasons. Last year the Pirates stole 87 bases which ranked 19th in the league and 12 steals below the major league average. Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle has worked a lot with base runners this spring training and he has stated that he will be giving the green light a lot more this year, especially McCutchen. He has terrific speed but his technique on the base paths has been holding him back a little. McCutchen has spent particular attention on his base running skills this offseason which is a great sign.
As we look at his AVG (.286) and OBP (.365) from 2010 they were both well above the league average. His BB% remained high and his K% got even better. In the last few months of the season, McCutchen’s stats that I listed above increased each month. If this continues we could see a big spike in his AVG, OBP, and BB/K in 2011.
When looking up front at his stats, 16 homeruns does not seem like a lot. Well we must remember that McCutchen is only 24 years old, and many think that he is not fully developed. McCutchen has very strong wrists, quick hands, and a compact swing which all make up plus bat speed. His bat speed translates to a lot of hidden power in that 5’10” 175lb frame. Just like his AVG, OBP, etc; his homerun totals increased in the last few months of the season. McCutchen is very capable of hitting 20-30 homeruns this year and maybe even 30+ homeruns in a season at some point in his career. A 30-30 player is always a rare find.
The aspect of McCuthen’s game that will really help his MVP case is run production. He spent last year as the primary leadoff hitter for the Pirates. Well this year, we may see a change in that. In spring training McCutchen has hit in the number 3 spot in the lineup. This is a great idea. His wRC (Runs Created based wOBA) ranked third amongst center fielders last year. The two guys ahead of him were Josh Hamilton and Carlos Gonzalez and as we all know those guys had pretty good seasons. Hitting 3rd could only increase that number. A great stat that demonstrates the potential increase in McCutchen’s RBI totals by batting 3rd in the lineup is Run Values By Event and Batting Order (Modified by PA) in Tom Tango’s The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball. The stat shows how each event (1B, 2B 3B, HR) is affected in terms of run values at each spot in the lineup. The run value at 3rd in the lineup is higher for each of those events than batting first in the lineup. This suggests that McCutchen will knock in a lot more runs in 2011. It also helps having the solid on base guys of Neil Walker and Jose Tabata ahead of him.
The sky is the limit for McCutchen and he has a great career ahead of him. Could he become the next Pittsburgh great? We will just have to wait and see. This could be a huge season for McCutchen and I certainly think he will perform very well and be in the MVP talks.
To thank all of our great readers and followers of the @MLBdirt Twitter page, we will be giving away a Topps 2011 Andrew McCutchen signed baseball card officially certified by the Topps Company. We will be awarding the card to one of our followers on Twitter so make sure you tell your friends about MLB Dirt.
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis | Tagged: Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, Clint Hurdle, Josh Hamilton, MVP, Pirates | 5 Comments »