The Buccos Emerging Star

In three weeks, Andrew McCutchen will celebrate his 23rd birthday on the first Saturday of the post-season. The Pirates hold no hopes or prayers of continuing play on that Saturday – they’ll wrap the season up the Sunday prior – but you can’t place much of that blame on their young center fielder.

A .270/.347/.459 line is way solid from a righty who primarily plays in PNC Park. Throw in 11 home runs and 16 (of 20) steals and McCutchen is living up to his billing. His walk rate is an impressive 10.4%, but I wouldn’t expect that to be the floor moving forward. Throughout the minors McCutchen only topped 10% in walks once, that coming at Triple-A in 2008. His ISO is higher than we’ve come to expect from him as well. I suppose the encouraging sign on that front is that his Triple-A ISO is identical to his major league number, so he has at least flashed similar power, albeit at a lower level.

McCutchen doesn’t seem to be expanding his zone too often and when he swings, he usually makes contact. The interesting aspect is how much he’s struggled with non-fastball pitches. Right now he’s absolutely devouring any heater thrown at him (a 1.13 run value per 100) but check out the run values per 100 on other pitches:

SL: -1.66
CB: -1.38
CH: 2.68

Perhaps he has some issues in identifying sliders from fastballs which could make for something worth watching as the league adapts to him in future months.

Defensively the sample size is extremely small. UZR suggests he’s a hair above average in center field and the Fans Scouting Report seems to agree with this take; placing him ahead of centerfielders like Josh Hamilton and Rick Ankiel (also Brett Gardner, which is odd.)

After taking over for Nate McLouth and seeing Nyjer Morgan, Jack Wilson, and Adam LaRoche find new homes, McCutchen has solidified himself as the face of the Pirates. Mock all you want; he’s doing the crossbones and eye-patch proud.

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The Rasmus-McCutchen CF battles will be awesome to watch for the next several years.