In 2009 Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen made his major league debut. Since then he’s been one of the game’s better outfielders. Last year he began taking the steps towards being one of the games elite.
In 2009 McCutchen gave the league a glimpse of what his potential is. Right off the bat he showed plate disapline, power, the ability to get on base and speed. In the minors McCutchen had what would be a league average BB% for the majority of the time he spent down there. Only once did he have a BB% greater than 10%, most of the time it was in the 8% range. In 493 plate appearances McCutchen walked 11% of the time, a nice surprise for the Pirates. He displayed power throughout the minors but in over 120 games per minor league level he never had an ISO higher than .155. He had a 189 ISO over 49 triple A games in 2009 but that’s a pretty small sample size. In his rookie season he posted a .189 ISO and has continued to post ISO numbers over .160. He did and still does do a good job at getting on base. When he came into the league he posted a .365 OBP, right around what he did in the minors. Finally, speed. McCutchen has brought some much-needed speed to a poor Pirates line-up, something he’s always had. To top it all off he produced 3.5 WAR that year, for a rookie I’ll take that any day of the week.
Looking at this past season McCutchen has kept improving. He posted career highs in BB%, ISO, WAR and wRC+. His BB% was up to 13.1%, his K% did increase to 18.6 % though. Previously he’s posted K%’s of 16.8% and 13.6%, but sometimes you gotta take the good with the bad. His ISO was at .198 this year, his previous best was his rookie season. He also saw a 4% increase in his wRC+ from his 2009 and 2010 seasons. His .360 wOBA is generally around the 75th percentile, if he could improve that number he’d be even better. He also had a wRC+ of 125, this past season he had a 129. If that wasn’t a testament to how good he was he had 5.7 WAR, a 2.2 WAR increase over the last two seasons. Each season he had a 3.5 WAR.
I couldn’t find a great comparison for McCutchen but I did take a look at how he compared to free agent shortstop Jose Reyes. If we look at Jose Reyes and Andrew McCuthen from 2008-2011 you’ll realize they’re hardly different. I choose 2008 because Reyes was hurt in ’09.
During that span McCutchen has the better BB%, ISO, OBP, OPS, wOBA and wRC+. While the differences aren’t huge they are still differences. Both are quite similar players and if Reyes is rumored to want over $100 million and he gets that $100 million that could be a baseline of what McCutchen may be worth in the next year or so.
Now the question is do the Pirates give him that money or do they trade him. This past season the Pirates had a nice run and they were leading the division at one point. In the end they finished 24 games back from first place. In the draft though they got future ace Garrett Cole in the draft last year along with Josh Bell, a really good outfield prospect. They also have pitcher Jameson Tallion from last years draft. The Pirates have their share of prospects but will they pan out in time to show the McCutchen that the Pirates are about winning?
If I’m Pittsburg I sign him in a heart beat. He’s 25 years old and still hasn’t entered his prime. If they can lock him up for a 5-6 year deal at $14 million a year or so then they have to do it. McCutchen will only improve and as he gets better he’ll just keep getting more expensive and as Pittsburg as showed recently, they don’t like spending money on their players.