How High is Andrew McCutchen’s Ceiling?


Andrew McCutchen is better than you. He’s better at baseball, better at beat-boxing, better at running, better at styling his hair, and he’s probably better than you at whatever job you do, he just hasn’t tried it yet.

In his first two and a half seasons in the major leagues, he has done just about everything a baseball player can do, and he has done it well. He has stolen bases, hit for high batting averages, hit for power, made ridiculous catches in centerfield, and has done numerous dugout handshakes that have made us all a little bit cooler.

So what will he do this in 2012? Well, he could be the first Pirate since Barry Bonds to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in one season. Granted, he didn’t get really close to either of those milestones last year, but if anybody in the league can do it, it’s McCutchen.

We saw an increase in power from McCutchen last year. That could be because he spent most of his time in the middle of the order, where he had a drive in runs mindset. While he was 7 homers shy of 30, I don’t think anybody could argue that he has the potential to hit 30 in a season. We saw a major increase in McCutchen’s center and opposite field power last year, which bodes well for the future. He has some of the quickest wrists in the game and a ton of leg speed to boot.

Hitting third, he won’t be looking to steal many bases, but if the Pirates let him loose, he could swipe 30 without breaking a sweat. With the lack of power bats behind him, I don’t see any reason why McCutchen shouldn’t have the green light all the time. If Alvarez turns it around and starts swatting big flies, you’re going to want McCutchen to just stay on first and not get thrown out before Alvarez goes yard, but until that happens I see no reason to hold back.

There seems to be no limit to what McCutchen can do. I think he’s a legitimate MVP candidate when and if the Pirates reach the playoffs (since that’s basically a prerequisite for the award now).

Last year, McCutchen’s batting average suffered from the increase in power and some bad luck. His BABIP was .291, which is normally right around average for players, but Cutch has consistently had BABIP’s in the .310-.330 range, so he was certainly unlucky last year. Despite the lost average, his on-base percentage went up as he showed more patience and a better eye at the plate. That bodes well for McCutchen as well. He will get his pitch more often, and when he doesn’t, he’ll reach first on a walk and have the opportunity to steal bases.

Players like McCutchen don’t come around very often, and he hasn’t even reached his prime yet.

Am I going to predict a 30/30 season from Cutch? No, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it happens.