Friday, February 15, 2008

and around and around we go...

andrew mccutcheon
The center fielder of the future, Andrew McCutcheon
from MLB Center

Quick - what do all these guys have in common: Midre Cummings, Jacob Brumfield, Jermaine Allensworth, Adrian Brown, Emil Brown, Chad Hermansen, Tike Redman, Gary Matthews Jr., JJ Davis, Tony Alvarez, Chris Duffy, Nate McClouth, Rajai Davis and Nyjer Morgan? That's right. They were all, at one time or another in the past dozen years, the Pirate's center fielder of the future.

The truth is since Andy Van Slyke was dealt away in 1995, the Pirates haven't had a day in, day out centerfielder to pencil into the lineup (except for the Kenny Lofton season.) But boy, did they try as the merry-go-round started. Midre Cummings got first crack at the job. He was the lynchpin of the Denny Neagle deal, but spent only four years as a Pirate (1993-97) when he was sent to the Phils in 1997. In eleven seasons, he hit .257.

Jacob Brumfield came over from the Reds to hold the fort for a year in 1995. He lasted the season, and early in 1996 he and his .257 average were dealt to Toronto for a minor leaguer. Mike Kingery was a veteran stopgap signed from the Rockies as a free agent. He hit .246 for the Bucs in 1996, his final big league season. They gave Jermaine Allensworth a couple of years to win the spot, but in 1998 they let him and his .260 lifetime average go.

Emil and Adrian Brown were brought up in 1997. Adrian (.258) left town in 2002 and last played for Texas in 2006. Emil (.262) was given his walking papers in 2001, and just signed as a free agent with the A's, putting nine solid seasons in the bigs so far. It was Chad Hermansen's turn next, but the much hyped oufielder lasted only from 1999-2002 with the Bucs. He and his .195 batting average were last seen in 2004 on Toronto's bench.

Tike Redman came on the scene in 2000. He put in four seasons with Pittsburgh and is now fighting for a reserve spot with the O's. Redman had the best stick of the bunch, compiling a .281 average over his seven year career to date. In 2001, Gary Matthews Jr. gave us a few weeks in center, enough to impress the fans but not the ownership. He was sold to the Mets at the end of the season, and since 2003 has became a pretty solid CF'er for the Padres and Rangers. We'll see if his big contract with the Angels will pan out.

2002 saw the emergence of Tony Alvarez, who put in two years with the Bucs, hitting .250, and JJ Davis. In his four major league years, he hit .179. Both are out of baseball. Heck, we got Jose Bautista in 2004 and threw him in center for awhile. The poor guy's done everything but chalk the lines for the Pirates.

We've had a new collection of burners trying to nail down the spot since 2005. That's when Chris Duffy and Nate McClouth first put on the Pirate double knits. Duffy, in an injury ridden career, has batted .269. McClouth had a big finish last year, but his lifetime average is still only .249. Duffy will likely rehab in AAA to start the year while McClouth will battle for a starting role in camp.

Rajai Davis had a cup of coffee with us in 2006 and showed a decent bat in 2007, hitting .270 overall in his short career. But he was deemed dispensable and was sent to the Giants for Matt Morris. The other current candidate for center is Nyjer Morgan of the fleet feet and circuitous routes.

He batted .299 at the top of the order in a limited showing last year and will try to impress John Russell enough in the next two months to get the nod in center. If not, maybe he can go back to the Regina Pats and try to jumpstart his hockey career. He spent 4 years playing junior hockey before deciding his teeth had a longer lifespan in baseball.

Fielding wise, we may be getting lucky. Most of these guys have been below average with the glove based on the fielding range matrix, but two of the three that rated above average are on the roster now, Morgan and Duffy (Redman was the other.) McClouth is pretty far below the league average, but he doesn't have much work to base the stat on yet (and the same can be said of Morgan.) Still, he looks better in right.

Of course, it may all be academic. We all know the real McCoy for our center fielder of the future is Andrew McCutcheon...

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