Wednesday, December 23, 2009

#6 - Daniel McCutchen

Daniel McCutchen, 27, was born in Texas and bred an Okie. He was 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA as a senior at Norman HS, hitting .357, and he also played football.

McCutchen began his college days at Central Oklahoma in 2002, going 4-0 with 3 saves and a 2.76 ERA, striking out 38 in 28 innings. He then transferred to Grayson Community College, where he won one game before being hurt and was redshirted. The New York Yankees took McCutchen in the 27th round of the 2003 amateur draft, but he passed on their offer.

He moved on to the University of Oklahoma, where McCutchen went 4-3 with 5 saves and a 3.47 ERA, striking out 60 in 57 innings as a sophomore. He was Honorable Mention All-Big 12 Conference.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays picked him in the 28th round of the 2004 draft; he passed again. In the summer, McCutchen pitched for the wooden-bat Cape Cod League Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, posting a 5-1 slate with a 1.58 ERA, holding opponents to 32 hits in 45-2/3 frames.

In 2005, Daniel was 4-5 with 2 saves and a 4.18 ERA, striking out 84 in 84 innings as he made the jump from reliever to starter for the Sooners, and was again Honorable Mention All-Conference.

The St. Louis Cardinals became the third team to draft him, in the 12th round of the 2005 draft; again he didn't sign. He went to Cape Cod for a second go-around with Y-D Sox. McCutchen was 3-6 with a 3.43 ERA and fanned 63 in 60-1/3 innings, walking just 12 batters.

McCutchen had a 10-8, 4.06 record with one save in 2006 as a senior for Oklahoma, striking out 147 in 148-2/3 innings. He led the Big 12 in strikeouts, tossing 45 more Ks than Joba Chamberlain did at Nebraska.

He was sixth in NCAA Division I in strikeouts; only Tim Lincecum, Eddie Degerman, P.J. Walters, David Price and Brad Lincoln fanned more college batters.

He was chosen by the Yankees again, this time in the 13th round of the 2006 draft (404th overall) and finally signed, not that the senior had many other options.

The right-hander made his debut at short-season Staten Island and moved on to Sally League Charleston, where combined he went 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA, 29 Ks in 29 innings, and a 0.793 WHIP.

But he was busted and suspended for 50 games for using a performance-enhancing substance that he said was a medication for attention deficit disorder. The Bronx Bombers believed him, and that's good enough for us.

In 2007, he split time with the High A Tampa Yankees and AA Trenton Thunder, where overall he posted a 14-4 record with a 2.47 ERA, though his K rate dropped to 6.5/nine innings.

Baseball America rated him as having the best control in the Florida State League and the Yankees #30 prospect in 2007, while he made the FSL All-Star team, one of six pitchers selected.

McCutchen opened 2008 with the Thunder and was 4-3 with a 2.55 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 53 innings. He was promoted to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and went 4-6 with a 3.58 ERA and 11 walks in 70-1/3 IP.

McCutchen was then traded with José Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens to the Pirates for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, and was sent to Indy. At the time, he was the Yankees #14 prospect, according to BA.

He and Jeff Karstens were late substitutes in the deal for pitchers George Kontos and Phil Coke. It's thought that the Pirates wanted a couple of guys that were closer to being MLB ready, and that's why the ol' switcheroo was made.

McCutchen wasn't quite ready for prime time then, and he was back with Indianapolis to begin 2009. After a slow start, he finished 13-6 with a 3.47 in 24 starts and 110 strikeouts in 142-2/3 innings.

He was penciled in to pitch for Team USA in the 2009 Baseball World Cup and was on their final roster. But the Bucs had a change of heart, and decided to make him a September call-up, sending Brad Lincoln to Team USA instead.

McCutchen made his debut on August 31st, starting against the Cincinnati Reds in a double-header. He gave up 3 runs in 6 innings and got a no-decision. He finished the year with six starts, a 1-2 slate, and 4.21 ERA. Not great, and not terrible.

And that's sort of his MO. McCutchen rarely overwhelms anyone, but he's rarely beat up, either. It makes him a perfect back-of-the-rotation kinda guy. He has great control, and gets deep into games, but he's a fly-ball pitcher that gives up gopher balls.

And that draft dance may come back to bite him. McCutchen turned 27 in September, and has just four seasons and fewer than 500 innings in the minors. He's taken the hill for 34 starts in AAA, and is 14-14 with a 4.17 ERA.

And he has a couple of organizational hoops to jump through. McCutchen is a newby on the 40-man roster, so he has all three options left. That gives the control-obsessed Pirates every opportunity to move him down as insurance instead of losing him.

And he has a trio jostling with him in earning that last starting spot - Kevin Hart in camp, and eventually Brad Lincoln and Jose Ascanio (although a trade or two could change that quickly enough).

Baseball America wrote that his future was in the bullpen because of his control and the way he goes right after hitters, and others share their opinion. But we think that at least for now, he should be part of the rotation. The Bucs need a guy that gives them a fighting chance every outing.

McCutchen throws a fastball in the low 90s, a splitter, and a viable curve. Four of his six outings were quality starts, including his last three, and he only failed to go six innings once (he lasted five frames). And when you're rebuilding an offense and bullpen at the same time, that kind of dependability from the bottom of the rotation is a lifeline.

(Next - #5 Tim Alderson)


WilliamJPellas said...

Write it down, 'cuz I'm calling my shot right now: McCutchen is a better prospect than Tim Alderson and will have a better career. Well, he'll have a better career if someone just sticks him in their rotation and leaves him alone for a few years.

For the life of me, I don't understand why McCutchen is so disrespected. I don't get it. He's not super old for a prospect when you consider that he was nearly 23 when he graduated college, and of course his major college experience was itself at least the equivalent of a couple seasons in High-A ball (if not Double-A). So it's not like his relatively few minor league innings are the kiss of death. And so he doesn't throw 100 MPH. So? When did that stop Maholm and Duke? I mean, I know we need more power arms in the rotation, but some guys are just winners, and I believe McCutchen is one of them.

Give me a rotation full of guys like him over hard throwing meatheads (not mentioning any names, Kevin Hart) who don't know how to pitch. Of course, we all want a bunch of Tom Seavers---who throw 98 MPH and also are great pitchers---but those are few and far between. In the meantime, I'll take the pitchers over the throwers every time if I have to choose one or the other.

Ron Ieraci said...

Will - Merry Christmas! I'll say this - McCutchen has proven he can pitch in the bigs, which Alderson has yet to do, so that's a point I'll concede now.

And hey, I'm not rapping McC. I think he's a piece of the puzzle; look at the career Jason Marquis has carved out. That's the comparable to McCutchen in my mind's eye.