Andrew McCutchen Ranked as Second Best Center Fielder in the Majors

Buster Olney continued his rankings of the top ten players at each position on Friday, naming Andrew McCutchen the second best center fielder in baseball. Not surprisingly, Mike Trout is ranked first overall, followed by McCutchen, A.J. Pollock, Lorenzo Cain and Mookie Betts in the top five spots.

The part of McCutchen’s 2015 season that Olney focused the most on was his hitting with runners in scoring position. He hit .361/.494/.656 in 172 plate appearances with RISP. While he has been good in those situations in the past, this was by far his best season in that department. McCutchen finished fifth in the MVP voting this year, which was actually his lowest finish the last four years. He won his fourth straight Silver Slugger award and made his fifth straight All-Star team.

Yesterday, Olney had Starling Marte as the top left fielder in baseball. Last week, Gerrit Cole was the ninth best starting pitcher and no Pirates were among the top relievers in the game, with Mark Melancon getting the “just missed” category.

  • With Marte waiting to play CF and some OF talent–shaky but more than at other positions–I would consider testing the trade market for Cuth–a year too soon rather than a year too late–since I think he soon starts losing his skills (saw some of that last year) and he’ll not stay in Pittsburgh, anyway, unless they overpay him when his contract is up. in

  • LLOYD says:

    LINEUP
    1. Polanco RF
    2. Marte LF
    3. Cutch CF
    4. Kang 3B
    5. PRNW 1B
    6. Jay-Hay 2B
    7. Cervelli C
    8. Mercer SS

    BENCH
    Stewart C
    Morse 1B-OF
    Goebbert 1B-OF
    Florimon SS
    Broxton OF

    TATION
    1. Cole
    2. Francisco
    3. Latos/Masterson
    4. Cahill/Fister
    5. Chuck/Locke

    PEN
    1. Webster
    2. Rondon/Holdzkom
    3. LaFromboise
    4. Hughes
    5. Caminaro
    6. Watson
    7. Shark

    LLOYD speculamated on the SP additions……and knows that there will be other additions to this MLB roster. Apologies for predicting only a bit of future.
    But looking here and knowing that Timmy and John’s book cover shows Bell, Glasnow, Tallion, Diaz and Hanson as reinforcements sometime during 2016, our Buccos are gonna be fine.

    LLOYD

    ps…….Foooooooooooooooo

  • I have a feeling Huntington is going to surprise people and is going to snatch either Kazmir or Fister. Probably for more than what they paid Liriano. Probably either 3 or 4 years at 13-14 mil per. Probably a little bit of an over payment, but everything in this market is an over payment.

  • Greinke to the D-Backs.

  • Cubs just got Lackey….2/32.

  • Watson and Melancon were #9 and #10 from MLB Network last off season. You can’t give me 10 relievers names that have been better the last 3 seasons. and Cutch, It took a generational talent to knock him to #2. The Pirate organization hasn’t done well in the playoffs and I hear people raving about organizations like the Cubs,Royals,Astros about how great if a job they have done. The Pirates organization is one of the best models for any organization

  • Seems T Watson deserves some mention as a top reliever… just sayin.
    Cutch is awesome, period. So lucky to have him on our team I remember so many years of trying to find a centerfielder after Omar Moreno… ugh. I hope we surround him with as much talent as we can so he has a chance at putting a banner up at PNC.

  • Obviously this isn’t part of the Olney/Cutch post, but I am going to ask if anyone has a good reason why Walker would not be moved the First. We have 4 infielders exclusive of first. Walker’s defense has been marginalized. He has caught and played third. His second base skills have diminished but tell me why his athleticism cannot be a factor into developing into a first basemen? I heard all the reasons why not, but I would like a perfect explanation of why you would not move him to first. He could extend his career and he would be a better defensive replacement then what we had.

    • The pirates didn’t want to pay 8 million for a first baseman, they certainly don’t want to pay 10 million for one that hits like NW. And there are reasons to believe he can play better defense at first than Pedro but there are also reasons to think he may be awful at it too. Remember we were talking about Pedro handling firate because he didn’t have any problems fielding at 3rd, just throwing…First may be the easiest position to play, bit its still major league ball, and a foreign position isnt easy to pick up, even for the best of athletes…also, moving him would leave a hole in the IF until kang is healthy and until hanson is ready. I’m not saying it isn’t a tempting thought, but I would imagine these are sore of the reasons it won’t happen

      • The Pirates didn’t want to pay $8MM for Pedro Alvarez. A first baseman, he is not.

      • I think this idea that 1B is the easiest place to play is a misleading notion. 1B may be the only non pitching position that an unathletic player can play, if he is too slow for the outfield, not quick enough or have superior eye hand coordination for SS or 2nd, or not have the arm strength for C, 3rd or SS. But that is not to say that 1B men don’t have specific skill sets that are difficult to learn. Trying to catch 90+ MPH throws that could becoming anywhere within a 10 ft radius circle with all sorts of crazy spin on the ball, with some coming in the dirt is not ad easy as people who never tried it assume. When I played I found 3B was much easier to play than 1B as I vastly preferred be on the throwing rather than receiving end of the play at first. Remember the movie Moneyball? Why was the catcher Beans wanted to move to first so terrified of playing 1B when he had spent his career catching the ball? In his case it was fielding a grounder. My point is that saying 1B is the easiest place to play severely discounts how hard it is to play the position well. It shouldn’t be surprising that Pedro couldn’t make the transition, or that Bell is finding it difficult. Or that Walker would find it difficult as well.

      • Paul Newmeyer
        December 5, 2015 1:48 am

        I would be ok if they even extend Walker and move him to first. That would allow them to trade one of Marte, Bell, or Polanco if needed for pitching. Extending Walker also solves the possible PR nightmare of him leaving for nothing or being traded. Walker would adjust faster to first due to the fact he has played multiple positions plus he has spent most of his time on the right side of the infield. Also he changed his workouts to stay lean and mobile to play second. A move to first would allow him to get back to his catcher and third base physique and this add more power, albeit it is too late for a big change for 2016, thus the extension would see that benefit down the road. If I am Neal I would jump at this chance if presented.

      • Yea but!!!
        He was at on time rated our best defensive 3rd bagger and he was brought in as a catcher. Murphy never could field.

      • The only thing missing for Walker between he and Murphy is the track record at first base. Their bats are similar, and they’re not dissimilar defensively at second, so we might be able to guess Walker would be similar at first base, but he simply hasn’t done it.

        With a healthy Kang, I could see it being an option, though, if he proves competent at the position, and if we need someone there. I’d be working with him on it to expand our possible depth whether we find another first base option or not, though, because if that option gets hurt, it would be nice to have the option to use Walker there.

        Also, Kang has played first base in Korea (and everywhere else, for that matter), so he could also be an injury option. But he’s just too darned good at third to move off the hot corner.

        • That’s all I’m saying. Makes no sense, from the team’s perspective, *not* to get Walker comfortable at the position as depth if nothing else.

          They’re not finding a better baseball player than Neil Walker to play first base next season. At some point you trust the skill set and coaching to get it done.

          • Not a bad point.

            So, you’re thinking…if Kang is ready:

            1B: Walker
            2B: Harrison
            3B: Kang
            SS: Mercer

            …and, if Bell is ready at some point?

            Not trying to put you on the spot with hypotheticals, but Walker at first brings up a lot of interesting questions…

            Curious…if Bell works out his righty swing and his fielding progresses, do the Pirates have the nerve to bring him up mid-season and, perhaps, trade Walker at the deadline? If they’re in first? If they’re fighting for the wildcard? Or, if you’re contending, do you commit to Walker knowing he’ll walk for nothing?

            I suppose the same questions could be asked for Hansen…

            • Ugh, I really hate to be “that guy” with the smart ass answer, but I’m not treating this group as one-guy-to-a-position.

              Mike Morse absolutely has it in him to go on a six week run as an above average hitter. Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer have it in them to completely disappear for just as long. A mix of Morse/Walker/Kang/Mercer/Harrison gives them double coverage at every position but shortstop, assuming Walk can play 1B and Kangs no longer a SS. If they did a one for one swap of Melancon and Yunel Escobar they’d have themselves covered around the diamond with upside.

              As for Bell, I think it would take *a lot* to go right for him to be much above replacement level this year. The bat projects to be a hair above average, which isn’t going to cut it at 1B unless the defense is plus. Get him up, get him at bats, but have depth ready for the pennant race.

          • It is easier to say “go play 1B” than to do it. Walker may have a hard time adjusting. Just because a player like Serpico can play the position well doesn’t mean another infielder can adjust easily to the position. I hope Walker is willing to try in ST. A part time platoon at 1B of Walker and Morse would be in the best interests of the Pirates if Walker can indeed play the position. But I am far less certain that he can than I was a year ago.

          • I like your thought process about cross training Walker to play 1B just in case, but we can only assume they won’t have a better baseball player than Walker playing 1B right now. It’s certainly a logical assumption based on past history, but since it’s only December, it’s a bit premature to make this statement out to be emphatically true.

        • FWIW, I think Huntington coming out definitively saying he wouldn’t move Walker in a contract year is more of an attempt to preserve his trade value as a 2B than to do Walker some altruistic favor.

          • I agree, but the other question is whether or not Walker himself is willing to move off second base, given the cost it may have to him in that same contract year.

            And for that reason, I don’t think you call him your first baseman, but get him prepared behind a “just in case” rhetoric. That versatility could help him in contract talks, whereas being switched to a permanent first base role would hurt him.

    • Bill: Excellent points all the way around. NH said it would be unfair to ask Neal to switch positions during his last year before FA. Sounds like a politician. If we pay Walker $10 mil and want him to be a 2B and a stand-in 1B until Bell clears Super Two, then so be it. It is a team game and if that is what the team needs, that is what Neal will do – he is that type of player and that type of person.

      I have no doubts he can be a much better defensive 1B than the guy we had out there last year, and a much better hitter than any of the stiffs the Pirates have trotted out there lately. If the Pirates want to come through this transitional year and earn another playoff spot, they are going to have to fight every step of the way while using every asset they have at their disposal.

    • Neal Huntington was on with David Todd about a month ago and he said it would be unfair to Walker to try him at a new position in his walk year knowing it could negatively affect his next contract if he were removed from 2B and then had challenges at 1B.

      Walker’s bat is not as valuable at 1B as it is at 2B. Huntington doing what’s best for Walker. Probably benefits them in trade talks too if they show they still “believe ” Walker is a 2B.

      As far as them not wanting to pay $8 million for a 1B, that is a lie. They didn’t want to pay $8 million for a platoon DH to pay 1B.

      • I honestly question if that’s even true, though. I mean, Walker’s going to be looking for four years. What team is giving him that expecting him to stay at 2B the entire time? Would fifty games or so really decrease his value, or would it be experience like Daniel Murphy is using now as he tests free agency?

        • Murphy played first as far back as 2008. He wasn’t completely foreign to the position. Also we haven’t seen any offers for Murphy so we have no idea what his value is.

  • He’s okay at baseball I guess.

  • waitaminnit!!!!

    I thought Cutch wasn’t Clutch???!!!!

  • I assume the Pirates tendered Walker. I haven’t seen any information on it.

  • Does Cutch have incentives in his current contract? MVP, etc?

  • seems accurate to me.

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