Name: Cheslor Cuthbert
Position: Third base
Notable 2011 Stats: .267/.345/.397 with 13 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 65/36 K/BB, and 2-for-2 SB in 81 games with Kane County (A)
Why He’s This High: At the tender age of 18, Cuthbert held his own in full-season ball, displaying a good approach at the plate and a bit of pop. He was hitting .328/.381/.500 through the end of July, dominating the level, until a late-season slump slowed him, so he looks even better than the numbers suggest.
A Nicaragua native, Cuthbert is a projectable hitter who should grow into well-above-average power as he matures, and many have projected him to be an annual 25-HR hitter if not better. His selective approach at the plate should allow him to see lots of good pitches to hit.
Defensively, he’s not as raw as most third basemen his age, and projects to hold the position down. There’s some question as to what sort of athleticism he’ll have once he fills out, but such a loss of athleticism would probably render him a merely playable third baseman rather than a player who must move across the diamond.
Why He’s This Low: We shouldn’t go crazy about three months of performance in Low-A at age 18–just look at the relatively middling performance of Jonathan Singleton since mid-2010 for evidence of that. Cuthbert obviously still needs to show that he can play at a good level for more than 50 games at a time, let alone 100 or 150.
The power’s going to need to come, of course, for Cuthbert to truly become a star, as average defensive third basemen need to do more than just walk half as often as they strike out to be impact players. At his age and level of experience, a good portion of his value lies in future projection more than current talent level (although, of course, he’s more advanced than most his age), and he’s thus got a long way to go. And if he does bulk up to the point where he’s a big power threat, how much of his defensive ability will be compromised?
None of this diminishes Cuthbert’s future possibilities in any way–we should just be a bit cautious about a corner guy with a career .740 OPS in the low minors.
Conclusions: There’s certainly a lot to get excited about here, as Cuthbert could be the player who ultimately pushes Mike Moustakas to DH (in the post-Billy Butler era) in Kansas City. He’s very polished for his age and also offers good future projection, and he could be a truly fearsome offensive force who isn’t a complete zero defensively.
However, Cuthbert is a long way off from those heights, and we should remember that. Like most players of this type, he could become one of baseball’s top prospects with a big 2012. The key for the third baseman going forward is going to be adding power while maintaining his strikeout-to-walk ratio–if he can have a full season at his pre-August 2011 levels, watch out.
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