RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: September 26, 1982
Height: 6′ 2″
Drafted: 13th Round, 404th Overall, 2006
How Acquired: Trade (for Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte)
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|The Pirates acquired McCutchen, Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Tabata from the Yankees for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. The deal originally included Phil Coke and George Kontos instead of McCutchen and Karstens, but the teams agreed to include the latter two after the initial announcement. McCutchen throws a fastball that averaged just over 90 and topped out about 93 when he was starting, and averages just over 91 and tops out at 94-95 in relief. He also throws a slider and an offspeed pitch that’s either a split-fingered pitch or a changeup, depending on whether it’s being classified by Baseball Info Solutions or PitchFx (both are available at Fangraphs). He’s a mild flyball pitcher and has had a moderate platoon split in the majors. He typically has had extremely low walk rates, but being around the plate a lot has led to some gopher ball problems and his K rate has been low some of the time. In the majors he’s had a lot of trouble when he’s fallen behind in counts. McCutchen’s a good athlete and has some hitting ability, although he’s only 2-for-30 in the majors. He doesn’t hold runners well.
McCutchen didn’t start his pro career until he was 23 and got off to an inauspicious beginning, drawing a 50-game banned-substance suspension. He blamed the test result on a prescription drug he took for Attention Deficit Disorder in college and the Yankees reportedly accepted his explanation. He pitched extremely well in short stints at two levels.
Moving up quickly, McCutchen pitched well at both high A and AA. He walked very few batters but also had a low K rate in high A. Opponents batted .235 against him in high A and .201 in AA.
Going into the season, Baseball America ranked McCutchen the 14th best prospect in the Yankees’ pitching-rich system. He opened the season in AA, pitching well in nine starts and improving his K rate to 8.8. He continued to pitch well in AAA before the trade, continuing his extremely low walk rate and posting a good K rate. At Indianapolis after the trade, his performance was uneven. His BB and K numbers were good, but he had a serious gopher ball problem, allowing a HR every four innings. The Pirates did not call him up in September as he did not have to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2009 season.
Stayed in the Indianapolis rotation throughout the AAA season. McCutchen seemed to be going nowhere for the first half of the season, posting a 4.37 ERA before the AAA All-Star break. After the break, however, he cut his walks and homers dramatically and went 5-1, 1.90 in eight starts. For the season, he allowed just 0.6 HRs per nine innings, although his K rate dropped. He joined the Pirates’ rotation in September and pitched respectably. The gopher ball problem returned, as he allowed one every six innings. He didn’t walk many in the majors, but his K rate was extremely low.
Although McCutchen completely outpitched Kevin Hart late in 2009, the two were expected to battle in spring training for the 5th starter spot and the Pirates made it clear from the start that the job was Hart’s to lose. McCutchen pitched well in the exhibitions, though, and Hart had a control meltdown, so McCutchen won the spot. Once the season started, however, McCutchen had a meltdown of his own. He made only three starts through April 22, as the team skipped his turn initially due to off-days. In the three games, he allowed 18 hits, seven walks, five HRs and 18 earned runs in just eleven innings. He tended to nibble around the strike zone and got behind nearly every hitter, resulting in disaster when he had to throw fastballs over the plate. The Pirates sent him to Indianapolis at the end of April. He didn’t pitch as well there as in 2009 due to more trouble with gopher balls, especially against LH batters, who went deep once every sixteen ABs against him. He also had a much lower K rate than previously. The Pirates called McCutchen back up in late June to make four starts and he pitched better, but not well, allowing nine earned runs in 16.1 IP. He came up again to stay at end of July, making two spot starts, one mediocre and one outstanding, and otherwise pitching in relief. He pitched very well in August, as he got more aggressive and challenged hitters, but got hammered in September. His BB and K rates in the majors were weak and he allowed slightly less than a HR every five innings.
McCutchen spent the year in the majors, becoming the team’s primary long reliever when Jeff Karstens joined the rotation. He season came in two distinct segments. Through the end of July he had a 2.17 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. In August and September those numbers exploded to 7.21 and 1.88. Control increasingly became an issue as the season wore on, possibly due to a pitcher who’d always been a starter making 73 appearances. His BB/9 went from 2.5 in the season’s first half to 4.7 in the second. His K/9 was very low throughout the season. He did keep the longballs under reasonable control, allowing one every 12 innings, and opponents slugged only .397 against him, a huge improvement over the previous season’s .525.
McCutchen had a poor spring and spent most of the season in AAA, pitching in relief. He missed a little time with a minor injury and was called up long enough to pitch in just one game. He faced just two batters, allowing a walk and a game-deciding HR. He pitched very well, holding opponents to a .230 average and allowing just three HRs. He continued to be a flyball pitcher. The Pirates did not call him up in September.
The absence of a callup may indicate that McCutchen has slipped down the depth chart. He doesn’t have great stuff, but probably could still be a solid long reliever. It’s possible, though, that the Pirates will remove him from the 40-man roster in the off-season. Unlike prior years, they have a lot of depth in younger relievers, such as Bryan Morris, Justin Wilson and Vic Black. McCutchen does have an option left, though, so he gives them some flexibility.
UPDATE: The Pirates outrighted McCutchen to AAA after the World Series. He was expected to opt for free agency.
|2013: Major League Minimum
2012: Major League Minimum
2011: Major League Minimum
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2006
MLB Debut: 8/31/2009
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 8/31/2009
Options Remaining: 1 (USED: 2010, 2012)
MLB Service Time: 1.129
|June 7, 2006: Drafted by the New York Yankees in the 13th round, 404th overall pick; signed on June 16.
July 26, 2008: Acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the New York Yankees along with Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, and Jeff Karstens in exchange for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte.
August 31, 2009: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
October 25, 2012: Outrighted to AAA by the Pittsburgh Pirates.