Saturday, December 30, 2006

Works in Progress: Daniel McCutchen

Age: 24 (turned in September)
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 190 lbs
Drafted: 13th Round in 2006 out of the University of Oklahoma
Position: Starting Pitcher
Throws: Right

Stuff: McCutchen throws a pretty standard 92 mph fastball. It isn't particularly straight or live. He was throwing harder during his time in relief at Oklahoma, but settled in to the 92 mph range once he was converted to a starter. However, his breaking stuff is what really seperates him. I've been reading quote after quote of Big-12 hitters talking about being fooled by McCutchen's curve/split combination. Several hitters said "We just kept swinging at pitches in the dirt. We couldn't do anything about it". McCutchen's three different speeds really aid him in keeping hitters off balance.

Command: McCutchen's command was decent throughout college, walking about 1 batter every three innings. He projects to have average major league command and control if everything goes well. Typically, he spots his curveball better than his splitter. The difference in break between the two serves to keep hitters off balance a lot, getting him a lot of swings and misses.

Performance: McCutchen was a late bloomer. He started his college career in 2002 with division II Central Oklahoma. He transfered to the University of Oklahoma, but was forced to sit out in 2003. He spent 2004 and 2005 as a good-but-not-great reliever, and finally blossomed as a 5th year senior starting pitcher in 2006. Overall, he pitched 313 innings, striking out 329 and walking 96 in route to a 4.02 ERA. He pitched an impressive yet stressful 148 innings in 2006. Because of this, the Yankees only let him pitch more than 3 innings every five days once. Overall, he pitched 29 innings in 9 appearances, striking out 29 and walking 6. His ERA was a sparkling 1.86.

Health: Its all too good to be true right? A guy with a passable fastball and two good breaking pitches, no control problems, and a stellar start to his professional career? Daniel McCutchen was suspended for 50 games following a failed drug test in August. Update - Looks like I was acting on bad information. Dan's drug test was actually pretty benign. He tested positive for a prescription amphetamine.

2007 Outlook: McCutchen will likely be headed to Tampa. He's 24 years old and will have to move fast. I personally think that McCutchen will head back to the bullpen. He's proven to be very durable, but the Yankees won't have a whole lot of room for him in the future. He's blocked by a dozen pitchers higher in the pecking order.

Comparison: I really don't know. Steve Trachsel with a little more velocity.

My Take: I think that McCutchen is too good to be true. I think that he either had a hot couple of months or a juiced couple of months. He wasn't very good in college, despite good peripheral numbers. His upside is average, but he has only one season of more than 84 innings pitched under his belt. Still, he got great reviews from his peers in college, and could have made a simple mistake after entering professional baseball with performance enhancers. McCutchen's a smart guy - he made all-scholar teams - so maybe he'll be smart enough to rebound. He's going to be halfway to his 25th birthday by the time he returns from his steroid suspension. 50 games is really going to hurt him. Maybe I'll be wrong, but if I am McCutchen I would look for another career.