After signing Cheslor Cuthbert in 2009 Baseball America put him as the 17th ranked Royals’ prospect at a time when the farm system was very strong. He debuted as a 17 year old and showed some power in rookie ball in 2010 and moved up to #15 in the system, and followed that with a decent year in Kane County A ball in 2011 to move up to #5. Only part of his ascension was due to all of the promotions of those ahead of him in prior seasons. Last year Cuthbers had a rough year in Wilmington as a 19 year old that moved him back to #20 in a farm system that is no longer quite as strong, but I would encourage fans to ignore last year’s results for this young third baseman. The coming year is much more important, and Royals fans who care about the minors should be watching Cuthbert closely in 2013.
If you follow the Royals’ minor league system at all, there is one theme. Wilmington is a tough place to hit. Being a position player in the system and getting a promotion to high A ball is the equivalent of the Royals Brass telling you that they would like to see how you handle failure. It is a pitchers park of nearly epic proportions. Cuthbert’s 2012 line of .240/.296/.322 is definitely scary, and maybe completely meaningless as well. I went back and looked for Royals in Wilmington going back to 1994 to see who hit well there. Plenty of players, including Johnny Damon, Mike Sweeney, and even Ken Harvey had nice seasons for the Blue Rocks, but there is a consistent similarity among them all, and that is that they were all in their early 20s. Only one player under age 20 had a significant amount of playing time in Wilmington and had good hitting numbers. Wil Myershad a nice half season in is age 19 season.
The best parallel for Cheslor is Carlos Beltran. Beltran was actually a year older at each stop, but had a similar path of decent rookie ball year and a pretty good line between low A and A ball. Then he arrived in Wilmington and struggled to a line of .229/.311/.363 as a 20 year old. The following year he repeated his time at high A, and did much better, getting a promotion to AA where his numbers exploded. That is the hope for someone like Cuthbert in 2013. Getting a chance to age and repeat could lead to similar growth as a player. Not only that, but the fact that he is following a similar path at a younger age means that the ceiling for him may be very high.
Digging into last season there were some good signs. Away from his home park, Cuthbert’s average was similar, but his OBP was 20 points higher and his slugging was 60 points higher. Also, after three really awful months, his OBP in the last two months (a little over 100 PAs) of the season were .343 and .364 with the usual small sample size caveats. Everyone is loving up Adalberto Mondesi this spring, and for good reason, but don’t forget about Cheslor Cuthbert. It would not at all be surprising to me if next year he was in AA and/or AAA and creating questions about how to handle the log jam at third base.