Royals minor league third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert on the backfields during 2014 spring training (Jen Nevius).

Royals Prospect Cheslor Cuthbert Promoted to Triple-A

Yesterday afternoon, the Royals announced that infield prospect Cheslor Cuthbert had been promoted to Triple-A Omaha. The news seems to have been broken by someone from Nicaragua – Cuthbert’s home country – but the organization confirmed the move a couple of hours later. Blake Wood was also promoted, but the big story here is obviously Cuthbert.

As I mentioned on Monday, the 21-year old has been on a tear recently, hitting .377/.441/.590 since July 18th. In the month of July, he had a .767 OPS, and that is right around his season-long OPS of .761. He has 30 extra-base hits on the year, including 10 home runs, which have contributed to an isolated slugging percentage of .144. Considering the record bonus Cuthbert signed back in 2009, one might expect loftier numbers, particularly for a hitter in the Texas League who calls Arvest Ballpark home. However, his production is nothing to shake a stick at, if one were to shake sticks at numbers on a computer screen.

Despite the hitter-friendly situation, Cuthbert actually has a higher OPS on the road (.800) than at home (.718). I also found it very interesting that Cuthbert has virtually no platoon split this season (.759 OPS vs RHP; .767 OPS vs LHP), which is certainly more promising than the alternative.

While all of these statistics are praiseworthy, there are absolutely still some doubts about Cuthbert’s future. After being ranked among the top 100 prospects in baseball before the 2012 season, Cuthbert has had some struggles, dropping him out of the team’s top 10 prospects, as ranked by various services. Some scouts have questioned his work ethic, and that, combined with Hunter Dozier‘s emergence on the national scene, has all combined to push Cuthbert down the rankings, to the point the Royals moved him to first and second base when Dozier joined him in Springdale.

Cuthbert could have responded poorly to this challenge, but he did the opposite. Outside of a 6-game hitless stretch in early July, he’s been crushing, and he appears to be doing what is asked of him, if the organization trusts him enough to handle a promotion to the Pacific Coast League, where he will be the youngest player on the Storm Chasers’ roster, and the third youngest player in the league.

My opinion of Cuthbert, like the opinion many others have of Cuthbert, has been negatively impacted in the last couple of years, but if there’s one thing on his side, it’s his youth. At 21, he’s shown solid plate discipline in the last 2 years (walk rate over 9%), and he has enough pop to get by for now. It is possible Cuthbert continues to develop and actually turn into a valuable player on the big league roster. I’m somewhat skeptical that happens, but it’s tough to count out a player who’s earned a shot at Triple-A before his 22nd birthday.

Cuthbert appears to be the best option for the Storm Chasers’ primary third baseman, as the team has mostly used Brian Bocock, Jimmy Paredes, and Johnny Giavotella at that spot in 2014. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him continue to get work at first and second base, even if most reports suggest his defense at those positions leaves something to be desired. His new home environment is almost as hitter-friendly as his old home environment, so it is possible his offense remains at an above average level, even if he will be much younger than his competition.

This promotion does a couple of things: it rewards Cuthbert for his success, and it offers him a chance to get more work at his natural position, without taking reps away from Dozier, who obviously is featured more prominently in the team’s future plans. Also, this promotion gives me a chance to watch him play once again, which I’m definitely looking forward to. I’m not quite ready to put Cuthbert back in the team’s top prospect rankings, but a strong finish in 2014 could go a long way toward that end.

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