Cheslor Cuthbert is only 23-years old but he’s already fighting for his Major League career
As the Kansas City Royals enter Spring Training, Kings of Kauffman will release a series of articles on the 25-man roster. We will be going through each individual player, including the locks, bubble players, and a few prospects. We will progress through the roster from the top down, continuing with the projected bench players.
So far, we have looked at Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Ian Kennedy, Chris Young, Danny Duffy, Kris Medlen, Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, Wade Davis, Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante, Christian Colon, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Paulo Orlando, Reymond Fuentes, Drew Butera, and Tony Cruz
Today, we will be looking at Cheslor Cuthbert
"2015 stats – .217/.280/.370, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 18 GP, 76 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR2016 Steamer – .250/.300/.375, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 21 GP, 83 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR"
Projected Role – Backup Infielder/Triple-A Starter
It’s hard to believe that Cheslor Cuthbert is only 23-years old.
He’s been on the minds of Royals fans since he posted a 114 wRC+ at Single-A ball as a 19-year old.
However, his position in Royals fans minds has varied since then, showing signs of his legitimate talent, while also mixing in doubts.
2015 marked his first big league action, debuting in early July, and getting hot quickly, hitting .315 with a homer over his first five games.
After that point, Cuthbert logged just four hits in 31 plate appearances, going hitless in his last 12 at-bats.
This cycle was just a small representation of Cuthbert’s time as a Royal.
In his 104 games at the Triple-A level, however, we saw a hint of something to be excited about.
Cuthbert posted a moderate slash of .277/.339/.421, hitting a career high 11 homers with a career high .144 ISO. We also saw his continued ability to draw walks at a reasonable rate, walking in 8% of his plate appearances.
At this point, it’s just about figuring out who Cuthbert is going to be at the major league level, and if he will be able to find any consistency.
Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs had this to say about Cuthbert and his future.
"“Cheslor Cuthbert’s potential has been exciting Royals’ fans off and on for years. His basic tools have always impressed: good bat speed and power, and the arm and instincts that might allow him to play third,” Klaassen said. “On the other hand, he’s a bit bulky, so there are still nagging questions about his ability to play the hot corner full-time, and though he has often been young for his level, he has also taken a while to adjust, and the raw power has never quite translated. At some point the tools need to translate into something more than “pretty good for his age at that level after he adjusts.”"
We saw the bat speed and power in 2015, with his career high 11 home runs and .152 ISO at the major league level. However, we also saw him have a tough time adjusting going forward, failing to reach baser in 11 of his last 14 games.
As Klaassen pointed out, Moustakas’ “career-saving” 2015 hindered Cuthbert’s ability to get legitimate playing time.
Klaassen notes that before the 2015 season, Cuthbert was being considered as a platoon option for Moustakas, should he continue to struggle.
He obviously did not, jumping out of the gate on fire, which is partially why we didn’t see Cuthbert until July.
For 2016, his playing time doesn’t look to get much better.
Ned Yost has usually elected to keep one more pitcher than necessary and when figuring in a backup catcher and a likely platooning outfield, there may only be one utility infield spot available.
If that were the case, the Royals would be hard pressed not to go with Christian Colon, who can play all three positions to the left of first base, having Kendrys Morales backup Eric Hosmer at first base.
Cuthbert’s best chance at earning a roster spot would be for the someone from the right field circus to win the job, outright, rather than platooning.
However, that circumstance is unlikely and leaves Cuthbert blocked at the major league level.
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The reason I decided to put Cuthbert in the 25-man conversation, rather than the prospect conversation, is because I do think he can contribute. His bat is already more advanced than Colon’s and his power potential is something that the Royals don’t have a ton of.
Going forward, however, it would not be devastating if Cuthbert didn’t win a job in 2016. After all, he is only 23.
I would lump him in with Jorge Bonifacio as the group of guys who have seemingly been with the Royals forever, but aren’t older than 23.
Both guys youth will enable them to have a longer window for major league contribution, whether it be in 2016 or going forward.
For Cuthbert specifically, it is likely that he will get most of his at-bats in 2015. Him being able to show some real, in-game power would go a long way to getting him a spot.
As Klaasen mention and Dan Farnsworth in this piece, Cuthbert has All-Star tools and ability. We just haven’t seen it translate onto the field.
And similar to Raul Mondesi, there is a much bigger fuss given to this than there should be, given their youth.
The difference being that Mondesi is just 20 and playing at much higher levels than is typical for his age. Cuthbert is still just 23, but he has played at or around his age level for much of his career and still hasn’t produced on-field results.
It is certainly not the time to panic over Cuthbert, but it may be time for us to begin viewing Cuthbert as a utility player, rather than a future starter.
However, the Royals lack of depth in regards to infield prospects might just force him into a future starting role.