The Kansas City Royals have an interesting case on their hands. They have an infielder that they seem to have no idea what to do with and his name is not Adalberto Mondesi. I am talking about Cheslor Cuthbert.
Cheslor Cuthbert signed with the Kansas City Royals in 2009 from Corn Island, Nicaragua. He quickly found himself being a top prospect for the Royals. According to MLB.com, in 2011 Cuthbert jumped into the Top-10 of prospects to watch within the Royals organization. He would eventually reach as high as 4th on the prospect list and fall as far as 11th throughout his time in the minors.
Cuthbert finally broke through in 2015 when he was called up on July 6th. He would bounce between Omaha and the big leagues the rest of the year, appearing in just 19 games. During that time he hit just .217/.280/.370 with four of his 10 hits being extra-base hits.
Moustakas tore his ACL after colliding with Alex Gordon running for a foul ball, giving Cuthbert his chance. And he took full advantage of that opportunity.
Over the 128 games, Cuthbert hit a very nice .274/.318/.413 while logging 41 extra-base hits. Defensively he was a step backward from what Moustakas was providing them. He recorded a .948 fld% and a -0.9 dWAR, but offensively he was hitting better than Moustakas.
However, with Moustakas coming back in 2017, as well as Hosmer playing first base, Escobar playing shortstop, and Whit Merrifield playing second base, Cuthbert again found himself without a spot. In 2017, Cuthbert played just 58 games for the Royals.
The problem with Cuthbert
I am fully aware that Cuthbert sustained a left wrist injury that sidelined him. However, the Royals did not seem to eager to bring him back last year.
Cuthbert has shown that if he is given consistent playing time that he can be a productive offensive bat. His 2016 season showed this. Also, if you look back to 2014 he has hit over .270 every year when given consistent at-bats.
The only problem is that he does not have a spot to play consistently. His primary position has always been third base, which was always occupied by Moustakas. They tried to make a transition to first base, most likely in anticipation of Hosmer leaving, but now first base is completely log-jammed. When they tried him at second base, he did not look comfortable and shortstop is occupied by Escobar and hopefully Adalberto Mondesi in the future.
Arguably one of the biggest problems with Cuthbert is he does not have any more options. Therefore, if he starts on the 25-man roster, the only way he can go back to the minors is if he clears waivers. The likelihood of that happening is very low though.
What to do with Cuthbert
With the restraints the team has with Cuthbert, a very logical question is asked. What are they going to actually do with Cuthbert? To me, the Royals have two options to pick from.
- Commit to playing him consistently
- Trade him
He has shown that he does not play well when he does not have consistent at-bats. Therefore, having him come off the bench seems to be illogical.
Over his career, when he only plays in one or two consecutive games he is hitting .208 with 10 of his 25 hits being extra-base hits. When playing in three or more consecutive games he is hitting .274 with 47 of his 148 hits being extra-base hits.
When you look at that, it almost seems like the answer is pretty clear. Play him consistently and he is consistent offensively. Play him irregularly and his offensive numbers drastically change.
That would mean that they need to commit to him playing third base for the Royals. The signing of Moustakas might mean that they have doubts that he is capable of playing every day, but they won’t know unless they give him another chance.
During Spring Training, Cuthbert has been playing very well. He is hitting .407/.421/.685 with nine extra-base hits. Obviously, it is Spring Training. Pitchers are working on location, velocity, and command of certain pitches, therefore hitters to have more success during Spring Training than they normally do during the regular season. But the hitter still has to make contact and put the ball in play, which is not the easiest thing at times. Just ask Gordon (too soon?).
This one is pretty straightforward. If they won’t play him consistently, he struggles coming off the bench, and he does not have any options left, they should trade him.
The Royals are rebuilding, albeit in a “we want to be competitive while rebuilding” way. If they won’t commit to Cuthbert then keeping him only seems to hold a roster spot that could be used elsewhere.
It is hard to say they are committed to Cuthbert in any way because of the Moustakas this year. If the Royals were sure that Cuthbert was capable of taking the reigns at third base, signing Moustakas only prolongs his ability to take over. Which makes me think they may not see him as a part of their future rebuild.
He could be the teams designated hitter, which could provide him with the consistent playing time. However, before Jorge Bonifacio was suspended for 80 games the DH spot seemed to belong to Jorge Soler. Meaning, again, they were not committed to Cuthbert playing consistently.
Although Cuthbert might not bring in a high-level prospect, he could bring in a middle tier or project type prospect. With his ability to play first base, third base, and be a designated hitter his value is there. However, with the market being skewed this year it is hard to know what his value actually is.
I personally like Cuthbert. I think his 2016 numbers and production could be the real deal. He can be an every day third baseman for the Royals, and be a consistent offensive presence for the Royals during the rebuild.
His contract is something to like. He is in his last year of team control, meaning he enters arbitration next year, and will not be a free agent until 2022. That gives the Royals an option of having a third baseman that would be inexpensive for the next four years. Can’t beat that.
But if they do not see that as a possibility for Cuthbert, the time has come for them to trade him and get a piece that can help with the new rebuild.
What do you think Royals fans? What is your opinion on the interesting case we have with Cheslor Cuthbert? Do you think he is a part of the future? Should they trade him? Let us know below!