Yesterday we looked at Philadelphia Phillies rookie outfielder Tyler Goeddel. This afternoon we take a look at another rookie outfielder on the Philadelphia roster: Cedric Hunter. His background is quite different than Goeddel's.
Hunter was a third round pick by the San Diego Padres way back in 2006, out of high school in Lithonia, Georgia. He was highly respected for his pure hitting skills and strong reports on makeup, but scout weren't sure how much home run power he would show, concerned that he might end up as a tweener, lacking the power for a corner but not running quite well enough for center field. His career started off very well with a .371/.467/.484 line in rookie ball and he quickly established himself as one of San Diego's better prospects.
Hunter hit fairly well in the Midwest League in 2007 (.282/.344/.373) then took a step forward in the friendly confines of the California League in 2008 (.318/.362/.442). The high minors were more difficult however, and while he wasn't bad by any means, the worries about tweenerdom came true. Mediocre Triple-A seasons in 2010 (.263/.305/.370) and 2011 (.255/.322/.358) took the bloom off the rose. He went 1-for-4 in a quick cup-of-coffee with the Padres in 2011, then eventually left the system on waivers to the Athletics.
The last few years Hunter has wandered Double-A and Triple-A, playing in the Cardinals, Indians, and Braves systems. His power production picked up in 2013 (.568 SLG in Double-A) and his 2014 and 2015 seasons were solid (.295/.386/.495, .283/.331/.420) but not spectacular.
Still, entering 2016 he was no longer viewed as a prospect, being a journeyman bat useful for filling a Triple-A roster spot. That's what the Phillies sign him for. He did enough to get noticed in spring training however (.262/.286/.508 with three homers), pushing his way onto the roster. He is 1-for-8 in his first three games, but that hit was his first major league home run.
Hunter is a left-handed hitter and thrower, age 28, listed at 5-11, 200. Having seen much of him over the years in Triple-A, he stands out for a professional approach, the ability to make contact, and a good eye at the plate. He used to be primarily a spray hitter back in A-ball but the last few years he's been pulling the ball for more power. He used to be a center fielder but with age he's lost speed and fits best in left now.
Projection systems parse him out as a .250ish hitter with an OBP around .300 and a SLG about .410. That seems about right in the big picture, however Hunter at age 28 is at the classic time for a peak season. A campaign at the upper edge of his talent band (say .260/.320/.420) is plausible and would make him a viable option as a role player, as long as it lasts.
Long-term, Hunter is basically a Quadruple-A player but it is always fun to see guys who never give up get a chance in the Show. You have to root for him.