With third baseman Mike Moustakas on the disabled list with a fractured thumb, the Kansas City Royals promoted rookie third base prospect Cheslor Cuthbert to the big league roster yesterday. Cuthbert has been in the prospect spotlight for some time but did not have a clear path to playing time in Kansas City. Now he has a chance to show what he can do.
First, how things looked pre-season in the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book.
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B-1B, Kansas City Royals
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-1 WT: 200 DOB: November 16, 1992
2011: Grade C+; 2012: Grade B+; 2013: Grade B-; 2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade C+
Cheslor Cuthbert’s 2015 season was similar to his 2014 season. He continues to show sparks of power and non-horrible strike zone judgment, but his general level of production (wRC+ 103 for Omaha) is inadequate for a corner player who doesn’t steal bases or provide excellent defense. One positive note: his body looked thick in the lower half in 2014 and his glovework suffered, but last year he appeared more mobile and more sure-handed, making him more effective at third base. More effective, but not excellent. Unfortunately he still doesn’t run well enough to play the outfield or middle infield spots on a regular basis, and right now the bat isn’t good enough profile at third without an exceptional glove. He’s 23 now; the clock continues to tick. Grade C+.
Cuthbert was hitting the snot out of the ball with Omaha before the promotion, hitting .333/.402/.624 with seven homers, 11 walks, and 14 strikeouts in 93 at-bats. He was having some issues with the glove, making seven errors already for an unsightly .888 fielding percentage, however the sample was small, his range at third base was acceptable, and he's maintained the improved mobility he showed last year, keeping himself in good shape. The glove should be playable if he hits.
Cuthbert has been playing full season ball since 2011 but he is still just 23 years old. When he's right, he shows a good feel for the strike zone and makes hard contact readily. Most of his home runs are hit to left field but he isn't a strict pull hitter and can pepper singles and doubles to all fields.
His bat speed seems oddly inconsistent to me. When he's right, the bat is very quick indeed and he hits for both average and power, but when he's in a slump his swing gets out of sync and he loses some bat speed, resulting in grounders or medium depth fly ball outs rather than line drives to the gaps and sharply hit home runs. Overall the highs and the lows balanced out to slightly above-average production the last few years, but when he's going well you can see that he has it in him to be more than just a decent hitter.
Cuthbert was on a tear in Triple-A so this was a great time to promote him. Can he maintain it in the majors? There's been some prospect fatigue in his case but he is still young enough to have a substantial career.