Andrew McCutchen Rankings Debate: Comparing RotoBaller's Rankers

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It's the fantasy baseball draft season. To us baseball nerds, few things are more exciting than arguing about player rankings. Today, we'll discuss and compare Andrew McCutchen's RotoBaller staff rankings. He was ranked No. 50 overall by Harris Yudin, and No. 114 by Jeff Kahntroff.

Throughout this series, we'll be using our February Staff Rankings to debate where to draft certain players. In cases where our writers had discrepancies, we've asked them to explain their rankings. These debates will provide us with some well-rounded analysis, and help identify undervalued/overvalued draft picks.

Editor's note: Check out our previous rankings debates on Jose RamirezTrea TurnerJ.D MartinezNelson Cruz, Jose AbreuBryce HarperCarlos Martinez, Kyle SchwarberJonathan Villar, and Kenta Maeda.

 

2017 Draft Rankings Debate: Andrew McCutchen

Harris Yudin's Rankings Analysis

His Overall Ranking: 50

McCutchen is only entering his age-30 season, and his durability has never been questioned— he has played at least 146 games in seven straight years. Especially moving to a less physically-demanding position in right field, that durability should continue to hold up going forward.

Cutch isn’t the 20-base stealer he once was, but he still managed six steals in 13 tries last year. That’s an unusually low success rate, and if he were to get on base more in 2017, those attempts should become more frequent. His K rate, ISO and OPS have been trending in the wrong direction over the last few years, but even with declining numbers, he still hit 23 homers with a .401 OBP in 2015. In fact, he has hit 20 or more homers in six consecutive seasons, and his OBP has sat north of .400 in four of his last five. That changed in ’16, but even though his peripherals don’t exactly tell the story of a guy whose season was a fluke, a return to form is not out of the question. I’m not usually one to defend a player because of his past, but this isn’t David Wright or Ryan Zimmerman we’re talking about— McCutchen is still young and has maintained impeccable health.

No one is expecting McCutchen to revert back to his numbers from 2013 — when he crushed 21 long balls and posted a .317/.404/.508 slash line en route to winning the NL MVP Award — but it’s far from unfathomable for a perennial MVP candidate who should still be in his prime to bounce back from a down season. Something in the 25-85-80-10-.280 range is a reasonable expectation— only Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Charlie Blackmon and Ian Kinsler hit all of those benchmarks last season. The only major difference between my projection and Jeff’s is the batting average— numbers back up the rest.

If I have to choose between a 30-year-old Andrew McCutchen bringing his average back up to his career mark or a 32-year-old Matt Kemp replicating his 35-HR display — which he hadn’t done since 2011 — I’m putting my money on McCutchen. Taking a chance on the five-time all-star and hoping that 2016 was an outlier, average-wise, could pay dividends.

 

Jeff Kahntroff's Rankings Analysis

His Overall Ranking: 114

Last year, Andrew McCutchen put up a relatively ugly .256/24/81/79/6 line. His batting average and stolen bases have both declined each year since 2012. He has only hit more than 25 homers once (2012). He has never knocked in more than 100 runs and has only scored over 100 runs once (2012). At age 30, what exactly are we expecting to change? The team that knows him best spent the entire offseason exploring multiple trade scenarios for him, and he is rumored still to be on the block; if they believed in a rebound, would they not wait for him to up his value before trading him? Let’s take a quick look at his stats since 2012:

 

AVG

HR

R

RBI

SB

2012

.327

31

107

96

20

2013

.317

21

97

84

27

2014

.314

25

89

83

18

2015

.292

23

91

96

11

2016

.256

24

81

79

6

 

Just looking at the trends on this table, one would likely not expect better than a .260/24/85/80/5 year. I ranked him near Adam Jones (.265/29/86/83/2), Matt Kemp (.268/35/89/108/1) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (.267/26/94/87/9), players whose 2016 performance far exceeded that projected line. Harris has him ranked about fifty spots ahead of those players, and instead near players who either significantly outperformed him in 2016 at a younger age, or who matched his performance despite not playing full seasons: Carlos Gonzalez (.298/25/87/100/2), Justin Upton (.246/31/81/87/9), Christian Yelich (.298/21/78/98/9 at 24 years old), J.D. Martinez (.307/22/69/68/1 in 120 games), and Yoenis Cespedes (.280/31/72/86/3 in 132 games).

Unless there is a magical reason to expect McCutchen to bounce back in 2017, he is being rated too highly and should be drafted near the former players, rather than the latter ones. With the stolen bases no longer a part of his game, the lack of significant power, and the declining average, it is hard to envision a high upside to justify this ranking. Chase the expected performance, not the name, and select a player who may be less of a name brand but whose performance and trends are worthy of this draft slot.