Midseason Minor-League Promotions 2010: Hitters

A few weeks back, we examined Drew Cumberland and Blake Tekotte. Both were excelling at Lake Elsinore. Both have been promoted to Double-A San Antonio.

Cumberland hit .365/.404/.542 in 60 games for the Storm, so it’s not like California League pitchers were teaching him much. One noteworthy item, however, is that his strike-zone judgment has deteriorated somewhat this season:

Year  PA BB  K   BB%  BB/K
2009 339 40 36 11.80 1.111
2010 290 15 37  5.17  .405

This is hardly cause for alarm and may not mean anything at all, but it bears watching. Even still, Cumberland’s other numbers (you know, the ones that make him look like Tony Gwynn v. 1997) are strong enough to merit a promotion.

As for Tekotte, I said earlier that due to his age (he’s 23), “I would like to see him pushed a little, maybe spend the second half at San Antonio and then get a shot at the big-league job next year.” So far, so good. If he continues to produce for the Missions as he did at Elsinore, then the rest of that equation may come to pass as well.

Meanwhile, with Tekotte moving up to San Antonio, Missions center fielder Cedric Hunter was promoted to Portland. We missed Hunter while we were in town but I’ve seen him before at Elsinore. I’m glad that he’s rebounded this year from a miserable 2009. Some time ago, reader Chris Clancy posed the following question:

Is it time to get excited about Cedric Hunter again?

First off, thanks, Chris for asking and sorry for taking so long to respond. Second, my general feeling about Hunter is this: The gawdy numbers (.364/.458/.469) he posted in his pro debut in the Arizona League, whose conditions render statistics virtually meaningless, may have created unrealistic expectations. On the flip side, last year’s disaster (.261/.294/.331) probably didn’t provide an accurate representation of Hunter’s abilities either.

In truth, Hunter is neither as good as he showed in 2006 nor as bad as in 2009. He doesn’t possess any one overwhelming skill but he does a lot of little things well, which makes him a borderline everyday player but potentially useful as a fourth outfielder. Think Tony Gwynn Jr., which isn’t the insult I would have considered it a year ago.

Hunter is still young (9 months younger than Tekotte, in fact) and I like his chances… as a support player. If you’d asked me a couple years ago to choose between Hunter and, say, Will Venable, I would have taken Hunter. Now I think Hunter will be hard pressed to duplicate Venable’s success. That is mainly because Venable took a leap that I’m not sure Hunter can. Maybe there is some projectability left in Hunter, but for reasons I cannot articulate at the moment, I have my doubts.

Still, Hunter is having a nice bounceback year, which is exactly what he needed. He was repeating a level, but he’s kind of the anti-Cumberland in terms of change in strike-zone judgment from 2009 to 2010:

Year  PA BB  K  BB%  BB/K
2009 577 25 43 4.33  .581
2010 337 33 23 9.79 1.435

It’s rarely a good idea to fixate on one skill set, but being able to differentiate between balls and strikes is pretty important for a hitter. Furthermore, when there is improvement from one season to the next, that is worth noting, as it could represent development (or re-establishment) of a skill.

Can Hunter sustain these levels? Will his improved plate discipline help elevate the rest of his game? These questions (and more) remain open. Right now, the biggest point in his favor is the fact that he is still only 22 years old. So, Chris, to answer your question, I’m not sure “excited” is the word I would use… but it’s definitely time to start paying attention to Hunter again.

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Those are the key hitters that have received in-season promotions so far in 2010. Next time, we’ll examine the pitchers.

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