Prep Baseball Report

Behind The Scout Card: Andrew McCutchen

By Rob Sidwell
Florida Scouting Director

As the MLB playoffs approach, I can’t help but reminisce about current players I watched so closely as an amateurs playing in Florida. I guess the first one that jumps out at me has to be Andrew McCutchen. Before he was known as “Cutch” or before he became the 2013 National League MVP for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was just Andrew—an extremely talented high school player from Fort Meade HS, who went 11th overall in the 2005 draft. I was scouting for the Pirates that year and had the distinct pleasure of drafting and signing McCutchen.

The 2005 first round draft may arguably still be one of the best in recent history. Guys like Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman and Troy Tulowitzki went ahead of McCutchen and others like Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury, Colby Rasmus and Clay Buchholz went behind him. Many others in that draft also have played some role in the big leagues.

I first ran into McCutchen during his sophomore year. He was a skinny little kid that was very athletic and certainly someone that I needed to keep an eye on, but it wasn’t until I saw him at the Tournament of Stars in Joplin, MO, the summer before his senior year, that I realized he had a chance to be special. The hype during that tournament was all about Justin Upton, Melvin’s little brother. Was he going to be as high a pick as him? Was he the best player here? The more I watched, the stronger my opinion became about McCutchen. Again, he was still a skinny little kid, but displayed five plus tools. Much like Justin Upton did. I remember McCutchen running a 6.4-second 60 and Upton a 6.38. McCutchen hit against some of the top arms in the country that year with no problem. I walked away thinking there isn’t anything he can’t do. I didn’t use the term “special” very often, but I remember later that year sitting down with McCutchen and his family in his home and telling them that Pittsburgh hasn’t had a player since Barry Bonds that was “special.” That may have been a bold statement at the time, but I really believed it. I mentioned his tools, but the most impressive tool to me was his power. He could generate some serious bat speed. The quickest bat I think I’ve ever scouted. Especially for his size.

Scouting McCutchen his senior year wasn’t exactly as easy as I thought it would be. I knew what I had seen and thought everybody else would see it that way as well. My overall grade for him was a 70 OFP, which is the second highest grade I have ever given a player. That means I thought he would be an all-star, potential Hall of Fame type player. As a scout, I generally would give a player an inch or two, or a few pounds, in his profile if I liked him and thought it would help my case for getting him. However, when we sent the farm director in to see one of his games, he noticed I had him listed at 6 feet, 170 pounds and his first reaction was no (expletive) way! As the rest of the Pittsburgh brass traveled to tiny Fort Meade, FL, to see this kid that I put a 70 OFP on, they all came away impressed, except the boss. The General Manager. He had to put his stamp of approval on our potential first pick and the only time I saw McCutchen strike out that year was when the boss came in town to see him. To his credit, the GM did come back and see him again—unusual for a guy in that position. However, he had his concerns about McCutchen. The fact that he came from a small town in the middle of citrus groves in Florida. The fact that he played against sub-par competition. There were middle school players on his team and teams he faced.

So we set up a workout one Sunday in Pirate City, about an hour from Fort Meade. We had him workout with Rajai Davis, who at that time was our Double-A center fielder, and the next guy in line to take over center field for the Buccos. We had the GM, farm director, scouting director, minor league hitting coordinator, and about five upper-level scouts standing around the turtle, bearing down on the little skinny kid from Fort Meade. I was throwing BP to the both of them and I was nervous for the kid. A pretty intimidating environment for a high school kid.

I will never forget that workout. It was the most impressive workout I had ever seen. I was throwing pretty firm BP and working in and out, up and down in the zone and McCutchen was smoking everything, everywhere on the field. I was trying to find a hole or a weakness, but I couldn’t. However when the Double-A center fielder stepped in, I could. No disrespect to Davis, who is a very good major league player, but it wasn’t even close! I remember being so impressed with not only the workout, but how composed this kid was. He handled it like the veteran that he is now. After the workout we took him in the clubhouse to get an actual measurement on him. 5-foot-9 1/2, 159 pounds.

As a kid, McCutchen was a little reserved and humble, but confident. His faith was also very important to him. He came from a great family. His father was a youth minister and I remember visiting his home and walking right in the middle of a bible study that his mother was leading. They kept him grounded. I was really impressed by that. I believe that’s where his makeup comes from. As a scout you see a lot of talented players, but it’s the makeup that sustains them or gives them longevity. I wish him and the Buccos well as they pursue their quest for a World Series Championship!

Editor's Note: Rob Sidwell's professional baseball roots run deep throughout Florida. He has served as the Florida Scouting Supervisor for four major-league teams spanning the last 18 years. Most recently, Sidwell was the Florida Scouting Supervisor for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2010-2014. Prior to that, Sidwell served in the same capacity for the San Diego Padres (2007-2010), New York Mets (2005-2007) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1996-2005). Sidwell signed many players that went on to play in the major leagues; the most notable being Andrew McCutchen, the 2013 NL Most Valuable Player. In addition to Sidwell’s extensive professional scouting background, he has also coached collegiately throughout Florida. He coached at Central Florida from 1992-1996, Florida International from 1990-1992, and Flagler (1987). Sidwell has also coached in the Cape Cod League and at West Orange High School.

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