Where to Draft Andrew McCutchen

After perennial Hall of Fame seasons, the 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen had a 2015 that was regrettable, one of the worst seasons of his career. Then in 2016, he declined again, this time sharper and again a terrible terrible season. So now here we are in 2017, about to do drafts and form our championship winning fantasy teams, and so now you wonder, where should I draft McCutchen? Well let’s find out.

According to Brad Johnson at FanGraphs, against 149 traditional shifts, McCutchen was only 74% as good as league average, using runs created as the baseline. Defenses hadn’t used the shift against him more than 74 times in a season before 2016.

McCutchen’s .297 BABIP in 2016 reflected his issues hitting into the shift, compare that to his BABIP in 2015 which was .339 and his lifetime BABIP which is .331. McCutchen is a fantastic batter, who should be playing a corner outfield position, as he’s been able to make adjustments throughout his career. The question for 2017 is whether or not he can make adjustments and make himself a top tier outfielder again this year.

If we dig deeper, there are a few alarming stats that raise serious red flags with McCutchen’s 2016 campaign. Only pulling a few stats and I’m able to find evidence that Cutch has clearly lost something, that Soft% being a major contributor to the .259 average.

Season IFFB% Soft% GB/FB HR/FB Z-Contact%
2014 8.8% 11.8% .96 13.7% 85.1%
2015 5.9% 13.1% 1 13.6% 83.2%
2016 12.6% 19.7% .86 12.6% 83.8%
Lifetime 8.5% 14.3% 1.04 12.7% 86.3%

Why pick these stats? They are related, in that if a player cannot hit the ball hard, he’s going to have infield fly balls, and if that same player, does drive the ball, it certainly won’t be a home run. Not in McCutchen’s case. He’s consistently been able to deep, despite the rest of his game seemingly disappearing. He’s making less contact inside the zone, steals are down, defense is down, but he still has the big fly.

Which brings me to the fantasy take. His ADP is around 60, which is certainly too high in my opinion. ZiPS projections have him hitting .278, with an .ISO of .200, hitting 24 home runs again, that’d be a fantastic season, and I feel like it is estimating on the high side.

Take a guy like Adam Duvall, ADP 146 (extreme value alert!), last year he had better stats than McCutchen, across all major categories, except strikeouts & average. If you are penalized in your league against strikeouts, Duvall can torpedo you. However, with McCutchen’s strikeouts rising, and average dropping recently, it makes him even less valuable.

With McCutchen, you should wait a couple of rounds and get him in the early 7th, you’ll be able to mitigate some of your risk. You definitely don’t want to draft him as your #1 outfielder anymore. He brings similar stats as a guy like Duvall, but what McCutchen does bring is potential. After all, he is only a few years removed from being the best player in baseball, and he’s only 30.