Andrew McCutchen led off the 2019 season in about as perfect of a fashion as possible, launching a 428-foot home run in his first at-bat as a Phillie. Will he top that in his first at-bat of 2020? Probably not, but as of now, McCutchen expects his first at-bat of his second season with the team to come on Opening Day.
Phillies position players aren’t due to report to Clearwater for Spring Training until Feb. 16, but McCutchen is already in town and attempting to be ready to play for the Phillies on March 26, when they open the season in Miami.
“That’s the plan,” McCutchen told Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I can’t tell you 100 percent I’ll be ready. I don’t know. If I had a silver ball, whatever they call it, I’d be able to say. I’m just going to keep working to be ready for Opening Day.”
If he is indeed ready to return from the ACL injury that ended his 2019 season last June, Phillies Nation has projected that he’ll lead off. He’ll hit in a lineup that will also include Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and Didi Gregorius. The Phillies will need to be one of the game’s better offenses if they hope to snap an eight-year postseason drought.
While true that McCutchen isn’t the same player that won the National League MVP in 2013, looking at him that way does a disservice to how effective he can still be. In 59 games in 2019, McCutchen slashed .256/.378/.457 with 10 home runs, 29 RBIs, 43 walks and a 1.5 fWAR. He was putting up the type of production that would have made him worthy of a look for the National League All-Star team, had he not torn his ACL. He also brought an edge to the team, one reminiscent of Aaron Rowand or Jayson Werth.
Keeping McCutchen’s bat in the lineup is one reason that it’s important for the team to put as little stress as possible on him defensively. Even with questions about Adam Haseley‘s ability to be an everyday center fielder for a contending team, don’t expect McCutchen to be in center field in 2020. Not only is he a 33-year-old coming off a torn ACL, but he has -45 defensive runs saved in center field since the start of the 2016 season. At this stage of his career, McCutchen is a corner outfielder.
In January, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak suggested that he believed the team could win the National League East in 2020. One of the reasons he cited for this belief is that quite a bit went wrong in 2019, and the team still won 81 games. To win the division in 2020, the Phillies will likely need at least 90 wins. And they’ll need McCutchen – who would fall under the “things that went wrong in 2019” umbrella – to stay healthy and be productive.
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