Over his 11-year career, Andrew McCutchen has been known around the MLB for his veteran leadership, dependability and ability to get on base.
When the Phillies signed McCutchen to a 3 year/$50 million in December 2018, it provided them with answers to four areas of need seen in the rebuilding years. It gave them a dependable everyday outfielder, veteran presence in the clubhouse, a productive everyday leadoff guy and an on-base presence. But an unfortunate injury in June put McCutchen’s valuable presence on the field to a halt.
2019 Stats: 59 G, 262 PA, 56 H, 10 HR, 29 RBI, .256/.378/.457, 115+ OPS, 1.5 fWAR
There is no question that McCutchen had a great first impression with Phillies fans. In his first at-bat in the red pinstripes, he smashed a Julio Tehran 92 MPH fastball for a 465-foot home run.
The five-time All-Star went on to provide a big key to the lineup in April and May with his ability to get onto base. Not only did this provide a speedster on the basepaths for the Phillies but it allowed hitters like Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins to flourish in their comfort zone of driving in runs. During those two months, McCutchen had his highest walk percentage since 2015 according to FanGraphs.
Unfortunately for McCutchen, his strong start took a quick turn. In the first inning during a game in San Diego in early June, the veteran outfielder suffered a non-contact injury during a rundown which ended up being a torn ACL.
Following McCutchen’s injury, the Phillies struggled to find his replacement at the leadoff spot. The team went on to finish the season with a record of 49-54. His absence from the lineup really showed in September when the Phillies were still fighting for a Wild Card spot, something that, at a minimum, the team hopes to do in 2020.
The Phillies were going to open up the 2020 season without McCutchen but due to COVID-19, the 33-year-old should be in Joe Girardi’s opening day lineup. In a phone conversation with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Corey Seidman this week, McCutchen gave an update to his status.
“Now I know, whenever the time comes and we’re playing again, I’ll be ready to go,” McCutchen said. “I’m really gonna be itching to get out on the field and play.”
As noted by Phillies Nation’s own Jonny Heller, the Phillies have not had a consistent starter in LF on Opening Day in the last seven years. McCutchen will look be the first to do it since Raul Ibanez did it from 2009-12.
When the 2020 season does start, time will tell how quickly the former 2013 National League MVP will get back to full strength but getting McCutchen back at the top of the lineup, most likely the leadoff spot, will be a huge gain for the Phillies regardless.
If McCutchen can replicate what he did last year for the Phillies, there should be no question about him being a candidate for National League Comeback Player of the Year.
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