McCutchen on track for stardom


ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law believes Pirates outfield prospect Andrew McCutchen is going to be a star.

Law, who once worked in the Toronto Blue Jays’ front office, recently returned from scouting the Arizona Fall League. He gushed about McCutchen, who batted .273 with two steals in 11 games for the Phoenix Desert Dogs.

“That kid has lightning in his wrists,” Law said. “In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen fewer than five guys who’ve had that kind of quickness and strength in his wrists. He wasn’t the best prospect I saw, but he was the most exciting. “

Law worries, however, about the Pirates rushing McCutchen — who only two weeks ago turned 21 — toward the majors. McCutchen was so impressive during spring training that former GM Dave Littlefield and his lieutenants strongly considered promoting McCutchen to the Pirates by mid-season. Instead, he spent the bulk of the year at Class AA Altoona — where he got off to a very slow start — and was bumped up to Class AAA Indianapolis in late September.

“I hope they’ll give him at least half (of 2008) in Triple-A with a good hitting (coach), and tell him, ‘If you do this and this and this, we’ll bring you to the big leagues on Sept. 1,’ ” Law said. “Put that carrot in front of him, make it clear what he needs to do, and give him plenty of time to make adjustments in Triple-A.”

The biggest adjustment McCutchen needs to make, Law said, is using his body more when he swings. It’s something McCutchen either has not grasped or simply has not been taught so far in the minors.

Law said McCutchen has the same sweet stroke and power potential as Arizona Diamondbacks top rookie Justin Upton.

“If they can teach (McCutchen) to gather his weight back and then stride into the ball, he should be a 30-home run guy, easily,” Law said. “If you watch their swings side by side, Upton gets his body involved a lot more. McCutchen just doesn’t have that and he’s probably never been taught it.

“McCutchen is ‘Justin Upton Light,’ ” Law said, with a laugh. “But that’s still the best player on the Pirates by a pretty fair margin.”