Jarek Cunningham Scouting Report (2010)
A fast riser entering the 2009 season, a nasty knee injury ended Jarek Cunningham’s coming out party before it started. The 2010 season has been a mixed bag with solid power numbers combined with a poor K/BB ratio which has raised red flags. At twenty, Cunningham is achieving moderate success at an age appropriate level, but is he a true prospect? In a system short on premium talent, Cunningham’s sweet swing should place him amongst Pittsburgh’s more projectable prospects.
Physical Projection: At a lean 6’1″, 195 lbs., Cunningham has an excellent baseball build with lean muscle and the room to add an additional 15-20 pounds of muscle. He projects for plus power from second base if he can stick, but it is doubtful he will remain at the position long term. As an athlete, his movements were a tad stiff, but it may have been due to early season rust.
Offense: One of the prettiest swings I’ve seen this season, Cunningham has a fluid swing path and quick wrists which should allow him to hit for average and gap power. However, his hands have a tendency to come away from his body making it difficult to stay inside the baseball. He will also pull his head off of the point of contact which has led to more than his share of strikeouts. When Cunningham keeps his eyes on contact, he displays good balance and the ability to stay back and lace line drives.
Cunningham attacked fastballs early in the count and currently has a low walk rate because of it. This is due to his struggling mightily with breaking balls which he repeatedly swung over. He’s a dead fastball hitter at this point, but I have to think a missed year of development factored heavily into the equation. He’s still age appropriate for the league so Cunningham has time to figure it out. At higher levels, opponents will exploit this weakness.
Defense: Quite simply, Jarek Cunningham is not a second baseman. On ground balls, he stayed tall and had a tendency to field balls too close to his body. On multiple occasions, he came up out of proper fielding position only to have balls eat him up on the infield. He was able to move laterally some, but getting into position was a struggle. His arm was average, and his glove may play better over at third base. In a related piece, I included Cunningham on my mid season all-scouting team in left field.
Speed: An average runner, he won’t be mistaken for a burner anytime soon. He has the ability to steal the occasional base, but it’s simply not part of his game.
Even with a so-so year at the plate, I remain bullish on Cunningham’s upside. 2011 will be a big year for him as rust will no longer be a mitigating factor. Should he make adjustments to his approach and clean up a few small mechanical issues, Cunningham could really take off as a prospect and earn back much of the helium he had before the 2009 season. Of course he still has to find a defensive home, but if the bat is there, the rest will fall into place even if the road is bumpy along the way. Just ask Neil Walker.
20 Jan 2014 / Mike Newman /
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