07/13/08 5:27 PM ET
McCutchen 'announcing' his future
Can't miss prospect eyes roster spot, despite PA mixup
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
In his first-inning at-bat, McCutchen was announced as outfielder Greg Golson (Phillies). Both were wearing No. 2, so the mistake could be partially excusable.
Then in the third, Dexter Fowler's name was mistakenly called. Though the fact that Fowler (Rockies) donned No. 24 erased the previous excuse.
"You're coming up there with a plan, and waiting for your name to get announced, and they say somebody else's name," McCutchen said, laughing. "You just want to look up there and say, 'Man, come on.'"
McCutchen was relieved to at least learn that he was correctly identified on TV.
Though the casual baseball fans taking in the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium may not have known who was at the plate, it's otherwise impossible for McCutchen to get lost, even considering the various future stars that joined him on the field.
It won't be long before the 21-year-old McCutchen roams PNC Park's center field. His arrival is not a question of if, but one of when. And that when is quickly approaching.
Seen as the cornerstone of an organization that needs a defining one, McCutchen is no stranger to being in the limelight. It started in high school, when he was a three-sport star at Fort Meade (Fla.) High School. He was so much a standout that his tenure on the varsity baseball team lasted five seasons -- eighth through 12th grade, in fact.
The spotlight trailed him as he began the climb up the Pirates farm system as the nation's 11th overall pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, and he unquestionably remains the top organizational prospect.
On Sunday, baseball enthusiasts who haven't closely followed McCutchen's development through the Pirates' system got a taste of why.
McCutchen served as the starting left fielder for the U.S. Team. He popped out to first in his first at-bat of the afternoon, before flying out to left in his third-inning plate appearance.
He left, however, with quite the could-have-been story. Before flying out in the third, McCutchen crushed a ball into the second deck of Yankee Stadium. It hooked just to the left of the foul pole.
"It was a home run in my book," McCutchen said. "I thought I got it."
The defensively-sound outfielder also made a nice running catch in the outfield.
While McCutchen went hitless on the New York stage, his numbers for Triple-A Indianapolis this season continue to mirror the consistency that has been his trademark. It'd be hard to find the learning curve in McCutchen's midseason numbers -- a .282 batting average, 24 stolen bases, 27 extra-base hits -- despite the fact that this is his first full season at the Triple-A level.
He set his career-high on-base streak (27 games) and hitting streak (13 games) earlier this season as well.
McCutchen is a member of a 2005 Draft class that has seemingly numerous stars in the making. Players like Justin Upton, Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman and Troy Tulowitzki (all of whom were drafted ahead of McCutchen) have already made their Major League stamp. McCutchen isn't far behind.
"It's exciting to be part of that Draft class because so many of them are doing exceptionally well," said McCutchen, one of seven first-round Draft picks taking part in Sunday's game. "I don't look at myself like I should be there right now. Instead, I look at where I am, and take it day-by-day on the Triple-A level."
And the patience looks like it will pay off in more ways than just in his development. Because McCutchen still hasn't dented a big league roster, he may well be able to get one other passport stamp on his journey to Pittsburgh, with an Olympic Team invite being a genuine possibility.
The members of the 24-player squad will be announced on Wednesday, the same day that McCutchen will be in Louisville, Ky., to play in the Triple-A All-Star Game. A committee used Sunday's game as a tryout of sorts before making decisions in regard to the final roster.
"It would be awesome to put that USA across your chest and represent your country," said McCutchen, who has already participated in a Junior Olympics. "To be able to bring back the gold medal for your country, that would be a great feeling."
He is also the only International League player that earned an invitation to play in both the Futures and Triple-A All-Star Games this week. Infielder Jamie D'Antona (D-backs) is the lone Triple-A Pacific Coast League player to earn the same distinction.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," McCutchen said when asked about the busy travel schedule.
This potential worldwide tour will be just the prelude for his arrival in Pittsburgh. The call could feasibly come in September. And if not then, there's little doubt that McCutchen will arrive in Spring Training poised to earn a roster spot.
The future is so well paved for McCutchen that in a season where the Pirates' outfielders are among the most productive trio in the Majors, the Pirates aren't hesitant to part with one -- or even possibly two -- of those outfielders to make room for the young five-tool center fielder.
While McCutchen continues to earn all these honors and invites, the Pirates are entertaining offers for right fielder Xavier Nady. And it's no secret that Jason Bay, too, is viewed as potentially expendable. From there, center fielder Nate McLouth will shift to his left or right, and McCutchen will take his place in center.
And when he does so, he can expect to hear his name correctly called.
"If I continue to do well and do what I am supposed to -- practicing and playing hard -- I will get my chance," he said. "Hopefully, that chance comes soon, but I can't worry about it. I just need to focus on where I am now."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.