After a five-year absence, Andrew McCutchen came back.
The reasonable among us would have cautioned you to temper your expectations, posting a near-replacement-level season with the Brewers last year. Avoiding a season significantly below replacement due in large part to, and get this, a great June. Hitting just .219 in all other months combined.
It marked the low point of a several-season-long slide for Cutch, who hadn’t posted a WRC+ above 110 since 2019. Signing in the offseason with the Pirates, it wasn’t even clear how much playing time he would get. It wasn’t exactly the best fit roster wise, even if it wasn’t questioned what it would mean to both the fanbase and the clubhouse.
The reasonable assumption would be he would settle into a productive but limited role, occasionally playing the outfield and getting work at designated hitter.
Well, those reasonable people were wrong. While a lingering elbow issue has largely prevented him from playing the field, he’s playing every day at DH and Andrew has slid back into prominent role on the Pirates like he never left.
Reaching base all five times on June 24th with two doubles and going 2 for 4 on the 25th. It elevated his season line to .271/.394/.431 good for a 128 WRC+ tied for 32nd in all of MLB. His walk rate of 17 percent isn’t just a career high, He had the third-highest in the sport entering Sunday. It’s led him to the ninth-best OBP in baseball, above the likes of Yordan Alverez, Paul Goldschmidt and Shohei Ohtani, posting a ridiculous 27 percent rate in June.
At 36 and now four years removed from the ACL tear that ended his season early in 2019, his legs haven’t quite left him either, with a 28.4 ft/s average sprint speed that ranks higher than both Ronald Acuna Jr. and Cedric Mullins to go along with nine steals.
It’s been his most productive season since his last with the Pirates in 2017, and by many metrics his best since the year he received his last Silver Slugger, his last MVP votes, and his last All-Star selection in 2015.
At 36, nobody will argue that McCutchen is near the player he was in his prime. But he certainly has a case to represent the Pirates at the All-Star game in Seattle.
No Pirate made it to phase two of the voting, but the pitchers and reserves are decided on by the office of the commissioner and announced July 2. Every team gets at least one representative. His obvious competition is that of closer David Bednar and starting pitcher Mitch Keller.
They tend to choose younger players who maybe don’t have an All-Star selection, so it’s unlikely that he will be chosen, especially over David Bednar who is in the midst of an elite season. But it certainly wouldn’t be undeserved for the Pirates’ best hitter in 2023.