Name: Drew Cumberland
DOB: January 13, 1989
Keeping him healthy has, however, been the problem.
Selected in the supplemental first-round in 2007, Cumberland has played in just 81 games with 319 at-bats since being drafted.
His career began with injury, as he broke a bone in his hand catching a fly ball before his season ever really began. He missed three weeks before seeing a regular spot in the lineup at the end of July.
Across 21 games with the Arizona Rookie League Padres, Cumberland hit .318 with three extra base hits and 16 runs scored. He drew seven walks to nine strikeouts and stole six bags in seven attempts. Cumberland moved up to short-season Eugene where he went 6-for-18 across four games.
In full season ball for 2008 with the Fort Wayne Wizards, the shortstop struggled through the first month and half of competition before pouring it on. With a .219 average on May 20, it seemed a long year awaited. Instead, Cumberland registered a multi-hit game in nine of his next 16 – hitting .450 over that span – to raise his average to .286.
He was hit in the ribs with a pitch and several days later tried to swing at an outside pitch when he felt his ribs flare with pain. On his way to recovery, Cumberland suffered another freak injury when he dislocated a finger. June 25 turned out as his last day playing in competitive action for the year.
"I'll tell you what, that hurt us when he – the time he missed with us," Fort Wayne hitting coach Tom Tornicasa said. "That was a big difference for us. Because he was a sparkplug, and I think when he got hurt, he was hitting .285 or something in that area."
The 46th overall selection ended the year with 10 extra base hits across 53 games, drawing 17 walks compared to 24 strikeouts for a .348 on-base percentage. The speedster also swiped 16 bases in 20 attempts.
A left-handed hitter, Cumberland batted .318 off righties and .200 off southpaws.
Cumberland posted a .425 on-base percentage when he led off an inning but hit second for most of the season, using his bat control to make things happen. Because of his batting eye and bat control, Cumberland is an expert at laying down a bunt or executing a hit-and-run.
"First of all, he's definitely a baseball player, no question about it," Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo said. "Hands down, coming from a family that has a history of being in professional baseball, you can tell that he's been around it, wasn't in awe of anything. He's ahead of the game in that sense. When you couple that with his ability to do a whole bunch of things, run like a deer, hit the ball all over the field, you've got a very exciting player there."
He gets good separation and has a compact stroke that is conducive to grounders and line drives. When he lifts the ball, he usually hasn't made solid contact and the result is a weak fly out.
Cumberland's 11.7 strikeout percentage was the seventh-best tally in the league among hitters with 200 or more at-bats.
The Florida native has a clean approach at the plate and can hit balls pitched in and out of the zone. He chases away but has the ability to put bat to ball – hitting himself into outs as a result. He will never be a home run threat but does have gap power.
"That kid he works his butt off and he's a gamer," Tornicasa said. "He goes after it. I think just the way he plays the game that it's like he won't – he wouldn't let himself fail. It's always like, ‘What do I have to do? Let's do this. This is what I'm doing, how can I?' I mean he was always looking for an answer to improve his game. I tell you what, that kid's going to be a heck of a player."
Plus speed accompanies the 175-pounder and many want to see who will win the race between Cumberland and Luis Durango during camp (Cumberland missed last year's 60-yard dash). He can be a game-changer because of the quickness with which he gets down the line. Ground balls to the left side of the infield will be bang-bang plays.
As a base stealer, Cumberland uses an excellent first-step to get his jump and rarely gives a catcher a fighting chance. Once his ability to recognize a pitcher's move improves, Cumberland will be a 50-plus base stealing threat that turns singles into doubles and triples, disrupting the pitcher's ability to focus on the hitter.
"He can fly," Tornicasa said. "So he's going to get those infield hits as well as driving the ball. And that was the thing that actually impressed me more so with him before he got hurt was everything he was hitting was, I mean it came off the bat well, was hit hard. As he gets older and matures, he's someone I would definitely keep an eye on."
Defensively, Cumberland has solid range and moves well laterally but has just an average arm. He has loft in his throws to first, giving a runner a chance to beat out tough plays. He also must improve his footwork and balance in an effort to improve his accuracy. Because his arm is not first-rate, Cumberland will rush his throws – sending them off-line.
"We definitely plan to keep him at short," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "We had hoped to get him back to Fort Wayne at the end of this year but his thumb injury took a little longer to heal that we thought initially."
Conclusion: Cumberland needs at-bats and live game action to hone his skills. With an ability to hit for a high average, Cumberland also needs to improve his pitch selection. Because his bat control is so good, he swings outside of the zone. An increased walk total should be evident, especially since he can do a lot of damage on the base paths.
Cumberland is a line drive hitter that makes things happen. He can hit one or two in the lineup and make the opposition think ahead regarding his speed and base running ability. Moving from shortstop may be in the cards, and there has been talk of a migration to second or center field. For now, he will remain at short. If he can put all the tools together, Cumberland is an ideal top of the order hitter.
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