Name: Drew Cumberland
DOB: January 13, 1989
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.
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.
As with previous seasons, Cumberland twice went on the disabled list, missing nearly a month early in the year and two weeks in July. He also missed the Midwest League playoffs and the TinCaps run to a championship. After battling a quad injury, hand ailment, and a concussion, Cumberland was again hurt in the Padres fall Instructional League, coming down with a wrist injury suffered on the base paths. He played more than 15 games in just one month during '09.
He got stronger heading into the season, reaching 190-pounds, by working out at Athlete's Performance but that didn't keep him off the trainer's table.
"He's had a couple of injuries this year and last year, but our feelings are still the same," former Fort Wayne and current San Antonio manager Doug Dascenzo said. "This guy's a spark plug type player and he can do a lot of things, but it's hard for him to do that when he's not on the field."
"I don't think he's a frail kid, because he's really a solid built kid, but he's just catching some bad breaks," Fort Wayne hitting coach Tom Tornicasa said. "He got sick and was out for a couple weeks and made a diving play and messed up his back there for a little bit. I just think it's a little bit of bad luck that he's had the last couple years."
To his credit, Cumberland worked hard when he was on the disabled list, standing in on pitchers to try and keep his timing, paying attention in the dugout and doing whatever he could without causing further harm.
Cumberland played in 77 games for the TinCaps, hitting .293 with 25 extra-base hits, 57 runs scored and 40 RBI. He also drew more walks (40) than strikeouts (36) and was one of the toughest players to fan in the minors, striking out once every 10.71 plate appearances. His 1.11 walk-to-strikeout ratio was the top mark in the Midwest League. He also hit .336 with runners on base, proving to be a clutch performer while hitting second in the lineup.
The infielder is a little bit circular in his load, bringing his hands forward in front of his body before setting them back for his release. Eliminating the movement forward would give him a more consistent plane through the hitting zone. There are times where he adds more uppercut and that is when he gets into trouble.
He can extend too far and become a little long on balls slated for the outside corner. He does, however, have good balance in his swing mechanics and keeps his head movement to a minimum.
Cumberland has had issues with the pitch away, trying to turn on the offering rather than taking it the other way. Part of the issue has been getting into a rhythm with his swing since he has been in and out of the lineup with injuries. He also gets pull happy when he alters his approach, trying to hit homers rather than keeping the ball on the ground.
"We work on that and there was a time when he got into pull mode – but that was mainly because he was in the lineup and then on the DL," Tornicasa said. "He couldn't get into any rhythm. The downtime took away from some of his progress."
One area that saw improvement was handling the inside pitch. He had been pulling off the ball and jamming himself by attempting to keep his arms extended instead of staying inside the ball and using his hands to generate the power.
"He was really pulling off those inside balls and jamming himself," Tornicasa said. "He finally started to let the hands do the work. He is coming along. He has some work to do but with the speed he has, he can always keep his average up with infield hits. I like Cumberland. He is a good player. He understands his swing a little better."
Cumberland is one of the fastest players in the system. He stole 19 bases in 22 attempts this season. He has extended his leads without the pitcher noticing and has gained an understanding of the keys to a pitchers' move to home. All of the little things that go into stealing are added by a quick first-step and top flight speed while in motion.
His speed gives him an advantage when he hits the ball on the ground. He forces the defense to react quickly, making them more prone to mistakes. Because he is also a solid bunter, defenses must be aware and ready to defend the ground game.
Defensively, his ball use to tail away from the first baseman as he shortarmed it to first. He now has a more consistent release point that is away from his head and employs a different grip on the baseball to allow it to fly true. His lateral range needs improvement, as does his ability to turn the double play cleanly. Overall, he has proven to be quite capable on both sides of the bag.
"The biggest improvement that I have seen is that he has slowed the game down," roving infield coordinator Gary Jones said. "Everything was always full bore, kind of a football mentality. You can still go full speed, but slow it down in your mind. It is amazing how well he has matured physically and mentally.
"There was a question about his arm strength, but it has really picked up with our throwing program. He is separating the ball more from his ear so he has a better follow through. I think this guy has a chance to be special; he runs, throws, can steal bags and hit the ball into the gaps. He has put on some good physical weight that hasn't slowed him down. I really think the sky is the limit for him, and I know I am a little biased, but he has talent."
"He's come along way at short and made everyone a believer that he can stay there," former Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "His reactions are better, his throwing is better, although he still throws an occasional cutter to first base."
He is an aggressive player by nature and gives his all each play. Dirt on his jersey is not an uncommon sight. He also performs well as a situational player, executing hit-and-runs and driving in runners from third with less than two outs. Not afraid to put in the extra work, Cumberland must learn to tame his nature just a tad to avoid the continued trips to the disabled list.
"I think one of the things really is kind of the way he plays," Dascenzo said regarding his injury history. "I think that the tendency or the likeliness, the history actually says, hopefully, it's just bad luck because he can do a lot of things for a team: steal bases and score runs, and maneuver the ball around the field, and be a hit-and-run type guy, and his shortstop abilities have come a long way from a year ago. His arm strength has done a lot better. He's bigger and stronger than he was a year ago. So I think it's a matter of him staying away from the injuries."
"There are no second thoughts in my mind that if he had been healthy for the whole season he would have hit over .300 and stole between 30 to 40 bags and really put himself on the map," Fuson said. "He's a good athlete, but we have some problems keeping him on the field. He's a very tightly wound athlete, gets a lot of hamstring and calf pulls. His hand was still bothering him and caused him to miss the last month of the season and all of instructs."
"I'll tell you what, I really like him," Tornicasa said. "I think he's going to turn out to be a good one. If I had to make a prediction of someone getting to the big leagues, he would definitely be at the top of my list."
Conclusion: Cumberland has game-changing speed and is a sparkplug offensively that is selective and does the little things well. If he can stay healthy, Cumberland has a chance to be a special play that pitchers fear because of his on-base skill set and threat when he is on the base paths. He is an ideal number two hitter.
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