I'm aware that many of the people who frequently visit Talking Chop are familiar with Todd Cunnhingham. cbwilk, along with the other TC contributors, provide a lot of great information about our minor league players. That said, I'm not sure that there's enough excitement growing for Cunningham and the success he's currently having in Lynchburg. Expectations were high for The Todd after he was drafted in the second round last year. He did not meet those expectations, however, in his first taste of professional ball. He failed to put up an OPS above .700 in 64 games with Rome last season. That, combined with his failure to play as an infielder, caused a lot of fans to jump off of The Todd's banana hammock...I mean bandwagon.
The Todd is currently sporting a slash line of .280/.369/.379 for the season. Those numbers are mediocre. However, if you've been reading the Minor League Recaps here at Talking Chop, you've noticed that Cunningham has been on fire since the beginning of May.
Since May 1st, The Todd is batting .324 with a .390 OBP and a .424 SLG, which is good for an OPS of .814. He is showing a serious lack of power, but that hasn't surprised anyone.
When examining his stats, I'm reminded of another player. Martin Prado was also playing in the Carolina League at the age of 21. His ISO that year was .107, which was actually higher than the mark he put up in his minor league career (.093).
But Prado is no longer devoid of pop. His career ISO in the major leagues is .150. A lot of that is undoubtedly due to natural progression. Players tend to add power as they move closer to 30. I think there's more to it than that, though. I think Prado began attacking the ball more aggressively once he learned to trust his ability to make consistently awesome contact. The result was an increase in extra base hits, and with his new-found pop, Prado was finally able to compliment his high batting average with an ISO that would lift his productivity to new heights.
I think Cunningham will do the same thing one day. Mike Newman (aka the guy that Scouts the Sally), said that The Todd "has a knack for letting the ball travel deep into the strike zone which allows him to slice line drives down the left field line. However, this approach severely limits his power". He also said that, while he usually loves to see hitters keep their hands inside the baseball, "in Cunningham's case it was exaggerated to the point of being awkward."
I find that encouraging. To me, it says that Cunningham's approach legitimately limits his power, which is better than a guy simply not having any pop to begin with. Maybe his career path will be similar to that of Martin Prado. I think we'd all be satisfied with that.
The Todd is an extremely talented baseball player. He seems to impress everyone that has watched him play in person. I am very much looking forward to the type of player he will be become within the next two to three years. I do want to mention something else, though. Mike Newman wrote that he liked Cunningham's swing from the left side a lot more than his swing from the right side. He queried about the possibility that The Todd might forgo switch hitting and bat exclusively from the left side. Newman made that query before the season started, and so far Cunningham is batting .222 from the right side and .310 from the left. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.