As a sabermetrically-oriented writer, I don’t put too much stock in batting average as a meaningful statistic. I’d rather have a guy that hits .260/.360/.460 than one who hits .320/.340/.390.
Still, even the bad statistics in baseball tend to mean something. I think Pitcher Wins are the worst metric ever created, but if a guy wins 300 games in his career, he’s a great pitcher, end of story (although I do wonder what will happen if Jamie Moyer can find a way to get there). ERA may be a bad metric as well, but if you have a 1.50 ERA, you’re probably pretty good unless you have unbelievable luck.
Batting average is the same way. It’s tough to be a good player if you hit .200, and it’s hard to be a bad one if you hit .300.
So then, it’s somewhat noteworthy that Lake Elsinore shortstop Drew Cumberland is now leading the entire minors in average, with a ridiculous .408 mark.
Cumberland obviously isn’t going to do that over a full season–for one, he’ll get promoted if he keeps this up much longer–but when a young-to-average-for-his-level shortstop does this sort of thing, it’s huge.
As a guy who walked more than he struck out last year, and has a .226 ISO this year, Cumberland isn’t just an empty batting-average type either. He might just profile as a .300-hitting shortstop with excellent speed (he has 10 steals in 12 attempts) and good secondary skills to go with average defense. That sounds like what would happen if you made Chase Utley slightly worse offensively and moved him to short (without changing his defensive ability).
Of course, comparing anyone to Utley, who could be a Hall of Famer, while they’re still a B-rated A-ball prospect is hyperbole, but that evolutionary direction is at least possible for Cumberland. There aren’t many players in the entire minors that can claim that sort of distinction.
I have a feeling that if this keeps up for long, we’re going to start hearing Cumberland’s name more and more as people discuss the next wave of great middle infielders.