There was a bevy of praise being tossed out at Whit Merrifield during his hot streak. Some of it was warranted; he played well, and basically gave the Royals the comfort to unload Omar Infante (finally). And though he has cooled off a bit, he is still a vast improvement over the alternatives that have been paraded out at second base over the past half-decade (or more, really). Even Christian Colon's absurd hitting profile (.253/.323/.276, 66 wRC+) is an improvement, so Merrifield's 87 wRC+ looks just that much better.
But Cheslor Cuthbert has been doing even better than that, for slightly longer, and we here at Royals Review* think it is time to give him a touch of the spotlight.
*For legal purposes, I am required to inform you that I do not speak for anyone else on staff
If you have been following the Royals for the past five years or so, and more to the point, if you have been keeping up with Royals prospects over that period, then Cheslor Cuthbert's name is one that would be familiar to you. He's been in the system since 2010, making his debut as a 17 year-old in Rookie Ball. He has never profiled as a top-flight prospect, but was always a guy that made his way into Top 10 lists consistently. But his age was always a factor in his favor, and as he advanced through the system, the thought of him being an everyday player waxed and waned, but he was always still a young guy.
If you look at his minor league stats, he followed a similar pattern at every level of advancement. He'd typically get a mid-season promotion and would struggle at the new level, which would sour people's opinions of him. Then, he'd come back the next year to that level and perform well. He'd get another mid-season promotion and struggle.
Such was the cycle of life for Cheslor. In 2014 at AA, he had a 118 wRC+. He was moved up to AAA, where he had just an 87 wRC+. The following year, he came back with a 103. When he got his first shot in the majors last year, he hit to the tune of a 76 wRC+. In his brief foray in AAA this year, before replacing Mike Moustakas following his season-ending knee injury, he had a 166 wRC+.
His second time in the majors has him sitting at a 98. He's basically average.
Oh, he's also still just 23 years old. Whit Merrifield is 27. Christian Colon is 27. Cuthbert is outproducing them with four years to give.
I don't want to oversell Cuthbert either. He's not Mike Moustakas: but he is outperforming what Moustakas did as a 23 year-old.
That being said, he doesn't have the profile or pedigree that Moustakas did (or the innate potential), and he probably isn't as good defensively either (but it's closer than I think a lot of us thought it would be).
But the fact that Cuthbert is turning in a remarkably average season as a 23 year-old is a pretty good sign that he could stick in the majors. His success isn't particularly driven by luck, his value isn't being unrealistically inflated by defense (read: 2013 David Lough) and if anything his profile suggests that he should be walking a touch more than he has.
Is it too early for declarations? Absolutely. But it is definitely not too early for cautious optimism.