Cheslor Cuthbert broke out in 2016, dominating the Pacific Coast League in his third go-around at Omaha and then carrying over some of that performance to put up a major league line that was in sync with his previous year's performance in the minors. He lacks the power or the speed to make an impact in the roto categories, likely topping out around 12-15 homers and a half-dozen steals in a given season, numbers which fall short of the production expected of a third baseman at the highest level even considering the lowering of those positional expectations over the past several seasons. He'll be blocked by Mike Moustakas in Kansas City as long as the latter player is healthy, and though Cuthbert has age on his side and the time to hone his game, expectations should be tempered in terms of performance as well as expected playing time for the 24-year-old in 2017.
Cuthbert went 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI in Wednesday's 6-2 win over the Padres in Cactus League play. It was the first long ball of the spring for Cuthbert, who took Padres reliever Ryan Buchter deep for a two-run blast in the sixth inning. After serving as the Royals' primary third baseman last season while Mike Moustakas recovered from a torn ACL, Cuthbert is ticketed for a utility role in 2017. While it could allow him to eventually obtain eligibility at second base, first base or even in the outfield, Cuthbert likely won't see enough regular at-bats to warrant draft consideration outside of AL-only leagues.
Cuthbert made his second start of the spring at the keystone Friday and went 0-for-1 with a walk and an RBI. Through five Cactus League games, Cuthbert's bat has been quiet (1-for-9), but he appears to be in a spring job battle with Raul Mondesi for the starting job at second base. In five starts this spring, Cuthbert has played third base three times in addition to his two appearances at second, but the return of Mike Moustakas from a torn ACL will likely lead him to more time at second base in the coming weeks.
The Royals are considering starting Cuthbert at second base this coming season, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports. Cuthbert was a regular at the hot corner in 2016, when he hit .274/.328/.413 with 12 home runs over 128 games. However, with Mike Moustakas poised to return in 2017, the Royals are entertaining the option of moving Cuthbert to second base. Over the course of spring training, Cuthbert will compete with the likes of Whit Merrifield, Christian Colon, and Raul Mondesi for the starting spot at second.
Cuthbert is spending time at second base in the Arizona Instructional League to give the Royals a better idea if he can play the position in 2017, the Kansas City Star reports. The Royals' plans for Kendrys Morales, who can opt-out of his deal and become a free agent this offseason, may ultimately determine how much playing time Cuthbert receives next season. If Morales is retained, or if the Royals find a more traditional DH to replace him, Cuthbert could land in a utility role with the return of Mike Moustakas (torn ACL). The keystone is a wide open position in Kansas City as the Royals begin the offseason, with Whit Merrifield, Christian Colon, and Raul Mondesi joining Cuthbert as candidates for the job. Cuthbert hit .274/.318/.413 with 12 homers, 46 RBI, and two steals for Kansas City in 2016, but he finished the season with a 20-for-96 (.208) stretch over the final 30 games.
Cuthbert is not in the lineup for Friday's game against the Indians, according to Joel Goldberg of FOX Sports Kansas City. Cuthbert went 0-for-7 over his last two games, so manager Ned Yost decided to give him his first day off since Sept. 19. Whit Merrifield will man the hot corner Friday in Cuthbert's place.