Jays From the Couch shines the spotlight on Toronto Blue Jays’ Jack of All Trades prospect, Cullen Large, who has an outside shot of getting a call up
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The Blue Jays head into 2022 with a strong core in place but with questions surrounding many of those players. Can Bo continue to develop into a strong fielding shortstop? Will Vlad be able to replicate his breakout season? What does this lineup look like with a healthy and producing Springer and Biggio? Within these questions, there’s one player I’m intrigued to watch when spring training (eventually) gets under way: Cullen Large.
A lot has been said about the current roster and a lot more will be said over the coming months. As the days get darker, let’s wander over to the darker depths of the prospect lists and see what Cullen Large is all about.
A Brief History
Drafted as a second baseman in the 5th round of 2017, the switch-hitting Large played his college ball at William & Mary. After being drafted, Large was assigned to the Vancouver short-season squad, where he started 27 of his 32 games at 2nd base. He struggled a bit transitioning from college to the pros, posting a .681 OPS, however, there was some things to like as he posted an 11.9% BB-rate and 18.5% K-rate.
His development continued in 2018 with a promotion to Low-A Lansing, where Large started out strong; he produced a 177 wRC+ buoyed by a .979 OPS that saw him continue with strong BB (11.6%) and K (16.1%) rates. The small sample caveat applies here, as Large’s season was done after 27 games when he re-aggravated a shoulder injury sustained earlier in the season.
2019 started off with another promotion for Large, as he was assigned to High-A ball in Dunedin. The lingering effects of the separated shoulder may have been felt, as he posted a .769 OPS and saw a significant jump in his strikeout rate, up to 26.5%. Through all that, the walk rate remained consistent as it was sitting at 11.3% when he was promoted to Double-A to finish off the year.
The 2021 Season
With only 24 games at AA and a missed season in 2020 due to Covid-19, Large was promoted to Buffalo for his age 25 season. Looking at his 2021 splits by month, Large hadn’t posted an OPS over .700 during his first three months, with his best month being June at .671. He looked like a prospect that may have hit his ceiling. There was still something to like about his game though, and those first three months he still posted decent walk and strikeout rates of 9.8% and 21%, respectively.
In August, things started to turn around for him. 12 of his 27 hits were for extra bases, with four of those being round trippers, matching his season total up to July. He finished August with a slash line of .310/.400/.552. The power disappeared into September, only hitting for 5 extra base hits and 0 home runs in the final 21 games; he continued his trend of posting strong walk rates through the final two months, a combined 12% BB-rate in August and September, coupled with a 24% K-rate.
While his year-end slash line of .256/.341/.385 doesn’t jump off the page, the progression he made during the year is something to take note of, as he’s likely to be assigned to Buffalo again in 2022. There could be some untapped potential still there, and while it may not be as a starter in the majors, he could very well carve out a solid pre-arbitration career (if it still exists in the new CBA) as a super utility player. After spending most of his minor league career at 3B with some 2B sprinkled in, Large saw time at 1B (6 games), 2B (26 games), 3B (17 games), LF (14 games) and RF (41 games) last year.
The Good, The Bad and The Next
Large was never a highly touted prospect, and he’s now entering his age 26 season, looking to repeat at AAA and is four seasons removed from his breakout year. He’s been passed over in the Rule 5 draft once already, and it’s likely he will be passed over for a second time when the draft (eventually) happens this offseason.
The timing of the shoulder injury and the 2020 shutdown may have affected Large more then any other prospects. Each year, he’s been aggressively promoted to the next level, even on limited playing time in the prior season. He’s had consistent walk rates throughout his career and if he can tap back into the power he started to show in 2018, it’s not out of the question to see him get a mid-season promotion in 2022. He doesn’t come with the defensive acumen of a Kevin Smith or Espinal, but there could be potential value of a switch-hitting utility guy if he can show his 2021 August output wasn’t an aberration.
What should you look out for with him in 2022? Keep an eye on his power numbers throughout spring training and into the start of the season. He’ll play every day at multiple positions, but if that power comes back, he may be talked about and see the same rise that Kevin Smith saw last year.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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