Falmouth coach Jeff Trundy perfectly summed up Todd Cunningham’s Cape Cod League season thus far: "He’s opened up a lot of eyes up here."
Perhaps no player in the Cape has had more of a breakout summer than Cunningham, who was tied for the league lead in batting (.385) and was the circuit’s sole leader in on-base percentage (.473) through Monday. A prototypical table-setter with above-average speed and plenty of patience, Cunningham had six stolen bases in seven tries and sported a tidy 10-12 walk-strikeout ratio. He’s also a switch-hitter who avails himself well from both sides of the plate, though he’s better as a lefthanded hitter.
"Number one, he makes contact," Trundy said. "He’s always in good balance, he makes contact, and really is able to put the bat head on the baseball. He squares up the ball, he’s got good hands. He uses his lower half, but you really notice his hands because he uses them real well. He puts the ball in play with two strikes, and he runs well."
Cunningham has also added strength since his 2008 freshman year at Jacksonville State, when he hit just one homer in 57 games. Last summer, he ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the Texas Collegiate League thanks to his top-of-the-order/center fielder skill set, but he slugged just .387. Then, this spring, Cunningham hit 10 homers and nine triples while batting .339 for the Gamecocks. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder has even flashed a bit of pop with a wood bat in the Cape, hitting two homers and slugging .526 through 78 at-bats.
"I think some scouts were concerend early on: ‘Does the kid have enough power?’ But he’s hit a couple of homers to me that show the power’s in there," Trundy said. "He’s got it when he wants it there."
An excellent defender in center with a solid arm, Cunningham is the complete package. And Trundy said he has the makeup to match.
"This is certainly not meant to diminish what he’s doing on the field, but you couldn’t find a better kid, either," Trundy said. "He’s really shown everyone that his approach in regards to preparing himself for a game and getting better is top-notch. The kid has a plan every day, he doesn’t deviate from that. His makeup is off the charts, and obviously he’s got some very, very good tools to work with as well."
• Falmouth has also gotten strong first-half play from Auburn outfielder Brian Fletcher (.327/.351/.455 with one homer and 10 RBIs) and Southern Mississippi shortstop B.A. Vollmuth (.308/.341/.513 with one homer and six RBIs). Fletcher still has an ugly walk-strikeout ratio (0-17), but Trundy says he has made strides improving his approach from last summer, when he struggled mightily for the Commodores. In particular, he’s using more of the field and not trying to hit home runs every time up. Vollmuth, meanwhile, has built upon his magical late-season stretch for USM, when he belted eight homers in 97 at-bats.
"He’s got unlimited potential," Trundy said. "He’s got a body scouts are going to fall in love with, because he’s got room to put 20 or 30 pounds onto what is already a strong frame. He hit a ball in Hyannis the other night 30 feet up the light pole, one of those balls that stopped everybody in their tracks."
But Trundy said it didn’t quite compare with the shot that Falmouth first baseman Hunter Morris hit at Cotuit last Sunday. We heard reports last week that Morris’ shot cleared the second line of trees behind the fence at Cotuit and ranked among the longest home runs in years on the Cape. Trundy backed up that account.
"It was ridiculous," Trundy said. "I’ve coached in the league now for 15 years—11 years as a head coach—and it certainly was one of the longest balls I’ve seen hit. It was one that when you see it hit, you know you’re not going ot see many like that. That was jaw-dropping—everybody just kind of went, ‘Oh my gosh!’ the minute he hit it. It almost went kind of quiet, because you had that long to watch it, to be honest with you. He’s a strong kid, and he’ll continue to develop as a hitter. But the power is obviously there."
• Harwich has an impressive collection of power arms, many of whom have posted strong first halves in the Cape. Mariners coach Steve Englert offered his thoughts on several of them.
On Missouri State lefthander Aaron Meade (2-0, 2.57 with 27 strikeouts and 11 walks in 21 innings): "He’s been probably our top guy right now. He’s got a three-pitch mix guy, competes, keeps the ball down, changes speeds very well, and he just pounds the strike zone."
On Florida State lefty John Gast (0-2, 2.14, 17-8 K-BB in 21 IP): "He’ll give you five or six quality innings. He’ll give up his hits, but he’ll get you deep into the game. He started out in the bullpen, but he was pitching in the strike zone, so he ended up starting. Last spring he was up to 93; I don’t know what happened this spring, but he tailed off. But his velocity is coming back. He’ll be in the 88-92 range for us."
On Virginia Tech righty Mathew Price (2-0, 2.57, 27-11 K-BB in 21 IP): "He’s probably our best arm, a power righty. Once his body fills out, I think he could be a good one. He has good command of the strike zone, and he can drop down a little, to three-quarters, and can be real effective. He has tremendous stuff, fastball-slider. He uses a changeup, but mostly he’s mostly a fastball-slider guy."
On Northwestern lefty Eric Jokisch (1-1, 2.25, 15-3 K-BB in 16 IP): "He really knows how to pitch. He’s 88-92, with a slider and a changeup. He really knows how to pitch, right there with Meade."
On Notre Dame righthander Brian Dupra (2-0, 5.25, 10-3 K-BB in 12 IP): "He’s got good run on his ball, got a power slider, and he pitched real well the other night, in the mid-90s. It’s still early, and I think he’ll start to pick up the pace. His stuff has just flattened out a little bit at times."
On Grayson County (Texas) righthander Brett Bruening (0-2, 1.93, 20-14 K-BB in 19 IP): "He’s going to LSU next year, and they turned me on to him, actually. He had two really quality starts the first two games here, the had 10 days off the next time and wasn’t as effective. But he’s a power guy, up to 95 until the fifth, sixth inning, then the secondary stuff takes over—a sharp slider and a biting changeup."
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