Drew Cumberland, ss
Age: 21. Position: SS (32 G), 2B (6 G).
Born: Jan. 13, 1989 in Pace, Fla.
Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 175. Bats: L. Throws: R.
School: Pace (Fla.) HS.
Career Transactions: Selected by Padres in supplemental first round (46th overall) of 2007 draft; signed July 6, 2007.
High Class A Lake Elsinore’s Drew Cumberland narrowly missed making the Padres’ Top 10 Prospects list last offseason. But it wasn’t for lack of talent. The shortstop had spent two productive years with low Class A Fort Wayne, batting .290 with 35 steals and nearly as many walks (57) as strikeouts (60).
Unfortunately, Cumberland appeared in just 130 total games in 2008 and ’09 because of myriad injuries, including a strained oblique, a jammed finger and a hand injury that bruised ligaments, tendons and bones. The last of those injuries was especially ill timed because it denied Cumberland the chance to play for Fort Wayne during the club’s march through the Midwest League playoffs.
Healthy this season, the lead-off man has applied his talents to help Lake Elsinore to the California League’s best record through a third of the season. The Storm have scored more runs than any Cal League outfit outside of High Desert, with Cumberland leading all minor leaguers with 46 runs scored. He’s hitting .373, which ranks seventh in the overall batting race . . . but just third in the Cal League. But Cumberland has made his hits count and ranks third in the league with his .586 slugging.
“He’s got a quick bat and he can really run. Plus, he’s got some power for a guy who’s not that big,” Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano said. “He likes to run, and he and his teammates have the green light to go whenever the want.”
Running more frequently has been a theme stressed by the Padres this season as they aim to build a more athletic big league club. Cumberland and four other members of the organization have taken the message to heart. Center fielders Luis Durango and Blake Tekotte have 18 stolen bases, Cumberland has 16, while Dan Robertson and Jeudy Valdez have 14 each.
In fact, Cumberland has attempted to steal in approximately 38 percent of his times on first base, not even taking into account situations in which second base is occupied. His previous high had been 29 percent.
We caught up with Cumberland last week to ask him about life on the run, among other things.
I saw your brother Shaun latched on with Southern Maryland in the Atlantic League. (He spent last season with the Reds’ Double-A Carolina affiliate.) How’s he doing?
“He’s doing good. He’s still trying to work his way into playing every day. But now, they’re starting to give him some at-bats.”
What are your goals for this season?
“The only goal for this season is to stay healthy. Last year, I had a microfracture in the bone (of my right hand), so I had to miss the (Fort Wayne) playoffs. But it just needed six weeks to relax and get better. Now it’s fine.”
You’ve always been high-percentage basestealer (80 percent career), but this year you’ve already nearly matched your career high stolen-base total. Have you made an effort to steal more often?
“That’s one thing they’ve talked with us about this year, being more aggressive on the basepaths. They want us to go first to third more and to just be more aggressive on the basepaths.”
What makes you so effective at stealing bases?
“I just have the mindset to keep running. Our baserunning coordinator, he keeps reminding us that it doesn’t matter what happens—just keep running, stay aggressive and take that mindset.”
You’ve worked up the middle with Cole Figueroa (an ’08 sixth-round pick from Florida) for two years now. What have you learned from playing alongside him?
“He’s a little more experienced than I am, and he’s played more shortstop. He reminds me of things like about how to make sure you catch the ball out in front, to just kind of slow down the play. He and I have become good friends these past two years.”
Some of the Cal League infields have a reputation for being a little uneven. Which has been your favorite surface to play?
“Our stadium has a really nice surface, but it’s really fast, so you have to get used to that. All the other ones in this league are really good—well High Desert is pretty choppy. You don’t know what to expect there. The ball could go in any direction.”
How do you like hitting in the Cal League?
“I noticed a big difference in High Desert and Lancaster. I hit two of my (first three) home runs in Lancaster. One was probably legit, but on the other one, I got out on my front foot and the wind helped it out.”
(Note: Cumberland has tacked on three homers since talking to BA, with two being hit at home and the third in Bakersfield.)
The Padres have talked about putting you through a throwing program to improve your arm stroke and accuracy. What did that program entail?
“During (2008) instructs, they drew a line going around the center of the ball. My throws have natural sink and cut to them, so the purpose of the drill was to help me make sure I got good backspin and rotation on my throws. If I four-seam the ball, it will have more carry on it. Plus, it will take strain off my arm if I’m making sure I get the right motion down.”