Coming into the 2007 season, the hot name on the Wizards roster was prospect, Cedric Hunter. He arrived with a glint of excitement that many thought was sure to signal a second coming of Wizard from more than a decade-and-a-half ago with the same last name. The comparison was to that of none other than Torii Hunter, who ranks right up at the top of any list of most successful careers that have been posted by former Wizards.
In 1994, Torii Hunter hit .293 with 10 home runs and 50 RBI’s while scoring 57 runs and stealing 8 bases. In 2007, the Hunter Cedric posted a .282 average with 7 home runs and 58 RBI’s while scoring 53 runs and stealing . . . you guessed it, 8 bases. That looks like a pretty good comparison to me. But we also have to consider the playing time. What Torii did in 91 games, it took Cedric 129 – which also is 161 more at-bats (seems pretty high for just 38 more games, but that’s what the stats say, Torii must have come out more often too).
Still, the modern era of the Midwest League is that of a tough hitter’s league, so don’t discount Cedric’s achievements simply because of a few more at-bats. Let’s also not forget, he was a mere 19-year-old last season.
Today, and now all of 20 years, he’s still among the youngest players in the California League, he’s having a solid season at Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore. In fact, Grady Fuson, San Diego’s vice president of scouting and player development, made it a point to go out and personally congratulate Hunter on his performance thus far.
“It was one of the best feelings in the world,” said Hunter, who had a hit in two at-bats during last week’s California/Carolina All-Star Game. “Grady came up to me personally right before the [All-Star] break and told me how happy he was with my defense. I was happy that he did that. It’s nice to be able to show them that you’re working hard. My main purpose in being here is to play every day, get known out there and be the best player I can be.”
As of July 4, Hunter was hitting .303 over 82 games with 105 hits, 64 runs scored 4 home runs, 42 RBI’s and drawing 33 walks to 29 strike-outs in 347 at-bats. He’s stolen 7 bases too.
In his Ducksnorts 2008 Baseball Annual, Geoff Young comped Hunter to Sean Green, Kenny Lofton and Shane Victorino. After pointing out that Hunter may have lost a little luster with his MWL performance, he admitted that his status as a prospect didn’t falter for holding his own at a young age in a league that stiffles hitter’s performances. “The only questions with Hunter,” Geoff says, “are whether he’ll have to move to a corner spot at higher levels and how much power he’ll develop.”
While Hunter isn’t a prototypical center fielder, he continues to do what the position calls for with few miscues in the field, so he’ll probably remain there until he proves he doesn’t belong there or an opening at a higher level becomes available at one of the corner slots.
Some folks are suggesting that Cedric will hit the Padres’ lineup as early as 2010, but there are no plans to rush his climb up the ladder and Hunter isn’t too worried about his upward mobility right now either.
“I’m not going to think about what’s going on with that . . . if I stay here the whole year, I’m happy with that. I’m still young. I’m just thinking about playing every day and having a good year.”
I’m still pretty hopeful we’ll see him excelling at the Big League level in a few years. There’s a few too many players I have to continually answer the “Whatever happened to…” question. Methinks Cedric Hunter will someday give us the level of play that will make sure none of us forget or ever have to answer the “whatever happened to…” question.
Photographs by Chad Gramling.