The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed outfielder Todd Cunningham as a minor league free agent. The 28-year-old split the season between the Los Angeles Dodgers and St Louis Cardinals, spending the entire season in Triple-A, where he hit .284/.404/.414 in 96 games. Those teams both play in the Pacific Coast League, which is a much more hitter-friendly league than the International League, where Indianapolis plays. The switch-hitting Cunningham spent nearly the final month of the season on the disabled list, getting activated for the final three days of the schedule.
Cunningham has seen action in the majors during parts of three season. He made his pro debut with the Atlanta Braves in 2013, going 2-for-8 in eight games. He played 39 more games for the Braves in 2015, hitting .221/.280/.267 in 86 at-bats. He also appeared as a bench player for the Los Angeles Angels in 2016, posting a .438 OPS in 20 games. He has played all three outfield positions in the majors and the minors, with most of his time spent in center field. Cunningham has stolen 124 bases in the minors, four times reaching 19 in a season.
During his minor league career, which started in 2010 after he was drafted in the second round by the Braves, Cunningham has been ranked among the top 30 prospects for his team a total of six times by Baseball America. His highest ranking was 12th overall for the Braves in 2012. Twice he was named the best defensive outfield prospect for the Braves, while he also earned best strike zone discipline and best hitter for average.
He’s obviously never put everything together in the majors, but there are some tools there, which should make him a decent outfield depth option if injuries pop up. That’s keeping in mind that if you need to use your third or fourth best depth option as a starter in the Major League outfield, who that person might be is the least of your worries. Between the defense, speed and ability to play all three spots, plus prior MLB experience, he won’t hurt you if he’s needed for the bench. The Pirates obviously liked him enough to target him very early in the minor league free agent process. Cunningham will be Rule 5 eligible.
** The Pirates released pitcher Brandon Bingel earlier this week. The 22nd round pick in the 2016 draft spent the last two seasons in the Morgantown bullpen, where he had a 3.94 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP, with 31 strikeouts in 45.2 innings.