Timothy Earl Cunningham
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 225 lb.
- High School Lancaster (SC) High School
- Born June 3, 1970 in Lancaster, SC USA
Earl Cunningham was part of the 1989 amateur draft, which saw three high school outfielders being picked in the first eight selections; scouts said it was perhaps the best crop of the draft era. None of the three (Jeff Jackson, Cunningham or Paul Coleman) made the majors, while being selected right between #6 Coleman and #8 Cunningham was Frank Thomas. Cunningham had hit .419 with 12 homers and 15 steals in 86 at-bats as a high school senior in Lancaster, SC.
Like Jackson and Coleman, Cunningham was sent to the Appalachian League in 1989. He hit .258/~.304/.429 for the Wytheville Cubs and outperformed the two higher draft picks. He was voted the #4 prospect in the league by managers. Promoted to the 1990 Peoria Chiefs, Earl slipped to .216/~.269/.305 with 108 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 269 at-bats. Getting another crack at Peoria at age 20-21, Cunningham improved to .239/~.258/.438. His walk-strikeout ratio was even worse (10-145) but he showed good power, homering 19 times in 381 at-bats to lead the club and he was only one homer behind Midwest League leader Paul Russo. MWL managers selected him as the 10th-best prospect in the circuit and Baseball America picked him as the 7th-best prospect in the Cubs system.
Cunningham split the 1992 campaign between Peoria (.227/~.276/.378) and the Winston-Salem Spirits (.108/~.140/.217); he walked 19 times and struck out 152 times in only 321 at-bats between the two clubs, whiffing in almost half of his trips to the plate.
In his fourth year at Peoria, Cunningham declined for the third straight season. In 1993 he only managed a .194/~.248/.360 line in 43 games and was now primarily a DH. Turning 23, he was also now old for mid-level class A. Going to the California Angels in 1994, Earl split time between the Lake Elsinore Storm (.213/.252/.389, 50 K in 108 AB) and the Cedar Rapids Kernels (.221/.279/.434, 43 K in 136 AB). The 1995 campaign was a repeat with Lake Elsinore, where Cunningham batted .239/~.278/.458 with 97 strikeouts in 284 at-bats, but also 15 homers, second-most on the league's second-best team. Additionally, Earl hit for a cycle during the season.
Turning 26 during the 1996 year, Earl appeared for both the Asheville Tourists (.256/~.293/.541, 42 K in 133 AB) and the Salem Avalanche (.172/~.250/.218, 24 strikeouts in 87 at-bats) in the Colorado Rockies system, never making it out of class A ball in his 7 seasons.
His brother is former minor leaguer O'Brien Cunningham (also spelled O'Brian and Obrian).