20. Brett Cumberland
A power hitting switch hitting catcher is always intriguing and after slugging 16 homers his Junior year at Cal, the Braves selected Cumbo in the 2nd round. The Braves sent him straight to Danville and he was a little below average there. I caught him catching Ian Anderson in Instructionals and saw a minor league catcher. He isn’t ever going to win a Gold Glove, but he’s built like a catcher and is quick enough on balls in the dirt (Anderson was a little wild that day) only giving up 6 passed balls in nearly 400 innings last year. He only started at catcher about half of the time, DHing the rest of the time. He absolutely crushed in Rome – 10 HR, 176 wRC+ and a .269 ISO in 55 games in the Sally League before being promoted to Florida. He continued to hit for average in the pitcher friendly league and, though he only hit 1 homer in his 56 games in the sunshine state, he still managed a 127 wRC+. His bat went all the way down under this winter, and though he played most of his games in the outfield there, he kept on hitting with 7 homers and a .980 OPS in 26 games. It will be interesting to see where Cumberland starts 2018, I doubt they give up on him this fast behind the plate, but the Braves are flush with young backstops. Herbert and Jackson will need help in Florida and Mississippi respectively and Cumberland can always DH.
Brett Cumberland final numbers in Australia for @MelbourneAces
26 G, .292/.397/.583 (.980 OPS), 7 HR, 13 RBI, 3 SB pic.twitter.com/Azt5SoAxKC
— Prospects Braves (@ProspectsBraves) January 30, 2018
19. Jean Carlos Encarnacion
An unheralded signing back in 2015, JCE burst onto the scene in 2017 after a unspectacular 2016 DSL campaign. A big kid at 6′ 3″, I took notice of him when he continued to start at third over many highly touted infielders signed in 2016. He hit for power, played a solid third base and ran the bases well for someone his size. After mashing to the tune of a .937 OPS in 27 GCL games, he was promoted to Danville where he regressed slightly in 23 games only posting a .671 OPS in 23 games. However, he still made plenty of contact hitting for a .290 average. At 20 years old, it wouldn’t shock me if he opened as Rome’s Opening Day third baseman.
18. Freddy Tarnok –
Troy Bacon and Freddy Tarnok pic.twitter.com/TpxNfeUol7
— Prospects Braves (@ProspectsBraves) July 3, 2017
A pop up guy if there ever was one, Tarnok didn’t even start pitching until halfway through his Junior season. Committed to the University of Tampa as a shortstop, he’s a gifted athlete and once scouts saw his 6′-4 frame pumping fastballs in the mid 90s he shot up draft boards. Similar to the Ian Anderson pick and the Sean Newcomb acquisition, Tarnok is a rare low mileage arm from Florida with as much upside as any pitcher in the system. With a fastball that sits 91-94 and as high as 97-98, with a plus hook and a feel for a change, he should be a fun guy to watch in 2018. With him most likely starting in Danville, I should get to see him a lot in Extended Spring Training.
17. Kyle Muller –
The 44th pick in the 2016 Draft, Muller was part of the “Big 3” of that draft class, where the Braves picked 3 prep pitchers in the first 70 picks. Muller however has been on a different timeline than his draft mates, while Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz and Bryse Wilson all headed to Rome to start 2017, Muller stayed back in Florida. He pitched decent in 47.2 Gulf Coast League innings. I caught one of his starts and though he looked healthy and smooth on the mound his velocity was noticeably down from his high school stuff. Reports of his high school coach overusing him causing the dip in velocity have surfaced, but just yesterday Driveline Baseball posted a video of Muller hitting 95.3 MPH off the mound. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come. As Brian Bridges likes to say Muller is “Just what they look like”
16. Patrick Weigel
— Prospects Braves (@ProspectsBraves) July 24, 2016
I hate that Weigel got hurt last year, and if he comes back anywhere close to where he was before that, 16 will look foolishly low. Unfortunately injuries happen, and it usually takes almost two years before a guy is fully back to his old self. If anybody can beat that timeline though I believe in the big right hander as he’s bounced from D1 to JUCO and back again to D1 to 7th round pick. Weigel has taken his big fastball all over the place and turned into a real pitcher with plus stuff and a frame to last. I saw him spin a 7 inning one-hitter in Rome with none other than Josh Brown back in 2016, and caught him again in relief of Kolby Allard in ML Spring Training. There is no question about his stuff, it’s just a matter of getting healthy again. His floor is a big league reliever and in my opinion it’s only up from there.