17. Brett Cumberland, C
Age: 23 | Bats: S
.266/.409/.445 | 152 wRC+ | 11 HR | 1 SB | 10.8% BB | 27.2% K
Current Assignment: Class A+ Florida
Acquired: Drafted, 2nd Round – 2016 (pick acquired from Orioles)
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: 19
Superlatives: OFR Rome Position Player of the Year
History: Cumberland was a 2nd-round pick by the Braves in the 2016 draft out of UC-Berkeley and was the Pac-12 Player of the Year and a second team All-America Team selection. Cumberland had a somewhat forgettable pro debut with Danville in 2016, likely caused by fatigue after a long college season. Cumberland was assigned to Rome to start the 2017 season and continued to scuffle at the plate for the first six week of the season, but caught fire in mid-May and had the best sustained run of any Braves offensive player not named Acuña, hitting .308/.432/.645 with 8 home runs from May 18 through June 18. Cumberland was promoted to high-A after that stretch, and while with the Fire Frogs Cumberland continued his high-contact ways, only with less success in the power department as he only hit 1 home run in 216 plate appearances. Cumberland is playing with the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League this winter and is hitting .353/.522/.647 in five games played at the time of this writing. Interestingly, Cumberland has appeared only as a right fielder to date for Melbourne, a position he didn’t play at all in the 2017 season.
Offense: Cumberland has quick hands and good pitch recognition, and will go with the pitch to make a good bit of contact. Speaking of contact, part of Cumberland’s game is to turn into inside pitches, typically taking them off his armored elbow, which he did 41 times in 2017. Cumberland has a more line-drive oriented bat plane, and he had a harder time elevating the ball when moved up to Florida, his groundball rate rising from a very good 25.4% with Rome to 34.8% with Florida. Cumberland’s left-handed swing is stronger than his right-handed at this point, and all 11 of his home runs this season came off of right-handed pitchers. He’s not a basestealing threat, but is quicker than most catchers and can take the extra base.
Defense: Cumberland is a below average receiver with both his blocking and footwork, and despite a strong arm he only had a 23% caught stealing rate. He does have strong hands and shows solid pitch framing skills, and pitcher teammates praise his game calling. As mentioned, he’s being played in the outfield in Australia, which would open up another avenue for advancement; his arm and athleticism should allow him to be at least an average defensive outfielder.
What’s Next: Cumberland finds himself squeezed in the organization between Alex Jackson and Kade Scivicque a little closer to the majors and younger, more well-rounded catchers William Contreras and Lucas Herbert in the low minors. A move to the outfield would likely help his advancement, and if he sticks at least as a fill-in catcher, he could end up being an intriguingly versatile position player. He should move up to AA Mississippi to start the 2018 season.
16. William Contreras, C
Age: 20 | Bats: R
.290/.379/.432 | 121 wRC+ | 4 HR | 0 SB | 12.1% BB | 15.2% K
Current Assignment: Rookie League – Danville
Acquired: International Amateur Free Agent – 2015
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: 30
Superlatives: OFR Danville Position Player of the Year, Atlanta Braves Danville Position Player of the Year, Baseball America #10 Prospect of the Appalachian League, Appalachian League All-Star Team
History: An international amateur free agent from the 2015/16 signing period out of Venezuela, Contreras is the younger brother of Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras and displays many of the same attributes. Contreras has had a steady rise through the Braves system, taking one level at a time starting with the Dominican Summer League in 2015, the GCL in 2016, and Danville in 2017. At each stop he’s been refining both his offensive and defensive games and starting to garner prospect attention as well. This season, Contreras set career highs in walk rate and isolated power, hitting 15 extra-base hits, while batting mostly in the #3 spot of the Danville batting order.
Offense: Contreras demonstrates consistent ability to square up pitches, and Contreras had a career high 21.9 line drive percentage while still maintaining a strikeout rate below 20%. Contreras has a fairly simple swing with a moderate leg kick, bringing his hands directly to the ball. Contreras is still working on pitch recognition and more advanced pitchers can get him out in front to ground out, though even then he typically hits it hard and is able to find holes, as his .326 BABiP attests. He does have good patience at the plate however, and is happy to take a base on balls. Contreras is listed at 6′-0″ and 180 pounds, but looks about 15 pounds heavier now with more room to fill out, and he should increase his over-the-fence pop as he does.
Defense: Contreras is a well-rounded defensive catcher, especially for the rookie ball level. He’s a generally good receiver and can pitch frame exceptionally well for the level. He blocks well, though he seems to occasionally seem to get complacent behind the plate. He also has a strong arm, but his footwork is still a work in progress so his pop time isn’t quite up the the level of the more advanced catching prospects in the system. The fundamentals are all there however, and he should benefit from extra repetitions in a full-season league.
What’s Next: Contreras represents the most well-rounded catching prospect in the Braves system, and only his lack of experience keeps him from being higher on this list. Contreras will likely start the 2018 season in Rome. He did seem to fade a little down the stretch, so building stamina will be an important off-season consideration for him.