Hitter of the year: C Brett Cumberland
2017 stats: .263/.432/.531, 10 HR in 55 games
Plate discipline: 13.1% BB rate, 25.8% K rate
Cumberland was drafted by the Braves 76th overall in 2016 as a draft eligible sophomore from Cal. Cumberland was viewed as a power-hitting prospect that might eventually move to the outfield to speed up his path to Atlanta. Despite the great reviews on Cumberland’s bat, he got off to a very slow start as a pro. Through his first 71 games, Cumberland was hitting .207/.358/.338 with just 5 home runs, but he went on an unbelievable tear starting in late May of 2017. Over Cumberland’s final 29 games with Rome (before a midseason promotion to Florida), he hit .320/.434/.680 with 8 HR and a 204 wRC+. Cumberland’s power numbers came back down to earth has he hit .269/.384/.363 with just 1 HR in 56 games with Florida, but he remains a very interesting prospect heading into 2018. Defensively, Cumberland threw out 22% of base stealers in 2017 and had 6 passed balls in 47 starts behind the plate.
Pitcher of the year: LHP Joey Wentz
2017 stats: 2.60 ERA, 2.68 FIP over 26 starts and 131.2 IP
K/BB rates: 10.39 K/9, 3.14 BB/9
It was a tough call deciding between Wentz and fellow 2016 draft picks Ian Anderson (3.14 ERA over 20 starts; 10.95 K/9 and 4.66 BB/9) and Bryse Wilson (2.50 ERA over 26 starts; 9.13 K/9 and 2.43 BB/9), but Wentz was arguably the most consistent pitcher for the 2017 Rome Braves. A case could easily be made for all three guys, but I gave Wentz a slight nod over the other two. In 26 starts for the Rome Braves, Wentz allowed 3 ER or less in 22 of those starts. His worst month of the season came in May, when Wentz posted a 3.66 ERA over 5 starts. Although the 6’5 lefty’s low 90’s fastball isn’t overpowering, it has great armside run to go along with a sharp curveball and a solid changeup. Wentz has a very repeatable delivery and his athleticism makes it even easier for him. It will be interesting to see whether or not the Braves fast-track Wentz, Anderson, and Wilson in ’18 like they did Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard in 2017. They could play it safe and send them to Florida to open the ’18 season, but there is little doubt that all three guys are ready for AA Mississippi.
Name to watch: CF Cristian Pache
2017 stats: .281/.335/.343, 32 SB
Plate Discipline: 7.6% BB rate, 20.2% K rate
The Braves signed Pache on July 2, 2015 during the international signing period. At the time, Baseball America ranked Pache the 21st best international prospect in the 2015. He is praised for his athleticism and above average speed in CF, but some scouts question how his funky swing will translate at higher levels. Despite hitting just 32 extra base hits (none of which have been home runs) in 176 professional games, Pache projects to eventually hit for average power as he adds muscle to his 6’2, 185 pound frame.
Others of note:
-RHP Tucker Davidson: 2.60 ERA over 103.2 IP split between bullpen and rotation. 8.77 K/9 to just 2.60 BB/9.
-LHP Thomas Burrows: 2.16 ERA over 66.2 IP out of the ‘pen. Had 92 K’s to just 25 BB. Could move fast in 2018.
-RHP Matt Custred: 6’6 240 pound righty was dominant out of the ‘pen, posting a 1.16 ERA and 11.17 K/9 in 38.2 IP.
-RHP Brandon S. White: 1.82 ERA and a 2.89 FIP in 25 appearances as Rome’s closer.