Minor League Ball continues its run around the minors, looking at three unheralded prospects from each system. Today, we turn to the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves are one of the harder systems to dissect. The Top 20 prospects are very well known by now. Even a guy like Anfernee Seymour (who unfortunately recently grabbed the wrong kind of headlines) is a former top prospect in another system. There are under-the-radar guys at every level for the Braves, but there are some gems the deeper you dig.
Brett Cumberland, C (scouting profile from June 15)
The 22-year-old had a breakout in Rome before heading to the Florida State League. It garnered a lot of attention, and jumped Cumberland into Braves’ top prospect list conversation.
Cumberland is the switch-hitting catcher taken out of Cal at the end of the second round last year. He put together a fine 55-game run in the South Atlantic League this year, slashing .263/.432/.531 with 15 doubles and 12 home runs.
There is a lot to like about Cumberland. The on base percentage stands out, finishing at .409 over both levels. His walk rate went down in the Florida State League against more advanced pitching, but he still knows how to work a count and draw a walk. Defense was his biggest set back, but even that improved as the year progressed. Cumberland made six errors, with six passed balls. He actually threw out runners at a better lick in Florida, nailing 23 percent of attempted stolen bases.
Almost all of his power seems to come as a left-handed hitter, and appears to be where he is most comfortable. He can use both fields as well. He doesn’t have any issues with his mechanics and generates good bat speed, so despite a complete fall off in power after his promotion, he should remain a 15 to 20 homer guy.
Thomas Burrows, LHP (scouting profile from August 6)
The Atlanta Braves need help in the bullpen. The recent promotion and success of A.J. Minter to the bigs is promising, making an under-the-radar prospect a known commodity.
Burrows could be very much in the same ilk.
The 23-year-old had a solid season in Rome, making it a bit surprising he wasn’t fast-tracked. His spotty command may have been what held him back, but he has two above-average pitches that are highly effective.
Burrows was a fourth-rounder for the Mariners after becoming Alabama’s all-time saves leader in 2016. The Mariners dealt him to the Braves with Luiz Gohara less than a year later. It’s safe to say the Braves are winners in that deal.
The southpaw is deceptive from the start, with a three-quarters, sidearm delivery. His fastball touches the mid-90s with ease and his slider is a wipeout pitch. Yes, he walked over three batters per nine, but struck out nearly 13 per nine as well. To Burrows credit, he can go two or three innings with ease, which is an asset in itself. The deception of his delivery, and the ensuing sink it gives his pitches, makes him a ground ball pitcher, yet another asset.
Burrows will be 23 for all of 2018. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him jump on the fast track.
William Contreras, C (prospect discussion from August 1)
It’s been awhile since the Braves had this much depth at the catching position. Alex Jackson, Cumberland, Lucas Herbert, and Drew (S)Lugbauer may be higher up the rankings — and deservedly so — but there is plenty to keep an eye on with Contreras.
Contreras is 19 years old. Following his brother Willson Contreras’ career-path, William signed out of Venezuela before the 2015 season. The right-handed hitting and throwing backstop has shown nice plate presence in his progression to the Appalachian League.
He slashed .290/.379/.432 with Danville, but his 30-to-24 strikeout-to-walk rate is what stands out. He has a bit of a way to go behind the plate, as he seems to have troubles keeping the ball in front of him. Most seem to like his arm, but agree that he has to improve his accuracy.
Simply put, Contreras is still kind of raw, but has the tools to be a fun player. It will be interesting to see his likely full-season debut with Rome next season and how well his game translates to more advanced pitching.