Legends On Deck

Atlanta Braves Prospects – Catchers

Historically the Braves have been pretty good at the catcher position. In fact, there was almost a 20 year span from the early 90’s until 2013 that the organization was set at backstop between Javy Lopez and Brian McCann. That has not been the case in recent years. They thought Christian Bethancourt was the guy to take over for McCann, but things never worked out. After trading Bethancourt to San Diego and not having much catching depth in the farm system, the Braves have trotted out some serviceable veterans while looking for their long term solution behind the plate. That will be the case again this season with Tyler Flowers, who is coming off of a career year in 2016, and Kurt Suzuki as the front runners to break camp on the 25 man roster.

There is no doubt Atlanta’s rebuild has been focused on pitching and we will more than likely start to see a few of those young arms make their mark on the big league club in 2017. While the experts look to the guys taking the mound as the future of the organization, a lot of questions still remain regarding the other half of the battery. There is not much depth in the system, but there are some very young backstops that have shown potential.

Braves prospect Brett Cumberland (Photo Courtesy of Jeff Morris)

Catchers

1. Jonathan Morales – (Rome)

2016 Statistics (Single-A) .269/.313/.356, 4 HR, 55 RBI

Jonathan Morales was taken by the Braves in the 2015 first year player draft. The Miami Dade College product was a 25th round pick and has been a pleasant surprise within the organization so far. He spent all of last season in Single-A Rome where he played in 113 games and performed well both at the plate and behind it. He didn’t slug particularly well in 2016, but Morales was almost guaranteed to put the ball in play after posting a K% of 11.9% and a BB% of 5.4%, both astonishingly low numbers. There were not many high expectations for Morales when he was selected, but over the last two years he has been the Braves most appealing catcher in my opinion. He is a well-rounded catcher who hits for good contact, has proven that he can hit for power, and is also a game manager. He still has a lot of developing to do, but if you asked me who my pick was to be the Braves next tenured backstop that is already in the system, it would be Morales.

2. Brett Cumberland – (Danville)

2016 Statistics (Rookie) .216/.317/.340, 3 HR, 30 RBI

Last year’s 76th overall pick in the June draft played 45 games in the Appalachian League as a member of the 2016 Danville Braves. His skill set is a little unique compared to what we typically see from catchers as Cumberland is a switch-hitter that is praised for his power. The former Cal Bear is not the best runner, but due to his bat and his decent arm there have been rumblings about whether or not Cumberland will even stay at catcher. I am looking forward to seeing a full season from the 21 year old as we do not have much to go off of from his 162 AB’s last year. It will be interesting to see how his raw power can translate to a full season.

3. Lucas Herbert – (Rome)

2016 Statistics (Single-A) .185/.234/.278, 6 HR, 30 RBI,

Herbert was taken by the Braves 54th overall in 2015 out of San Clemente, California in what was a very calculated move by the front office. The team sprung early to snag Herbert who also happened to catch the Braves first draft pick of that year, Kolby Allard, in high school. Herbert played in just three games during his first season in pro ball before tearing his meniscus and being sidelined for the remainder of the year. Despite the injury and the lack of playing time, Herbert still made a jump to Single-A Rome where he caught his high school buddy Allard as well as the rest of Rome’s deep pitching staff. Herbert has been graded with a high power tool but seemed to really struggle at the plate last year when he posted a strikeout rate of 26.2% and a wRC+ of just 46 in 335 AB’s. Defensively, he is solid. He is a true catcher with what many call better than average hands and footwork which really benefit him when gunning down baserunners and blocking up balls. Herbert caught a bad break with the injury and then being rushed to Single-A with only four pro AB’s under his belt. I would not be surprised to see his development continue in Rome as he starts to right the ship.

Featured Image Courtesy of Four Seam Images/AP

Jake Berry
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Jake Berry

Contributing Writer at Legends On Deck®
Jake resides in Carrollton, GA and loves everything baseball. He is a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan and enjoys traveling to watch their Minor League teams. He graduated from the University of West Georgia in 2016 with an undergrad in Sport Management. Jake is also a certified personal trainer and has a passion for fitness and weight lifting. You can find his personal site at berrysbaseball.com
Jake Berry
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