Well, all good things must come to an end, and after two solid seasons for Charlie Culberson in Atlanta, he was non-tendered on December 2nd. As of this writing, I’m not aware of any free agent interest in Culberson, so a reunion at a lesser amount is possible. Regardless, it’s likely he’ll end up on someone’s roster in 2020.
Is there a player on the team that you makes you want to root for them any harder than Charlie Culberson? It’s almost like the guy had been born to be a utility player for the Atlanta Braves. Born in Rome, GA, Culberson kicked around the Giants, Rockies, and Dodgers organization with minimal success (.231/.272/.324 in 443 total PAs) until he came to Atlanta. In his two seasons with Atlanta, he hit .267/.316/.457 in 466 PAs.
He seems to have been exactly what the Braves needed when they need him. Last year, he played LF, RF, 3B, SS, and 1B. He started games at all of those positions except for third base. Two years ago, he covered DL stints for Ronald Acuna Jr., Dansby Swanson, and Johan Camargo. But what gets him the fan love is his work as a pinch-hitter. In 58 PAs last year, Charlie produced a .283/.333/.509 line with two doubles, two triples, and two home runs. For a guy to come off the bench cold and deliver at that rate, that was a huge boost to the team.
And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include his legend as a relief pitcher. Used in blow outs twice last year, he delivered two scoreless innings. Obviously a lot of guys have been able to keep teams off the board in the position-player-as-mop-up-reliever role. What gives Culberson some extra credibility is that he takes it seriously, and it genuinely looks like he could handle the role. He sports a 92MPH fastball, and he delivered a strikeout on a 79MPH curveball. That’s just good fun.
Charlie had two key moments in his 2019 season. First, there was the throw that cut Jorge Alfaro down at the plate to save a game in July. I’d love for you to watch it again here:
The second key moment of the season is much less enjoyable. On September 14th, Charlie squared around to bunt, but instead took a fastball to the chops. It was quite awful. If it wasn’t worse than Jason Heyward’s hit to the face, it was pretty close. If you care to watch it, you can find it here:
It ended Charlie’s season, and potentially his Atlanta career. If this is the end, he’ll finish with 466 PAs with defensive check-ins at every position except catcher but including pitcher. It’s nice to have this much to say about a utility player, but fortunately Charlie gave us enough to look back on.