The 10 for 10’s series finale is going to look at some of the most heroic players from the 2010’s in one of the least appreciated positions in the sport. The Atlanta Braves Bench has had some heroics in the past, but the following players gave us a large enough sample size to deem them the best of the bench. Suffice it to say that the biggest compliment that bench players can receive is when they’re no longer bench players, and many on this list made that happen through their part-time play.

Since this is the finale to a fun series, I wanted to give everyone a chance to catch up, so here’s every 10 for 10’s piece:

Best of the 2010’s, Atlanta Braves Bench: Charlie Culberson

In 443 plate appearances over 5 MLB seasons with the Giants, Rockies, and Dodgers, Charlie Culberson carried a .595 OPS. So naturally when the Braves traded for him there was many a teeth gnashing. And the gnashing didn’t stop anytime soon as Charlie was awful the first 2 months of the season and was carrying a .547 OPS on May 27th. Then, magic happened.

On May 28th against the Mutts, the Braves were down 2-1 in the bottom of the 8th. With 1 out, a sac fly scored Ozzie Albies to make it 2-2. The not good version of Shane Carle showed up in the top of the 9th and immediately coughed up the lead on a Devin Mesaroco dinger, 3-2. Fast-forward to the Bottom of the 9th, Charlie Culberson, the worst hitter on the bench and the last available player on the bench came in to pinch hit and did the unthinkable, hitting his first HR of the year, scoring Johan Camargo and giving the Braves a walk-off victory. 6 days later, he did it again.

Tied 2-2 in the Bottom of the 9th, Charlie comes on to PH once again, ding dong city, Braves win 4-2.

From May 28 through the end of 2018, Culberson was a different hitter than he’d ever been in his career, slugging 12 HRs, and carried an .843 OPS.

While 2019 wasn’t as kind for Charlie Clutch, he was still a very valuable bench player, logging innings at 7 positions (including pitcher) and made what I think was the Braves defensive play of the year. The Marlins juiced the bases with 1 out, down 1, and a line drive is laced to shallow left-center. Culberson comes charging, makes a great catch, and with his momentum carrying him away from the plate, throws a dart to home while his body became a lawn dart going the opposite direction.

Culberson is signed to an MiLB deal for 2020, and I personally would love to see him in a big league uniform.

Best of the 2010’s, Atlanta Braves Bench: Evan Gattis

Did you know he was a janitor and a ski lift operator? Seriously though, I remember loving Evan Gattis in the minors and telling everyone that would listen that he’s going to be a good Major Leaguer, but the greatest thing about Gattis was his story.

Growing up in Texas, Gattis was heavily recruited but chose Texas A&M. Substance abuse problems and anxiety caused by the divorce of his parents provided him a different path and for the next 4 years, he wandered the west doing odd jobs. Sometime during those 4 years of wandering he nearly took his own life, and that caused him to seek holistic treatment for his internal demons, and he finally found peace. He came back to baseball in 2010, playing at a small college in Texas as a catcher. The Braves took notice and drafted the 23 year old, and sent him to Danville.

We don’t talk enough about Gattis’s MiLB numbers, but they were extraordinary. In 1020 MilB PAs, Gattis carried a .922 OPS and accumulated 50 HRs. In the 2012 offseason, Gattis was sent to the Venezuelan Winter Leagues, where he solidified himself as a real prospect and was donned the name “El Oso Blanco” by his teammates, hit 16 HRs, and carried a .960 OPS.

For the next 2 seasons, Gattis played LF and C, and came off the bench to mash. In the ’14-’15 offseason, he was traded to the Astros for Mike Foltynewicz and Rio Ruiz, and while I was devastated at the time, it was likely the best move for all 3 players involved.

With all that went on with Gattis after high school and before baseball, he was easy to root for, and knowing the journey that he’d been on, I can man up and say that when this moment happened, baseball made me cry.

Best of the 2010’s, Atlanta Braves Bench: Matt Joyce

March 23, 2019, apparently the Giants had decided that Matt Joyce would not be making their club out of spring and the Braves, in need of a LH bench bat, scooped up Joyce in exchange for the ever-needed cash.

It didn’t take long for Joyce to make a statement in a Braves uniform. In fact, it took 1 AB. On Opening Day, the Braves got waxed by the Phillies, but Matt Joyce hit a pinch-hit 2 run no doubter in the 7th. He stayed hot for the first month and a half. And while I wouldn’t say he got cold, rather that his stats normalized. From then on, he was pretty much a mid-800s OPS player, but really excelled in the 148 PAs in games he started (.984 OPS). And while Joyce didn’t have any walk-offs, he was part of one of the coolest plays in the entire season.

Good luck in Miami, Matt.

Best of the 2010’s, Atlanta Braves Bench: David Ross

David Ross was the Braves backup catcher for Brian McCann from 2009-2012, and boy was he good! Collecting an insane 10.3 fWAR in less PAs that a regular player would get in 1 year, Ross was quite effective as a hitter and as a catcher as he and McCann were highly regarded in their work ethic and clubhouse leadership.

Here are Mac’s reflections on David Ross after his 2011 season:

The best catcher in the league deserves the best backup in the league. Ross had an odd season. Normally, his offensive contributions come largely via power, but he hit only two home runs, the first of which didn’t come until August. However, he hit a career-high .289 and drew 20 walks in just 145 PA to post a .392 OBP, and with 13 doubles and 2 triples wasn’t just a punch-and-judy hitter either, slugging .479. The Braves signed him to an extension during the year to keep the combo intact.

Bobby used Ross in sort of a demi-platoon role, trying to spot his starts against lefties (86 PA against them, only 59 against normal people). He hit for a higher average and with more power against lefties, but with many fewer walks. Ross throws better than McCann, or has traditionally (there was no real difference in 2010) and it might be best to team him with Tommy Hanson on a regular basis in an effort to control the running game… Faster than McCann, and pinch-ran for him a few times, but lacks McCann’s headiness as a baserunner.

What did we learn from this video? 1. David Ross was awesome. 2. I don’t think he likes dirt being thrown on him.

Best of the 2010’s, Atlanta Braves Bench: Brooks Conrad

Before Charlie Culberson, folk hero, there was Brooks Conrad. In one of the craziest games I can recall, the Braves were down 9-3 going into the bottom of the 9th. Then…

Brooks was known for 2 things, and one was this beautiful piece of baseball, and the other was the playoffs where he was thrust into a position he never should have been in and got a very untimely case of the yips. However, he was a very good bench player for 2 years, carrying a .754 OPS across 357 PAs.

Best of the 2010’s Honorable Mention, Atlanta Braves Bench: Eric Hinske

2 out of 3 isn’t bad, right? Hinske was with the Braves from 2010-2012 and was really good for 2 of those years, and the last year, we will let go unmentioned.

Braves signed Hinske in 2010 for 1MM then re-signed him in 2011 with an option for 2012, of which was exercised. In 2010 and 2011, he was a good LH bat off the bench, carrying a .757 OPS, and swatting 21 HRs in 584 PAs. Braves fans will mostly remember him for his playoff magic…that lasted only 1/2 inning.

It was 2010 and the Braves were playing the Giants in game 3 of the NLDS, the series was 1-1, and Hinske came up to the plate…

Unfortunately, Bobby Cox had a quick hook on his ace closer, and the aforementioned Brooks Conrad makes the error that’s likely haunted his career, and we know the rest. But Hinske…that was a moment to remember.

Best of the 2010’s Honorable Mention, Atlanta Braves Bench: Lane Adams

I might catch a little crap for putting Lane Adams on here, but let me state my case before you get all judgmental. Lane Adams might have had the luck of Jeff Francoeur‘s first 2 months of his career over the course of 2 years in a Braves uniform, but doggone it, he was really good.

In 154 PAs, Lane carried an .800 OPS, with 5 doubles, 1 triple, and 7 homeruns. However, the icing on the cake of his dominance as a bench player came in the form of pinch running. In 11 stolen base attempts across 2017 and 18, Lane was successful in all 11 attempts.

Back in 2017, I interviewed Lane when I was writing for Walk Off Walk. You should read it as you’ll understand why I’m a fan.

Thanks for reading on our 10 for 10’s Atlanta Braves Bench players. If you enjoyed this piece, check out this retro piece on Evan Gattis.

Long Live Braves Journal!