Georgia native Charlie Culberson enjoying MVP season with Braves
Charlie Culberson was a throw in the offseason blockbuster trade that sent Matt Kemp from the Atlanta Braves back to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Adrian Gonzalez.
Since then, Kazmir and Gonzalez were released before Opening Day and McCarthy has been injured for most of 2018. Culberson has gone from throw-in to centerpiece.
Culberson is enjoying a career year with a .288 batting average and an .806 OPS. An argument can be made that no other player in baseball hits more impactful home runs than Culberson. Of the five homers he mashed this season, two of them were walk-offs and another was in a 1-0 win. His only home run as a Dodger in the last two seasons was a walk-off home run that clinched the NL West in 2016 on longtime broadcaster Vin Scully’s final home broadcast.
It only took two words to describe his time with the Braves.
“It’s home,” the Rome, GA native said.
He hit a career-high four hits in the Braves’ 12-1 win over the Miami Miami on Monday, which prompt MVP candidate Freddie Freeman to call Culberson the real MVP.
“He’s the MVP of our team,” Freeman said. “When Ronald went down, he went to left field and kept going. Ozzie has been down the last couple days and he’s just picked it right up. It’s huge. There aren’t too many words to describe what Charlie has been doing. He’s the reason why we have a chance to play meaningful games in September.”
“That’s nice,” Culberson said in response to Freeman’s comments. “It’s just been contagious. Other guys do well, you just feed off that. It makes things a little bit more relaxing. Just happy to be in the mix and helping these guys win.”
Culberson thought his career was over after a back injury erased his entire 2015 season, save for five games. He chose to recover and rehab with his family back home, which allowed him to stay motivated and push towards continuing his career. He showed value as a super utility man who plays both in the infield and outfield. Despite being a September call-up last season, Culberson was the unsung hero for the Dodgers in the postseason. He stepped up in place of injured shortstop Corey Seager and went 5-for-11 with two doubles, a triple and RBI against the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS, pushing the Dodgers to their first World Series appearance since 1988. He also went 3-for-5 with a home run as a pinch hitter in the World Series.
Culberson was never known as a useful bat in the lineup prior to the previous postseason. Whatever led to turning the corner in the batter’s box travelled back home. Culberson has become a player that can play in any position with the exception of catcher and be counted on to get on base.
“He defines utility,” Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb said. “He’s been swinging it really well too and contributing every time he’s in there, so he’s just a great guy to have around. He’s been awesome.”
“He’s just been something else,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I hate to think where we’d be without him right now because he just picks everybody up and can play anywhere. The at-bats have been really, really good.”
Fortunately for the Braves, Culberson’s controllable through 2021. After a decade long journey that started with him being drafted out of Calhoun High School by the San Francisco Giants in 2007 though the minor leagues and memorable moments in Los Angeles ending with a World Series in 2017, the MVP utilityman is back home and here to stay.
“I don’t regret any failures I’ve been through in my career,” Culberson said. “Things have worked out.”
About: Tony Capobianco
- Previous Rays trade Nathan Eovaldi to Red Sox
- Next Is the positionless lineup becoming a thing in baseball?