With two-thirds of the season nearly in the books, who is the Atlanta Braves team MVP so far in 2018? The answer may surprise you.
Following a game that saw Charlie Culberson go 4 for 6 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI, All-Star first baseman and NL MVP candidate Freddie Freeman had this to say about his versatile teammate’s value to the Atlanta Braves:
With second baseman Ozzie Albies leaving early in Friday night’s game against the Washington Nationals, Culberson did what he’s done all year long. He went 2 for 4 with a homer and 2 runs scored after joining the game in the 3rd inning, and has manned second base since. In the last 3 games since taking over for Albies, Culberson is batting a whopping .600 with 4 RBI and is playing magnificently in the field to boot (no pun intended).
The last 3 games have simply been a microcosm for Culberson’s season on the whole. While contributing primarily as a pinch hitter and 3B sub during the first month of the season, Charlie struggled at the plate due to the lack of consistent playing time.
As things typically go in professional sports, one player’s unfortunate injury became another player’s opportunity. With Ronald Acuña going down with a knee injury in a game against Boston in late May, Culberson jumped right in as the everyday LF.
In a span of 22 games from May 28th to June 23rd, Culberson batted a robust .315 with a .548 slugging percentage, 4 HR, and 14 RBI. With Acuña making his triumphant return in late June, the onus has been placed on manager Brian Snitker to find playing time for Culberson.
To date, the utilityman has played 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, and LF while also being a primary bat off the bench and able to serve as a pinch-runner when necessary.
While seen as an afterthought in the salary-dump trade between the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves that saw Matt Kemp return to LA with Brandon McCarthy and Culberson coming over to Atlanta, he has quickly cemented himself as a fan favorite amongst the Atlanta faithful.
His legacy is not just a mere result of his astounding likeness to fellow Brave Dansby Swanson either. Following up on his clutch play last year with the Dodgers, Culberson became the first Atlanta Braves player to hit two walk-off game-winning home runs in the same season. He’s provided several additional clutch moments as well, always providing excitement when the Braves need it the most.
One could make the argument that the Atlanta Braves wouldn’t be in the position that they are in now without the exploits of Culberson and his ability to fill in wherever needed. With the trade deadline now just a week away, many fans have been flooding the message boards with calls for offensive upgrades to Braves roster. While no team is immune from needing upgrades to help make a push to the postseason, maybe the Braves already have that bat on the roster. The key, as we move forward, will be to find a way to keep him in the lineup…as long as he is producing of course.