ROME, GA — Greg Cullen is turning into a nice infield prospect for the Atlanta Braves. After yet another multi-hit performance in Game 1 Saturday at State Mutual Stadium — his fourth four-hit game of the season, mind you — it’s time to consider Cullen as a special prospect in the Braves deep system.
It’s not like he’s a complete no-name by any means. Cullen made the Talking Chop honorable mention list in our midseason top 30, but with some MLB trade deadline moves and some graduations possibly looming come September, Cullen may be a name inside the top 30 sooner than later.
Who is Greg Cullen? Let’s start at the beginning.
Cullen began his career at Niagara, leading the team in hits and runs as a freshman. You could consider his sophomore campaign a breakout — 65 hits, eight doubles, three triples, and two home runs while hitting .341 — but it was his junior campaign that put him on the map.
The then-shortstop not only led Niagara in hitting, not only led the MAAC in hitting, but led the entire nation with a .458 batting average. He took home MAAC player of the year and All-American honors behind a .556 on-base percentage that was second in the Division I college baseball to go along with 81 hits, 51 runs scored, 24 extra base hits — 17 of which were a career-high in doubles — and walked (38) more times than he struck out (22).
The Braves took a chance and took him in the 15th round of the 2018 MLB draft. He’s certainly outperforming many who went before him and is officially a prospect to consider for the preseason Talking Chop top 30.
Cullen isn’t going to have a future in the NBA when his baseball days are done. He stands at just 5’10” and is listed at 190, which has to be primarily muscle. Normally, when a player has a lot of pre-pitch “noise” in his swing, I am hesitant to jump on board, but Cullen makes it work.
He spins his bat as the pitcher reads his signs, almost winding himself up like a toy car. He stands wide and bounces back and force with a slight twirl over his shoulder. As the ball nears he has more of a toe tap than a leg kick since he’s already pretty wide, and the impressive part is how quickly the bat gets through the zone.
It leads not not only a lot of contact, but a lot of loud contact. The above hit was drilled so hard at the third baseman, even though he got a glove on it, it blasted right through for a single.
What was most impressive Saturday in Rome was how Cullen went 4-for-4. Sure, all four hits were singles, but he filled the spray chart. The first hit was a liner hit hard up the gut to the centerfielder. He then worked his pitch and took the ball the other way to left field. In his third at-bat he scorched a single past a diving first baseman, pulling it hard to right field for an RBI. The fourth hit was the one in the tweet above when he lined it so hard he blew a hole in the third baseman’s glove (Author’s note: That is an over-exaggeration to deliver a point, people).
In the field, Cullen has played solely at second base after a collegiate career at shortstop. He’s shown little issue in transferring on double plays, and having been a shortstop, we know he has the arm for second. He fields well with average range to both sides, and clearly has some versatility if becoming a utility player is in his future.
A simple look at the numbers aren’t overwhelming. He’s slashing .268/.399/.413 for the year in a league where the 22-year-old is slightly older or around the same age as most of the pitchers he is facing. But that’s why we watch them play. Cullen is simply a workhorse and grinder and he’s tapped into newfound power with 19 doubles, six triples and nine home runs. Thus far in the second half he has walked 30 times and struck out 29 for an overall 88-to-63 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the season.
Simply put, Cullen does everything very, very nicely. Expect a jump this offseason in Braves prospect rankings as we’re not the only one starting to notice.