Culberson is expected to join Atlanta's minor league camp again in 2024, but this time as a pitcher. That's right. Super utility player Charlie Culberson may have one more trick up his sleeve to show how versatile he truly is.
Of course, we all want this to pan out and for him to succeed but we also have to face reality. Culberson, unfortunately, will not be the next Shohei Ohtani and there is a chance this experiment is a bust. Here are two reasons why he can make the transition a successful one along with two reasons he cannot.
2 reasons Culberson could pull this off
1. He has the arm
2. He has the mentality
Charlie Culberson has stepped on a big-league mound before in real-game situations. In fact, in a small sample size, his career numbers as a pitcher are impressive. He has tossed 7.1 innings as a Major Leaguer and has a 1.23 ERA. Culberson's fastball has topped out at 94 mph in that time as well.
These statistics should be taken with a grain of salt as these were situations where the game was over and Culberson took the mound just to eat innings and save arms. However, pumping 94 mph fastballs as a position player will turn some heads. Knowing that Culberson has the arm to reach the mid-90s (and maybe higher with proper mechanics), this could be a great new gig for him.
In addition to just having the natural raw talent he does, Culberson also has a never-quit mentality. With the mix of electing free agency, taking minor league deals, and going back and forth from the MLB to Triple-A over the last few seasons, many felt like it was time for Charlie to retire. Culberson feels the opposite. He has a love for the game and the mentality to fight to be successful in a new role. After all, he is a super-utility man.
2 reasons this experiment will be a bust
1. 94 miles per hour is great, doesn't cut it in the big leagues
2. Father Time
We have mentioned the live arm that Culberson has already displayed for us on a few occasions but it may not be good enough. While it still is more than impressive to see a position player throw a mid-90s fastball, that is the norm in today's game.
In 2023, the average fastball speed was 92-93 mph. Culberson topped out at 94, so his average is most likely a little below that and below the league average. The best way to accommodate for having a below-average heater is to have explosive off-speed and breaking pitches.
MLB pitchers make it to where they are because they can locate, mix speeds, and throw pitches with outrageous movement. For Culberson, it will be highly difficult to execute an MLB-caliber changeup, curveball, or slider. If 94mph is all he has, this won't work.
Finally, Culberson is 34 years of age. To many that is young but for professional athletes that is getting close to the time retirement shows up on the radar. No doubt Culberson is in great shape. However, now training to be a pitcher and putting so much strain on muscle groups that haven't been the focus his entire career could potentially lead to injury and fatigue ultimately ending in retirement.