With the Orioles sending former top draft pick Kevin Gausman and veteran reliever Darren O’Day to the Atlanta Braves for four prospects and international signing bonus slots before Tuesday’s nonwaiver trade deadline, they continued the process of stocking their farm system by selling off major league talent in their sudden rebuild.
The package of players — infielder Jean Carlos Encarnación, catcher Brett Cumberland, and pitchers Bruce Zimmermann and Evan Phillips — is in line with what the Orioles have been doing in all the rest of their trades, including the ones for Manny Machado and Zach Britton over the past couple of weeks.
Encarnación gives them the potential for an impact infielder in the low minors, something they’re still largely lacking. Cumberland slides right behind their high-minors catchers to fill an area of need there, while Zimmermann and Phillips fill their desires to add high-minors left-handed starters and bullpen depth, respectively.
Here’s a breakdown of what the Orioles got for Gausman and O’Day, though the Braves sending a big chunk of international bonus money and taking on the rest of O’Day’s contract is a substantial part of the return.
Infielder Jean Carlos Encarnación
A member of the Braves’ 2016 international signing class, Encarnación instantly becomes one of the more interesting players in the entire Orioles system, in terms of his raw tools.
Making his full-season debut at age 20 in the South Atlantic League for Rome this summer, Encarnación hit .288/.314/.463 with 10 home runs and 23 doubles, a performance level in line with what he’s shown in rookie ball since signing.
Encarnación does it with a free-swinging approach, one that has resulted in 100 strikeouts in 97 Low-A games but has been rewarded with plenty of contact, too. He was considered to have plus raw power, and has tapped into it in games to mask some of his approach problems. Defensively, he’s played almost exclusively at third base this season, with one scout projecting him to fill a major league utility role with the possibility of being an everyday player. He has the range and arm to play third with some refinement, though.
He was ranked No. 24 in the Braves system by Baseball America in the offseason, and was up to No. 14 in the MLB Pipeline midseason update. Considering the projection and upside he brings at 20 years old, it’s safe to say he’ll be peerless in his new system.
Catcher Brett Cumberland
The Braves took Cumberland, 23, in the supplemental second round (76th overall) out of Cal-Berkeley, where he was named the Pac 12 Player of the Year in 2016. He’s delivered on his bat-first catcher profile since. A .242 career minor league switch hitter, he’s still shown a solid approach and power from both sides of the plate as a professional.
In 82 games with High-A Florida, Cumberland hit .236/.367/.407 with 11 home runs and 15 doubles before a recent promotion to Double-A Mississippi. Much of Cumberland’s value will be determined by whether he stays behind the plate, where some evaluators question whether he could be anything more than a backup. He’s had a little more success throwing out would-be base stealers this year, bumping his caught-stealing rate from 22 percent over his first full pro season in 2017 to 41 percent this summer.
Cumberland snuck into the Braves’ MLB Pipeline Top 30 in the last spot of the midseason update, and will fill a void in the Orioles system when it comes to catching depth outside of the duo of Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns, each of whom has received major league time this year.
Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann
A Loyola Blakefield product who pitched for two seasons at Towson before transferring to Mount Olive, where the Braves liked him enough to take him in the fifth round last season as a senior sign.
Despite the small-school pedigree, one scout sees plenty of upside in his arm. From a performance perspective, he certainly fits the Orioles’ profile of a local player who is performing well. The 6-foot-2 left-hander struck out 99 in 84 2/3 innings for Rome before he skipped the Florida State League and went to Mississippi, where he made six starts with 26 strikeouts to 19 walks in 28 2/3 innings.
Zimmermann, 23, has a low-90s fastball that gets a lot of ground balls, plus a mid-70s curveball and a mid-80s changeup. Left-handers don’t see him well despite an easy, traditional delivery. Zimmermann has been challenged with a difficult assignment in his first full professional season, but considering the relative polish he brings, it makes sense. He’ll join a group of pitchability left-handers that includes Keegan Akin, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells and new addition Josh Rogers in the Orioles’ system as they look to ensure they don’t have an all-righty rotation going forward.
Right-hander Evan Phillips
A 23-year-old reliever who made his major league debut earlier in July for the Braves, Phillips posted a high strikeout rate all through the minors but has battled control until this year at Triple-A Gwinnett.
This year, he’s improved that command profile tremendously, walking 14 with a 1.03 WHIP in 40 2/3 innings in the International League. In the big leagues, he’s used a fastball that averages 93 mph, plus a high-80s slider and changeup.
His breakout this year in the minors at a relatively young age for the level portends possible good things, but Phillips was clearly a sell-high candidate for the Braves despite his 8.53 major league ERA, one that was inflated by three home runs in 6 1/3 innings. He’ll be able to break in with the Orioles under much easier circumstances than he faced in the Braves bullpen, when that time comes.