Braves' Cunningham Gets Ahead Of The Game





ATLANTA—Todd Cunningham entered the 2010 draft with a plan. If a team that selected him showed sincere interest in retaining his services, the outfielder was prepared to jump in with both feet to start working his way to the top.

The situation could not have unfolded better. Drafted out of Jacksonville State in the second round with the 53rd overall selection, he wasted little time agreeing to a contract with the Braves for a reported signing bonus of $674,100. Less than three weeks after hearing his name called, Cunningham was wearing a Braves uniform with low Class A Rome.

"I knew I'm not a guy with the major tools who can hold out and penny-and-dime an organization," Cunningham said. "That's not what it's about. It's about getting on the field and playing, because that's where my strengths are."

Cunningham entered the 2010 collegiate campaign as a potential first-round choice. He proved capable of hitting with wood from both sides of the plate by leading the Cape Cod League with a .387 average in 2009 after posting a .310 norm in the Texas Collegiate League the previous summer. He also was a preseason first-team All-American.

Undrafted out of high school, the 6-foot, 200 pound Cunningham blossomed with the Gamecocks while displaying solid-average speed and an impressive baseball intellect that helped him steal 21 bases in 23 attempts during his junior campaign. He also showed the ability to drive the ball by hitting 11 home runs with 43 RBIs and posting a .359 average in his final season with Jacksonville State.

Those traits continued to emerge in the professional ranks, where Cunningham batted .260/.341/.338 in 65 games. Yet what impressed Rome manager Randy Ingle most was the outfielder's approach to the game on a daily basis.

"He plays hard every single play, every single day," Ingle said. "He has great energy and passion for what he's doing. He makes good contact, he gets good jumps on balls in the outfield, and he makes accurate throws. He played all three positions out there for us and did a great job."

Wigwam Wisps

• The Braves did not renew the contract of Double-A Mississippi manager Phillip Wellman in what was described as "an organizational decision." Wellman guided the M-Braves to the 2008 Southern League championship and was the league's manager of the year that season.

• The Braves signed a four-year affiliation agreement with high Class A Lynchburg. The Braves had to depart Myrtle Beach when Pelicans owner Chuck Greenberg, who's also a member of Nolan Ryan's ownership group with the Rangers, opted to sign with Texas.