The Braves organization was swept last night, as not only did the Dodgers beat the Braves, but all four full-season affiliates were defeated as well. But just because none of the clubs down on the farm won any of its games doesn’t mean there weren’t some big performances.
Here’s a recap of Friday’s Braves minor league action…
Gwinnett Stripers (15-13)
L, 5-0 vs. Jacksonville
- SP, C. Johnstone – (L), 2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, K
- RF, T. Demeritte – 2 for 4, K
- RP, T. Roark – 3 IP, 3 H, BB, 3 K
For the second night in a row, Gwinnett’s offense was contained as the Stripers lineup managed just six singles against the Jumbo Shrimp on Friday. The 26-year-old Connor Johnstone got the start for Gwinnett, and for the third straight time, he just didn’t seem to have his best stuff. The former Wake Forest star was forced to face 13 Jacksonville batters in just a two-inning start, and in the 2nd, the Jumbo Shrimp batters just simply couldn’t miss as six of the first eight that came to the plate came away with a hit. For Johnstone, this makes him 0-3 in his last three outings, and in that stretch of 11 innings, he has allowed 11 runs (9.00 ERA) from 17 hits and two home runs, which is actually not too bad when you consider opposing batters are currently hitting .378 versus him, with a .939 OPS. His season ERA rose to 5.92.
The list of notable offensive contributors is a rather short one. Prospect Drew Waters finished 0 for 3, but he did draw a lead-off, 1st-inning walk, so that’s nice. Other than the two hits by Travis Demeritte listed above, Gwinnett got a base-hit out of Johan Camargo, Jonathan Lucroy, Phillip Ervin, and a pinch-hitting Ryan Goins. But that kind of night will occasionally happen, especially when you’re going up against strong pitching… which the Stripers did. Jacksonville starter Braxton Garrett was the Miami Marlins top pick in 2016 (7th overall) and is their 28th ranked prospect, per FanGraphs. Garrett went five innings with two hits allowed and five strikeouts.
Also, last night, veteran reliever Tanner Roark made a nice bounce-back relief appearance for Gwinnett after getting hit pretty hard on Tuesday. The 34-year-old Roark mostly kept the ball on the ground and was a strike-throwing machine as he threw 31 of 49 pitches in the zone on Friday. The Braves could really use Roark up at the big league level, so hopefully, he’ll be ready when they call on him. Roark is currently at a 5.59 ERA in 9.2 innings this season.
Mississippi Braves (14-14)
L, 4-1 vs. Pensacola
- SP, A. Puckett – 3 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 4 K
- CF, J. Dean – 3 for 4, 2B, RBI, SB
- 2B, J. Miller – 1 for 3, R
Speedy center fielder Justin Dean got started in his usual ways of contributions last night, slapping a single in the opening inning before stealing second. The 24-year-old Dean has essentially stolen bases at will so far in 2021, as he’s currently 9 for 10 on stolen base attempts. But the real accomplishment in last night’s game was Dean’s three hits, his first three-hit performance of the season so far. The former 17th round pick is certainly getting hot. Dean has four hits in his last seven at-bats.
— Mississippi Braves (@mbraves) June 5, 2021
But other than Dean, the Mississippi offense was rather quiet. The M-Braves lineup only tallied six hits altogether. Dean was responsible for half of them, which only leaves three other singles — recorded by Riley Unroe, Wendell Rijo, and Jalen Miller. It appears perhaps prospect Braden Shewmake was given the night off, given Unroe got the start at shortstop. Hopefully, Shewmake can take some time to clear his head.
Make it 4 K's through 2 innings of 1-run baseball so far for @Puckett_AJ15.
End 2 | P'cola 1, M-Braves 0 pic.twitter.com/dagveMYUbm
— Mississippi Braves (@mbraves) June 5, 2021
On the pitching side, Mississippi’s starter A.J. Puckett was pretty sharp. The 26-year-old righty impressed many folks with how he got himself out of what could’ve been a rough 1st inning when he allowed the first three Pensacola batters to reach but bounced back with three straight strikeouts to limit the damage to just one run. Those hits in the opening frame were all the Blue Wahoos managed. Friday gives Puckett a nice little two-outing run of success as he’s only allowed one run from five hits over his last 8.2 innings (1.04 ERA) and has held opposing batters to a .498 OPS in that span.
Relievers Chris Nunn, Sean McLaughlin, Josh Graham, and Emmanuel Ramirez finished the final five innings of last night’s loss, combining to allow three runs from five hits to go with three walks and five strikeouts. Nunn was slapped with the loss for his two runs allowed in the 5th, which both came from a two-run home run.
I also want to point out that, while not as horrific as Shewmake’s start to the year, prospect outfielder Jefrey Ramos is on the verge of being sent back down to High-A ball as he finished 0 for 3 again on Friday, striking out twice. The 22-year-old is now down to a .102 AVG and .254 OPS this season, which is such a shame given how much upside he flashed two years ago. Also, Greyson Jenista needs to get things into gear as well.
Rome Braves (15-13)
L, 7-3 vs. Bowling Green
- SP, T. Gordon – (L), 2.2 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, HR
- CF, M. Harris – 2 for 4, HR, 3 RBI
- DH, K. Josephina – 1 for 4, 2B, R
Even though Rome got beat, last night was all about @MoneyyyMikee (his Twitter handle) as prospect outfielder Michael Harris posted his second three-RBI game of the season and blasted his third home run. Harris has been hot all season but especially over the last week or so, featuring a 12 for 33 stretch (.364 AVG) in his last eight games.
Michael Harris hits a monster three run home run the opposite way to give Rome the lead. That's his third of the season. pic.twitter.com/CqLeWgPVCF
— Atlanta Braves Farm System Updates (@BravesMILB) June 4, 2021
And then there’s third baseman Kevin Josephina, who has been even hotter of late, having hit .429 with five XBH in his last 12 games. The 24-year-old Josephina doubled for the second consecutive game on Friday and now has hits in each of his last six games, a stretch that features five multi-hit performances. The dynamic duo of Harris and Josephina should be a lot of fun to watch in Mississippi. Second baseman and leadoff hitter Cody Milligan also contributed with two hits on Friday. And his 2021 season has been a success, too, as he’s now up to a .316 AVG.
While Rome’s offense was on point, the starting pitching was not. Former 6th round pick, righty Tanner Gordon, got the start last night, and it’s outings like these that make it difficult to look at him as a potential prospect within the Braves system. Gordon allowed a two-run homer in the 2nd, though he managed to work through the inning without any more damage. However, everything fell apart in the 3rd as he surrendered a single, a pair of walks, and a triple, to go with a wild pitch. Gordon left after that aforementioned triple by Bowling Green. To make matters worse, reliever Jake McSteen immediately allowed a home run to tack on another earned run against the R-Braves starter.
Following McSteen, Rome’s bullpen was sharp. Both Zach Daniels and Davis Schwab worked the final three innings, with the former striking out four in two innings and the latter punching out two in his one frame.
Augusta GreenJackets (12-16)
L, 8-3 vs. Charleston
- SP, T. Owens – 3.1 IP4 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 K
- SS, V. Grissom – 2 for 4, 3B, 2 RBI, R
- CF, S. Paolini – 1 for 3, 2B, SB, BB
For starter Tyler Owens, Friday was a nice outing to begin turning his season around as he mostly kept the ball on the ground in his start against Charleston. The former 13th round pick still could’ve been a bit more efficient (he needed 66 pitches to work 3.1 frames), but all three of his runs allowed were unearned and added four strikeouts.
On offense, prospect shortstop Vaughn Grissom and first baseman Landon Stephens led the way for Augusta as both combined for the team’s three RBI. Javier Valdes, Stephen Paolini, and Cody Birdsong also contributed with hits of their own. However, the RiverDogs were just too strong.
Charleston’s pitching continues to impress as not only did its starter strike out five in 2.2 innings, but the two relievers that worked the final 6.1 frames combined to punch out ten GreenJackets and allow just a couple of hits. Meanwhile, Augusta’s bullpen basically imploded. Luis Santos, Justin Yeager, James Acuna, and Kenny Wells gave up five runs.
As of Saturday morning, Gwinnett and Rome have yet to announce a starter for Saturday’s games. However, Jose Rodriguez will get his first start of the 2021 season for Mississippi today, and Augusta will go with Alec Barger (4.50 ERA).