Yesterday marked the beginning of Week 5 down on the farm as most of the Braves’ four full-season minor league affiliates have now completed their first 25 games of the 2021 regular-season schedule.
As always, Tuesday featured plenty of action…
AAA – Gwinnett Stripers (14-11)
L, 6-2 vs. Jacksonville
- SP, J. De La Cruz – 5 IP, 3 H, ER, 3 BB, 6 K
- 1B, J. Lucroy – 2 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI
- LF/CF, D. Waters – 2 for 5, 2B
After starter Jasseel De La Cruz made some quick work of Jacksonville in the top of the 1st with three strikeouts, Gwinnett’s offense sent seven batters to the plate and came away with a pair of runs. First, it was back-to-back singles by Cristian Pache and Orlando Arcia, followed by a Jason Kipnis walk. After a strikeout by Alex Jackson, yesterday’s first baseman Jonathan Lucroy provided the Stripers with its only two runs when he poked a line drive single to left to score Pache.
Unfortunately, that’s all Gwinnett’s lineup could muster in Tuesday’s loss. In fact, following that RBI single by Lucroy in the opening frame, 12 consecutive Stripers were set down in order by the Jumbo Shrimps’ starter, lefty Daniel Castano. It wasn’t until the 5th that prospect Drew Waters finally came through with a double to break the hitless stretch.
It’s a shame about Gwinnett’s offense too, because De La Cruz pitched really well in this one. The 23-year-old righty did have a bit of a tough 3rd inning, featuring three-straight base runners and an RBI single; however, all-in-all De La Cruz was fairly efficient with 73 pitches over five innings.
It was the veteran, and recently-signed pitcher, Tanner Roark that got hit hard on Tuesday. Roark started the 6th and wound up allowing six-straight base runners, ending in a four-run inning for Jacksonville. The 34-year-old also worked the 7th and gave up back-to-back doubles that resulted in another earned run.
Don’t look now, but after his two hits yesterday, Waters is up to a .262 AVG and .789 OPS for the season. More of that, please!
AA – Mississippi Braves (12-13)
L, 4-3 vs. Pensacola
- SP, N. Kingham – 4 ⅔ IP, 8 H, 2 ER, BB, 2 K, HR
- 3B, C. Alexander – 1 for 4, HR, RBI
- 1B, D. Lugbauer – 2 for 4, R
Mississippi’s four-game winning streak came to an end Tuesday night as the M-Braves bullpen faltered in the 8th inning.
Down 1-0 in the 3rd, hot-hitting third baseman CJ Alexander put Mississippi on the board with a solo blast for his fifth home run of the season.
Pensacola answered with a homer of its own in the 4th, though, and the Blue Wahoos held tight to its one-run lead in both the 5th and 6th. But the M-Braves rallied in the 7th, when Drew Lugbauer, Jefrey Ramos and Wendell Rijo all reached base, setting up a perfect RBI opportunity for Justin Dean. The speedy center fielder delivered by hitting into a force-out that Pensacola wound up turning into an error when the second baseman made an errant throw. Both Lugbauer and Ramos scored to give Mississippi a 3-2 advantage.
However, 2019’s fourth-overall pick by the Marlins (and the org’s fourth-ranked prospect this season, per FanGraphs), outfielder JJ Bleday, doubled in the 7th off M-Braves reliever Emmanual Ramirez. A passed ball by catcher Shea Langeliers allowed Bleday to advance to third, and then the Blue Wahoos’ Nick Fortes — Miami’s 43rd-ranked prospect — knocked in Bleday with a single to right. Later the next inning, Pensacola added the go-ahead run with another single, this time off usually-sharp reliever Brooks Wilson.
Mississippi might’ve lost this one, but the team played a great overall game. Alexander provided the power on offense, while Dean and Langeliers contributed with two awesome plays on defense last night.
Here’s Dean making a nice grab in center in the 5th…
And here’s Langeliers throwing out a would-be base stealer in the 6th…
M-Braves starter Nolan Kingham didn’t have it on Tuesday, and though he allowed just two runs in 4 ⅔ innings, the 24-year-old righty needed 90 pitches to complete his outing. On the bright side, shortstop Braden Shewmake finished 1 for 4 with a strikeout, pushing up his season AVG ever so slightly to .107.
A+ – Rome Braves (15-10)
W, 3-2 vs. Bowling Green
- SP, R. DeVito – 3 IP, H, BB, 6 K
- DH, K. Josephina – 3 for 4, HR, RBI
- RF, J. Franklin – 1 for 3, HR, RBI, BB
Rome ran into some strong starting pitching last night, going up against Bowling Green’s 23-year-old righty Evan McKendry, who wound up with seven strikeouts and just one run allowed from two hits in his five-inning outing. That one run the R-Braves managed to push across against McKendry came in the 4th when Bryce Ball popped up a sac-fly to left to score Michael Harris, giving Rome a 1-0 lead. However, the advantage was short-lived as Bowling Green tied the game the very next inning.
Third baseman Kevin Josephina, who has been scorching hot of late, put the R-Braves back on top in the 6th with a solo-homer. However, as was the trend the entire game, the Hot Rods answered back with a homer of its own in the 8th to tie it. But Rome finally got the last laugh in the 9th when outfielder Jesse Franklin V belted a homer to right.
Reliever Indigo Diaz, as he’s done so many times this season, shut down the opposing lineup to preserve the lead and the win.
Not sure if he was on a low pitch-count or what, but Rome’s starter last night, Ricky DeVito, exited after just 49 pitches and three innings. The right-handed DeVito was sharp, allowing just one hit and one walk to go with six strikeouts in his short outing.
Also notable, the ultra-toolsy prospect, outfielder Michael Harris, just continues to play on another level this season. The 20-year-old center fielder not only recorded a hit and scored a run on Tuesday, but he also stole two bags to give him seven swipes in 2021.
A – Augusta GreenJackets (11-14)
W, 1-0 vs. Charleston
- SP, D. Vines – 6 IP, 2 H, BB, 9 K
- C, R. Rodriguez – 1 for 3, HR, RBI
- RF, W. Carter – 2 for 3
This one was a snoozefest as both teams combined for just seven hits to go with 10 stranded base runners. Augusta’s catcher Ricardo Rodriguez was the difference-maker in the 7th when he slugged a solo home run to give the GreenJackets a 1-0 lead. Reliever Lisandro Santos then preserved the win by working a perfect 8th inning.
It was a career night for Augusta’s 23-year-old righty starter, Darius Vines, who put together the best outing of his young pro career. The Braves 7th round pick from back in 2019 tallied a season-high in both innings (six) and strikeouts (nine), and continues to put up excellent numbers in his first taste of full-season ball. The California native now has a 1.89 ERA in his first 19 innings this season, to go with 25 punch outs and seven walks.
Outfielder Willie Carter continues to lead the GreenJackets lineup with a .342 AVG and .948 OPS, though with both Rodriguez and Cade Bunnell providing some power recently, the latter two have now surpassed an .800 OPS as well this season.
For Wednesday’s slate of games, so far three of the four Braves affiliates have announced their starters as of Tuesday night: Mississippi’s Hayden Deal (4.24 ERA), Rome’s Jared Shuster (3.00 ERA) and Augusta’s Joey Estes (1.59).
Be sure to check back soon for the final installment of our Prospect Check-in series. With 20 of the Braves 30 ranked prospects already covered, this week I’ll be looking at how the organization’s top 10 prospects are doing in 2021.
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