Braves 2021 Farm Report: Travis Demeritte and Michael Harris shine on a rainy opening day

Braves farm system taking a hit

Welcome to SportsTalkATL’s daily Braves farm reports, your morning recap of the organization’s minor league action from the previous night. The plan is to run this column on a daily basis throughout the entire 2021 season, so be sure to check back each day for the latest regarding Atlanta’s farm system. 

 

After a long wait… Braves minor league baseball is FINALLY back!

Because of yucky weather all over much of the South and Southeast on Tuesday, the Braves were only able to debut half of its minor league clubs for the 2021 regular season. And though it’s been a rather long layoff, the bats were hot right out of the gate last night, helping lead Atlanta’s farm system to a 2-0 record to begin the new campaign, including a whopping 21 runs combined.

Let’s get started…

 

AAA — Gwinnett Stripers (1-0)

W, 10-9 (12 inn.) vs. Charlotte Knights

  • SP, K. Muller:  3 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 4 K, 2 HR
  • DH, T. Demeritte:  3 for 6, HR, 5 RBI, SB
  • 2B, R. Goins:  2 for 5, HR, 2B, RBI

Two seasons ago, Gwinnett featured perhaps one of the most prolific offenses ever in Triple-A as guys like Adam Duvall, Alex Jackson and Travis Demeritte slugged their way to a team record 253 home runs. That lineup was so good, in fact, that they broke the single-season HR record in late July and wound up finishing the ’19 campaign scoring 5.62 runs per game to go with a ridiculous team OPS of .809. 

Well, we’re one game into the 2021 season… and it appears Demeritte and company are at it again, except with a few new characters. 

On Tuesday night, Gwinnett’s offense finished with 13 hits, including seven XBH, to outlast Charlotte by a score of 10-9 in extras, thanks to a 12th-inning go-ahead RBI double by outfielder Abraham Almonte, which broke an 8-8 tie; Almonte also followed up his late-game heroics by scoring on an error later in the same inning to give the team a two-run lead. The Stripers nos. 1-5 hitters — Drew Waters, Ryan Goins, Orlando Arcia, Johan Camargo and Demeritte — combined to finish 8 for 26 (.307 AVG) with two homers, two doubles and seven RBI. All-in-all, it was about as good of a performance as you could ask for from the Stripers lineup, especially given it was the first game of the season following an entire year off for most of these guys. Plus, both Waters and Camargo doubled, with the former also picking up a stolen base. 

The outing by Kyle Muller is disappointing. And it’s weird considering he looked strong through his first few innings on Tuesday, tallying a pair of strikeouts and pitching around a couple of singles, one of which resulted in a run. 

Through two frames, Muller had a nice 3-1 lead and it looked like he was on his way to a solid opening day start. However, a homer in the 3rd inning to tie the game, followed by another long ball to start the 4th, quickly pushed three more runs across the plate for Charlotte. And after a sharply-hit single to center, the southpaw’s day was done — at 82 pitches (only 38 strikes) — before he could even record an out in the 4th. The 23-year-old prospect was hitting 94 MPH with his fastball, which is a few ticks down from his usual. But it’s just one outing, so nothing to worry about just yet. 

Given the quick hook to Muller, and because the game went into extras, Gwinnett’s bullpen had to cover nine innings last night… and they pitched exceptionally well. Five Stripers came on in relief and allowed just two runs (one earned) from three hits. Dylan Lee earned the two-inning save, striking out three and pitching around a single in the 12th that scored the ‘placed’ runner from second base. 

 

AA — Mississippi Braves (0-0)

PPD vs. Pensacola Wahoos 

Rain spoiled the M-Braves 2021 season opener, and as a result, Mississippi and Pensacola will add a game to their Thursday slate. 25-year-old lefty Mitch Stallings is scheduled to start for the Braves in Wednesday’s matchup, beginning at 7:35 PM (ET). 

 

A+ — Rome Braves (1-0)

W, 11-5 vs. Winston-Salem Dash

  • SP, B. Elder:  4 ⅔ IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 6 K, HR
  • CF, M. Harris:  3 for 4, 2B, 3 RBI, SB
  • 2B, C. Milligan:  3 for 4, 3 RBI

A six-run 3rd inning helped give Rome a win on Opening Day against Winston-Salem as the R-Braves lineup tallied 15 hits on Tuesday, 14 of which were singles. Andrew Moritz, Riley Delgado and the infamous Michael Harris — Rome’s nos. 1-3 hitters — all combined for five hits in the game, including the team’s lone XBH, a double by Harris. 

Catcher Logan Brown, 2020 draft pick/outfielder Jesse Franklin, as well as shortstop Beau Philip all finished with two hits apiece. Both Brown and Franklin also knocked in a run. Hell, even Rome’s no. 9 hitter was on a roll Tuesday night as second baseman Cody Milligan tied with Harris for a team-high three hits. This looks like a fun Rome offense, and one that should be led by the duo of Franklin and Harris.

Evidently, it was just a rough night altogether for Braves minor league starters. Rome’s starter on Tuesday, Bryce Elder, pitched around a triple in his first two innings of work, but then allowed six hits and five runs in the next 2 ⅔ frames, ending his night with 79 pitches (48 strikes). The four walks really hurt the 21-year-old righty, though it’s at least comforting that Elder managed six strikeouts.

Like Gwinnett above, Rome’s bullpen was lights out Tuesday night. Indigo Diaz entered with two outs in the 5th inning and got seven outs for the Braves, with five of those outs being punch outs, deservingly earning the win. Kasey Kalich worked the 8th and 9th, and despite allowing a double and two singles, the 23-year-old righty pitched a scoreless appearance with two strikeouts of his own. 

 

A — Augusta GreenJackets (0-0)

PPD vs. Columbia Fireflies 

Rain in the Southeast on Tuesday ruined opening day for several teams, including the Braves newest affiliate, Augusta. Like the M-Braves above, the GreenJackets will make up Tuesday’s game against the Fireflies on Thursday. Augusta will face Columbia on Wednesday, starting at 7:05 PM (ET). Starting pitchers for both teams haven’t been announced yet. 

 

Wednesday’s schedule (April 5)

  • AAA — Gwinnett @ Charlotte (7:04 PM)  SP, Kyle Wright
  • AA — Pensacola @ Mississippi (7:35 PM)  SP, Hayden Deal
  • A+ — Rome @ Winston-Salem (7:00 PM)  SP, Tanner Gordon
  • A — Columbia @ Augusta (7:05 PM)

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