Braves: Can Drew Waters keep this up at the plate?

Braves Drew Waters

For much of the minor leagues, one-quarter of the 2021 regular season has now been completed. Today starts both a brand new week and a new six-game series for the Braves four full-season affiliates, so here’s a preview of what’s in store down on the farm.

All times are ET

 

Gwinnett Stripers (15-15 / 4th)

@ Memphis Redbirds 

  • Tue, June 8 – 8:10 PM
  • Wed, June 9 – 8:10 PM
  • Thu, June 10 – 8:10 PM
  • Fri, June 11 – 8:10 PM
  • Sat, June 12 – 7:35 PM
  • Sun, June 13 – 3:05 PM

Gwinnett gets a rematch with a team it’s probably glad to see in Memphis, given they’re losers of four in a row and now 6 ½ games out of first in Triple-A’s Southeast division. The Stripers won five of six versus the Redbirds back in late May, a series that featured two games in which Gwinnett’s offense scored 10 or more runs and the pitching held Memphis to an average of three runs per game.

If the Stripers continue with the rotation it ran with last week, Tuesday’s series opener against Memphis should feature lefty Kyle Muller, though with this year’s built-in day off every Monday, the team obviously has a little more flexibility with its starters. Muller will look to make it three strong outings in a row this week after starting the 2021 season with a 7.63 ERA in his first four starts. In his last 10 innings, spanning two outings, Muller has pitched to a 1.80 ERA with 14 strikeouts. 

Who’s hot… and who’s not? Prospect outfielder Drew Waters has now hit safely in eight of his last 11 games, and he enters Tuesday with a solid .263/.365/.414 slash-line this season to go with nine XBH — good for an above-average 115 wRC+. As always, the case with the former 2nd round pick, you’d like to see Waters chip away a bit more at that K-rate, but as long as he continues to also make contact… the whiffs won’t seem as bad.

After showing some promise last year, boy, it’s been a rough season for catcher Alex Jackson. The 25-year-old started 2021 with Atlanta but went just 1 for 23 with 13 strikeouts during the team’s first 10 games before straining his left hamstring on May 1. Late last month Jackson began his rehab assignment with Gwinnett, and other than a three-homer game back on May 27, he’s just 3 for 26 (.115 AVG) in the minors, and it appears prospect William Contreras has taken over for the foreseeable future as the Braves primary guy behind the plate. 

Player to watch: recently-acquired reliever Ty Tice should start receiving some work this week in Gwinnett. Tice made his MLB debut for Toronto this season but was DFA’d last week and claimed by the Braves this past weekend. He isn’t a well-known prospect, but his stuff is strong and could wind up helping Atlanta’s bullpen at some point in 2021. 

 


 

Mississippi Braves (15-15 / 2nd)

@Biloxi Shuckers 

  • Tue, June 8 – 7:35 PM
  • Wed, June 9 – 7:35 PM
  • Thu, June 10 – 7:35 PM
  • Fri, June 11 – 7:35 PM
  • Sat, June 12 – 7:35 PM
  • Sun, June 13 – 2:05 PM

The M-Braves have been playing some good ball lately and just wrapped up a series split last week against its division’s first-place team, Pensacola. Mississippi and Biloxi faced off back in mid-May and the Shuckers barely edged out the series win, outscoring the M-Braves 28-25 during the six-game set. 

The 26-year-old southpaw, Hayden Deal, will take the bump for Mississippi on Tuesday, and he’s coming off two of his best outings of the season in which he combined for a 1.86 ERA with 11 strikeouts and only two walks in 9 ⅔ innings. Weirdly, Deal has struggled versus same-handed opposing batters in 2021 as lefty-hitters have posted a .974 OPS against him, opposed to .624 by righties (albeit in a small sample-size). 

Who’s hot… and who’s not? I bet you don’t know much about 24-year-old Dominican righty Odalvi Javier, owner of Mississippi’s best ERA (1.31) so far this season, among starting pitchers. And though it’s quite understandable if you aren’t familiar with Javier, the kid has been a consistent performer in the Braves system for a while now. A teenage signee by Atlanta back in December of 2014, Javier hasn’t allowed more than one run in any of his five starts in 2021, and while his 13 walks in 20 ⅔ innings isn’t ideal, the 24 punch-outs certainly are, especially considering it’s Javier’s first taste of Double-A ball. 

So we know prospect shortstop Braden Shewmake is the obvious “who’s not hot” pick here; I think we’ve covered his struggles enough this season. But along with Shewmake, there’s also both Greyson Jenista and Jefrey Ramos, two top 30 prospects that are currently sporting a combined .145 AVG in 2021. Mississippi’s offense from top to bottom has really heated up recently, but those two still haven’t seemed to find a rhythm yet. 

Player to watch: instead of a player, I’m going to go with the M-Braves bullpen as a whole. So far this season, they have been lights out. Just look at the list of dominance from Mississippi’s relievers that have logged at least 10 innings in 2021…

 


 

Rome Braves (15-15 / 2nd)

vs. Asheville Tourists 

  • Tue, June 8 – 7:00 PM
  • Wed, June 9 – 7:00 PM
  • Thu, June 10 – 7:00 PM
  • Fri, June 11 – 7:00 PM
  • Sat, June 12 – 6:00 PM
  • Sun, June 13 – 2:00 PM

One of the better minor league teams for the Braves system so far in 2021, Rome had a rough series last week versus the division’s top team, Bowling Green, as they lost five of six. The R-Braves are now right at .500 and locked up in a four-way tie for second in the South. 

As of early Tuesday morning, Rome hadn’t announced its starter for the series opener against Asheville, but if the rotation remains the same from last week it should be Ricky DeVito who gets the ball. The 22-year-old DeVito was constrained to just a 49-pitch outing last Tuesday, although it was an efficient short start as he allowed only one hit in three innings, to go with six strikeouts and one walk. In fact, DeVito has been a strikeout machine so far in 2021, already with 27 punch-outs in 20 ⅓ innings of work, for a rate of 12 K/9. 

Who’s hot… and who’s not? We know all about prospect outfielder Michael Harris and his greatness this season, but Kevin Josephina is a kid we hear much less about. Although, over the last roughly two weeks of play (or 14 games), it’s actually the latter player that has been a bit better at the plate…

  • Josephina:  .393 AVG, .967 OPS, 5 XBH
  • Harris:  .345 AVG, .824 OPS, 5 XBH 

 

Whatever happened to 2019’s 2nd round pick, shortstop Beau Philip? Well, the now-22-year-old turned in a pretty middling pro debut season at Danville, and more recently, he now enters Tuesday’s game with just a .217 AVG to go with an unsightly 36.8% K rate. Hopefully, Philip can start playing up to his potential this week. 

Player to watch: at any point this week, if you hear that 22-year-old righty Indigo Diaz has entered the game… tune in. This kid is simply destroying opposing batters to the point where it’s not even comprehendible. Diaz has 34 strikeouts in only 15 ⅓ innings so far in 2021, equaling a K rate of… 20 strikeouts per nine! All year, of 57 batters faced this season, he has allowed one run from five hits. 

 


 

Augusta GreenJackets (13-17 / Last)

vs. Myrtle Beach Pelicans 

  • Tue, June 8 – 7:05 PM
  • Wed, June 9 – 7:05 PM
  • Thu, June 10 – 7:05 PM
  • Fri, June 11 – 7:05 PM
  • Sat, June 12 – 6:05 PM
  • Sun, June 13 – 2:05 PM

This scrappy Augusta team split its six-gamer last week, but the team still finds itself in last-place in its division. The GreenJackets will face intra-division foe, and a team they lost four of six to back in mid-May, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

Darius Vines started both the series opener and finale for Augusta last week versus Charleston, which leads me to believe today will be Joey Estes‘ start. While Vines has been solid this season, the unquestioned ace of the GreenJackets starting rotation in 2021 is the 19-year-old Estes, who entering Tuesday, sports a 1.29 ERA with 12 strikeouts per nine and two walks per nine. 

Who’s hot… and who’s not? Willie Carter may be a bit old (24-years-old) for Single-A ball, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s killing it this season. The former 34th round pick has it all: power and contact… to go with speed and defense. In Carter’s last 11 games, he sports a .400 AVG and a .917 OPS. Plus, he already has 10 multi-hit performances so far in 2021 out of 21 games overall. 

What’s up with the Braves minor league shortstops this season? Cam Shepherd came out of Georgia having managed a solid four-year collegiate career at a Power 5 school in the University of Georgia. But following a 20th round pick by Atlanta two years ago, pro ball has been quite the adjustment. The 23-year-old enters Tuesday with a 35 wRC+ at the Single-A level, and despite doing a decent job of drawing walks (13.7 BB%), he’s striking out at a 33.7% clip. To top it off, Shepherd is hitless in his last 13 AB, spanning five games.

Player to watch: be sure to check out Roddery Munoz‘s start this week. The kid has been a bit inconsistent at times but his stuff is fun to watch and he comes in with a K rate of 13 strikeouts per nine. Munoz primarily starts for Augusta, but don’t be surprised if the GreenJackets also deploy him out of the bullpen. 

 

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