Braves: Evaluating another successful Stripers season

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Along with the Braves, Triple-A Gwinnett concluded its 2021 regular season this past Sunday, nearly getting no-hit by Jacksonville (the Marlins Triple-A affiliate). The Stripers season finale yesterday went a lot like the team’s last few months — pretty poorly. But all-in-all, the team once again turned in a solid season, finishing 71-58 overall (and above .500 at home and on the road) — good enough for third-place in the league’s Southeast division.

Offensive leaders

min. 250 PA

Johan Camargo 104 G, .326 AVG, 19 HR,  67 RBI, 155 wRC+

Travis Demeritte 81 G, .282 AVG, 21 HR, 57 RBI, 146 wRC+

Orlando Arcia 74 G, .282 AVG, 17 HR, 37 RBI, 129 wRC+

Cristian Pache 89 G, .265 AVG, 11 HR, 9 SB, 100 wRC+

Drew Waters 103 G, .240 AVG, 11 HR, 28 SB, 94 wRC+

Of the leading offensive players above for Gwinnett, perhaps the most frustrating is Johan Camargo, who’s 155 wRC+ with the Stripers ranked third in the East League. How he’s able to basically become one of the top hitters in Triple-A but still somehow manage to bomb it with Atlanta is mind boggling. With 2022 being his age-28 campaign, I guess this is just the player Camargo has become. Some guys can rake in the minors… but The Show is just a whole different animal.

Cristian Pache’s final numbers in Triple-A are pretty impressive too. Like Camargo, the Braves prospect outfielder was atrocious this season in Atlanta before getting injured and then later demoted. The fact that Pache was able to finish the year as one of the top Stripers hitters speaks to his hard work. Waters hit well also, and most importantly, he progressed nicely in the plate discipline department, which is the primary aspect of his game that’s held him back.

Honestly, the numbers put up by Travis Demeritte and Orlando Arcia really aren’t that surprising. If you recall, Demeritte posted similiar numbers during his first stint as a minor league Brave, slugging 20 homers and hitting .286 back in 2019 before being traded to the Tigers. Arcia is essentially a big league player, having spent five seasons in the majors prior to joining the Braves in 2021. Atlanta gave him a shot this year, but the 27-year-old struggled in limited at-bats.

 

Pitching leaders

min. 30 IP

Kyle Wright 24 starts, 137 K, 3.02 ERA

Kyle Muller 17 starts, 93 K, 3.39 ERA

Thomas Burrows 35 G, 67 K, 2.64 ERA

Jesse Biddle 32 G, 55 K, 2.67 ERA

Dylan Lee 35 G, 54 K, 1.54 ERA

What really separated the 2021 Stripers from its previous clubs is the fact that not only did Gwinnett mash this year, but the team also pitched well. Of the 20 Triple-A East affiliates this season, Stripers pitchers overall ranked third in ERA (3.72) and eighth in strikeouts (1,191).

A lot of that team success derived directly from the performance of Kyle Wright, who perhaps salvaged what’s left of his stock as a potential MLB starter as he easily led Gwinnett in strikeouts (137) this season. Still 26-years-old, Wright spent 137 of his 143.1 innings in the minors this year, but even though he didn’t contribute much with the Braves, his 2021 numbers indicate a guy trending upwards. Who knows, maybe the former first-round pick can keep up the momentum next spring and compete for a rotation spot with the Atlanta starting staff.

Kyle Muller was a pleasant surprise in 2021, and one that perhaps came a year early. With Mike Soroka on the shelf, followed by an extended absence for Huascar Ynoa, the Braves leaned on the left-handed prospect for eight starts and one relief appearance this season. And spanning mid-June through the first few weeks of August, Muller put together an impressive showing too, posting a 1.88 ERA over his first six outings with the Braves before getting knocked around a bit in his final pair of starts. The strong MLB debut, coupled with another minor league campaign in which he looked plenty comfortable, shows Muller is yet another young arm who could make a run for one of big league rotation spots in 2022.

I set the innings minimum to just 30 in order to include some of the Stripers top relievers — a group that featured plenty of talent in 2021, but was ultimately led by Thomas Burrows, Jesse Biddle and Dylan Lee. At 27-years-old, Burrows has been a steady minor league arm every since being drafted from the University of Alabama by the Braves back in 2016. The southpaw reliever put together another good performance this season, despite averaging 6.4 walks per nine.

Speaking of the year 2016, I’m sure you remember Jesse Biddle then, when he posted a 3.11 ERA in 63.2 innings with Atlanta. The 29-year-old lefty made a nice comeback in 2021, pitching well with Gwinnett and decently in the majors. He struggled with walks this season, but Biddle may of just earned himself another shot at The Show next spring.

Jake wrote a post on Dylan Lee late last month as the lefty reliever was putting his finishing touches on what wound up being perhaps a career year for the former Marlin minor leaguer. Lee even earned himself an MLB stint, and though it was only two appearances worth, it should look good for him heading into the offseason. Lee finished his Stripers campaign in 2021 with an average of 10.4 strikeouts per nine and just 1.1 walks per nine. That’ll definitely play.

 

Gwinnett’s MVP

Johan Camargo

 

https://twitter.com/GoStripers/status/1439660077120724999?s=20

Choosing Gwinnett’s most valuable player was really a no-brainer as Camargo absolutely raked this year in Triple-A. We discussed his actual numbers above, but it truly is remarkable just how different his two performances were when examining both his time with the Stripers and the Braves in 2021. Johan was basically a 3.5-4 WAR player down on the farm, with his final stats looking eerily similar to his Braves breakout in 2018, when he also bashed 19 homers and hit for a high average in the bigs. That’s a far cry from the -0.3 fWAR he accrued for Atlanta this season.

Regardless, though, it’s really not that close. Demeritte was probably a respectable second in terms of value on offense for Gwinnett, and Wright provided a helluva performance on the mound, but Camargo was no doubt the MVP for the 2021 Stripers. Maybe next year he can hit like that as a super-utility player for the Bravos.

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