Several roster changes on Tuesday impact the Mississippi Braves

Vaughn Grissom

The Mississippi Braves — the Braves Double-A club — were rained out on Tuesday, moving their series opener versus Chattanooga to Wednesday. However, the lack of baseball didn’t mean there was a shortage in news. Reported by MiLB.com’s Chris Harris, the M-Braves made numerous changes to its roster…

Of the eight roster moves above, only one is considered a¬†promotion as reliever A.J. Puckett gets the bump from High-A Rome to Mississippi, thanks to just one run allowed in his first 11 innings pitched so far this season (0.82 ERA). Puckett, a 25-year-old righty who was drafted by the Royals in the 2nd round back in 2016, will — for the first time in his career — pitch above the High-A level. A Rule 5 pick for Atlanta last year, he came over to the Braves organization having pitched solely as a starter, logging a 3.73 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 205 1/3 career minor league innings over the last three seasons. However, so far in 2021, he has been used as a reliever.

The two demotions¬†featured in Tuesday’s roster moves include infielder Riley Unroe and pitcher Mitch Stallings. The decision to move Unroe down a level doesn’t come as a surprise, given the 25-year-old is just 1 for 14 (.071 AVG) this season at the plate for Triple-A Gwinnett (his third stint in Triple-A). Although, it is rather surprising to see the former 2nd round pick struggling so much. In his most-recent full season (2019), Unroe played in 128 games between High-A Florida, Mississippi and Gwinnett, posting a .281 AVG with nine home runs, 22 doubles and 14 stolen bases — a strong campaign for a player not even considered a prospect at this point.

The struggles so far regarding Stallings are even more drastic. The former Duke pitcher made his name known back in 2019 when he dominated both the Advanced-Rookie and Single-A levels by logging a 2.04 ERA with 9.5 K/9 in 75 innings, and many — despite his age — were beginning to consider him a potential up-and-coming pitching prospect in the Braves system. But Stallings has been knocked around pretty badly this season, allowing 12 runs from nine hits in just five innings of work with the M-Braves, good for a 21.60 ERA. Hopefully, the lefty can get back to his dominant self once with Rome.

The rest of the transactions made on Tuesday were just simply players being moved from extended spring training to their respective assignments, or players headed to Mississippi’s “Development List” (aka a practice player). Lefty Chris Nunn and righty Emmanuel Ramirez are two pitchers whom the Braves signed in 2020 — the former last January and the latter last November — who are considered organizational pitching depth. Neither guy has pitched in the majors, though each has seven seasons in the minors, with Nunn sporting a 4.35 ERA in 308 1/3 minor league innings and Ramirez a 4.46 ERA in 586 2/3 frames.

The trio of Matt Hartman, Kurt Hoekstra and Jefrey Ramos will join the Dev List after mostly struggling so far this season. Hartman, following a 3.74 ERA in 2019 with both Rome and Florida, has allowed four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in 2021; the hitter-converted-to-pitcher Hoekstra already has nine walks in six innings of relief work with Mississippi in 2021; and perhaps the most unfortunate of the three is Ramos the outfielder, who is coming off a .241 AVG and 25 XBH with Florida two seasons ago, but right now is just 3 for 29 at the plate (.103 AVG).

An updated PDF version of Mississippi’s 2021 roster can be found here.

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