Daily Notes: Sunday, October 17

-Clint Manry

The Braves somehow found a way to win last night’s thriller of a Game 1 against the Dodgers, thanks to Austin Riley’s two key hits. It’s crazy: the Atlanta offense was out-hit by LA 10-6 and the Braves managed just two runners in scoring position the entire game (compared to eight from the Dodgers), but somehow the good guys came away with a win. This morning I did the Game 1 recap over at SportsTalkATL, and I’m still feeling pumped about that huge hit by Riley… but I’m can’t help but feel concerned about tonight’s matchup with Max Scherzer.

The 37-year-old Scherzer appears to be revived from his down 2020 campaign, and judging by his gem last week versus the Giants, there aren’t any signs of him slowing down yet. In that third game of LA’s DS matchup with the Giants, Scherzer struck out 10 in a start in which he allowed just three hits over seven innings. His only real mistake was a solo-homer by Evan Longoria in the fifth, though Buster Posey did also crush a harmless 101.8-MPH single in the first. But other than that… nothing. Given how punchless the Braves offense was last night against LA’s revolving door of relievers (save for Riley, of course), I’ll admit I’m a bit worried when it comes to facing Scherzer.

And I’m tellin’ ya… last Monday was peak Scherzer. The man was generating whiffs like he was still in his early-30s… with four different pitches. Seriously, his four-seam, slider, changeup AND cutter each finished with a swing-and-miss rate of at least 30% in that game (well, his fastball was actually at 29%… but you get the point). Somehow, though, the Giants still managed to win 1-0, even though LA outhit them 5-3, and, just like versus the Braves last night, put more runners in scoring position. Baseball can be a crazy game sometimes.

But to prevent this post from looking like a recent LA Times column, I must give some credit to Scherzer’s opposing starter tonight – Braves righty Ian Anderson. At just 23, this will already be Ian’s sixth career postseason start, and boy has he grown up before our eyes. And I know he hasn’t been as dominant as he was last year, when he posted a sub-2.00 ERA with Atlanta, but I actually like this version of him. It seems more sustainable, and believe it or not, even in his first full campaign this season, the kid has been just as durable as in 2020 in terms of innings per start, averaging 5.3 frames. Of course, we’ll probably need more than five innings from Anderson tonight… or at least it would be much more ideal. Although I’d be crazy to complain about another three-hitter (like he did vs. MIL). Regardless, Anderson will need to be a bit more efficient in tonight’s outing.

Anyways… it looks like Eddie Rosario is back at the lead-off spot tonight for Game 2…

Minor looksies

Given the minor league season is over, these new daily columns will mostly cover the big league team and its current playoff run, but the other day I posted an update regarding the Arizona Fall League (which kicked off last Wednesday). I recommend checking out Ryan Cothran’s write-up from earlier this month for more info regarding the players participating from the Braves organization, but going forward I plan to share some notes from each game. The Peoria Javelinas, which features seven Braves participates, have had a rough go to start the AFL season, beginning the fall campaign 0-4. The team is off today but will start back on Monday, so I’ll post some notes from the game in tomorrow’s daily write-up. Spoiler: Shea Langeliers has not played in a game yet.

Let’s go get another win tonight and make it FIVE in a row this postseason! Go Braves!

Gwinnett nearly no-hit in season finale; Tucker Davidson starts for the first time in months

Monday, October 4, 2021

-Clint Manry

Braves regular season baseball is officially over. A few hours before Atlanta played its final game versus the Mets on Sunday (in which they won 5-0), Triple-A Gwinnett also concluded its 2021 regular season campaign in a matchup against Jacksonville. Unfortunately, though, the Stripers didn’t end the year as well as the major league Braves.

The Jumbo Shrimp of Jacksonville (the Marlins Triple-A affiliate) went with lefty starter Daniel Castano yesterday, and let me tell you, Gwinnett had no answer for the former 19th-round pick. Castano was perfect for the first seven innings on Sunday as the 27-year-old southpaw flew through the Stripers lineup. Finally, to begin the eighth, recently-claimed catcher Chadwick Tromp provided Gwinnett with its first hit of the game when he singled to left. Ryan Casteel followed with a single as well, and Philip Ervin loaded the bases with a fielder’s choice. However, even then the Stripers offense still couldn’t muster up a run as they lost 4-0.

Sunday’s outcome certainly wasn’t the most significant storyline of the day, though. Everyone was way more focused on the fact that prospect Tucker Davidson was scheduled to take the mound. The 25-year-old Davidson – currently sixth on my Braves Top 30 list – started yesterday’s season finale, returning to the bump for the first time since leaving prematurely in an outing with the Braves back on June 15. Tuck hadn’t pitched for the Stripers since late May, but he was sharp in his Triple-A return. Coming back from a forearm injury, Davidson threw 40 pitches on Sunday, working three innings of three-hit ball, allowing one run and striking out five. His only real trouble was in the second inning, when Jacksonville got to him with back-to-back singles, which were followed up with a sac-fly. The talented prospect ended up missing a lot of time in 2021, but Davidson ends his campaign with four starts apiece at both the major and minor league level, posting a 3.60 ERA and 1.17 ERA, respectively. Too bad he can’t help out the Braves in its upcoming NLDS versus the Brewers.

At 71-58 overall, Gwinnett put together another solid season in 2021. Nearly all year long the Stripers were among the top teams in the Triple-A Southeast division, but a poor second-half really cost them in the final standings, leaving them in third-place and 14.5 games back from the top team (Durham). Now that the season has concluded, I’ll soon begin recapping each of the Braves five minor league affiliates.

Shea Langeliers doubles twice in Gwinnett’s win on Friday; Kyle Wright to start today’s game

Saturday, October 2, 2021

-Clint Manry

Triple-A Gwinnett got back in the win column on Friday as they beat Jacksonville 7-2.

With one out in the fourth inning, Travis Demeritte started the rally when he doubled to right. Two batters later, Demeritte scored when Maikel Franco reached on a throwing error by the Jumbo Shrimp. Franco advanced to second shortly after, thanks to a balk, which set up a perfect opportunity for catcher Shea Langeliers. With two outs, Langeliers barreled up the first pitch he saw for an RBI double, giving him both his first Triple-A RBI and XBH.

Two batters later… Yolmer Sanchez gave Gwinnett a 4-0 lead when he tripled home Langeliers and Ryan Goins.

Unfortunately, Stripers starter Kyle Muller never got to enjoy the big lead created by the offense. After throwing 71 pitches in three innings, his day was done. However, Muller still managed eight strikeouts in the outing, to go with just one earned run from four hits. The lefty prospect walked three.

The Stripers scored three more runs in the sixth, first starting with Johan Camargo’s solo-homer to lead off the frame.

The longball by Camargo was his 19th of the 2021 season as the infielder has been one of the better players in all of Triple-A this year. Following a walk by Franco and another double by Langeliers, Goins provided the sixth run of the game for Gwinnett when he popped up a sac-fly. The Stripers finished the game outhitting the Jumbo Shrimp 8-6, and was assisted by Jacksonville’s three errors.

The quartet of Chasen Bradford, Touki Toussaint, Jesse Biddle and Yoan López worked the final six innings of last night’s game. The Gwinnett bullpen was sharp as all four relievers combined to strike out seven and only allow one run from two hits. Neither of the Stripers bullpen arms walked a single batter on Friday.

Gwinnett is now down to its final two games of the 2021 season. Today the Stripers will once again take on the Jumbo Shrimp, with righty Kyle Wright earning the start. First pitch on Saturday is scheduled for 6:05 PM (ET).

Spencer Strider added to the Braves roster

Friday, October 1, 2021

-Clint Manry

Spencer Strider has been a busy man this season. On Friday afternoon the righty was added to the Braves roster as part of several moves.

The other Braves moves included recalling lefty Dylan Lee, optioning Sean Newcomb to the minors and placing Edgar Santana on the 10-day injured list (strained intercostal muscle).

Strider, currently ranked seventh on my Braves Top 30, has had a helluva first pro season. The 22-year-old started the year all the way down in Single-A Augusta, but after dominating with the GreenJackets and High-A Rome, and pitching well with Double-A Mississippi, he was recently promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett. With the Stripers, Strider made just one appearance, working the sixth inning of a Gwinnett game earlier this week.

It seems pretty logical to go ahead and let the young righty get a taste of the majors, especially considering the upcoming series versus the Mets means absolutely nothing at this point. Just because Strider is added to the roster doesn’t mean he’ll receive any innings, but it would be cool to see the former fourth round pick make an appearance. So far this season, in 94 total innings spanning four minor league levels, Strider has posted a 3.64 ERA to go with a whopping 14.6 strikeouts per nine. This is a pretty surprising move, but one that I’m definitely excited about.

Cristian Pache and Johan Camargo homer in Gwinnett loss, while Drew Waters makes incredible play on defense

Friday, October 1, 2021

-Clint Manry

As the Braves were busy securing its fourth-straight division title on Thursday night, Triple-A Gwinnett was taking on Jacksonville in what wound up as a near-epic comeback for the Stripers.

With the score still tied at zero, outfielder Drew Waters made perhaps the play of the season when he robbed a homer in the second.

However, the Jumbo Shrimp still managed to jump out to a big lead. In the third, the first two batters reached base and were picked up when Jacksonville’s Lorenzo Quintana went deep with a three-run homer.

Stripers starter Jose Rodriguez surrendered another long ball in the fifth, this time off the bat of Isan Diaz who made it a 5-0 deficit.

As you can see, it definitely wasn’t Rodriguez’s best night. The righty allowed five runs (four earned) from 10 hits, including a walk, to go with just two strikeouts in five innings. He’ll finish his 2021 season with a 5.29 ERA with Gwinnett.

The Stripers did at least attempt a comeback. In the sixth, Johan Camargo homered for the 18th time this year and Cristian Pache went deep in the ninth as part of a three-run final frame.

Unfortunately, though, Jacksonville’s two-run eighth spoiled any chance for a Gwinnett win, and the Stripers dropped its final game of September.

With just three games remaining this season, Gwinnett will wrap up its 2021 campaign this weekend. The Stripers and Jumbo Shrimp will play again tonight, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM (ET).

Braves sweep Philly for fourth-straight NL East title

Friday, October 1, 2021

-Clint Manry

Of course both of my kids had games on Thursday night, causing my attention towards the Braves-Phillies game to suffer. But Atlanta wasn’t waiting on me. After beating Philly 5-3 in the series finale last night, the Braves are — for the fourth time in a row — division champs. 

Atlanta did what it’s done this entire Phillies series — the lineup struck early. In the Braves half of the opening inning, with a full-count, lead-off hitter Jorge Soler nearly hit a 92-MPH fastball out of the stadium to put the Bravos up 1-0. 

The Phillies had an opportunity to answer in the second, following a walk, a double and an intentional free pass, but Braves starter Ian Anderson got Kyle Gibson to cue a bases-loaded groundout to end the threat. From there, Anderson would set down 11 of the next 12 batters. The righty only struck out two on the night, but he did a nice job of keeping the ball on the dirt, inducing seven groundouts in the outing. 

In the meantime, Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson tacked on a pair of runs in the fourth as the former blasted a breaking ball into the Phillies bullpen for a solo-homer and the latter slapped an RBI double.

Through six innings, Atlanta led 5-0 and looked to be cruising to a division clincher. 

But in Philly’s half of the seventh, things got interesting. Brad Miller led off against Anderson with a single, and then Andrew McCutchen somehow got to a perfectly-placed pitch for a golfed two-run homer. Just like that, the Phillies were back in it, down 5-2.

Fortunately, though, Braves manager Brian Snitker went with his dominant-of-late bullpen and gave Anderson the hook. Snitker called upon reliever A.J. Minter and the lefty worked through the frame mostly unscathed. 

Luke Jackson came on to start the eighth, but once again the Phillies added a late-innings run when J.T. Realmuto turned on a hanger by Jackson. 

However, that would be as close as Philly would come to a comeback. Jackson settled down and got a third out to end the inning, and in the ninth, Will Smith set down McCutchen, Didi Gregorius and Ronald Torreyes in order. The Braves did it!

The Braves victory on Thursday guarantees the team an NLDS matchup with the Brewers, who I’ll preview soon. Atlanta has just three games remaining, all with the Mets over the weekend. Hopefully everyone stays healthy and the team’s core players can get some much-needed rest before the postseason cranks up next week. Congrats to this club. It was a helluva regular season!

Ian Anderson and the Braves can clinch a playoff spot tonight  

Thursday, September 30, 2021

-Clint Manry

Just one more win. That’s all the Braves need to clinch a fourth-straight NL East title. With a series finale versus the Phillies coming up tonight at 7:20 PM (ET), Atlanta can punch its ticket to an NLDS matchup. All they have to do is win just one more.

Charlie Morton and Max Fried took care of business in the series first two games, going the distance with back-to-back seven-inning outings that featured a combined 16 strikeouts. Now, coming off the second-best start of his 2021 season (per Game Score) versus the D’Backs, it’s Ian Anderson’s turn to shut down the Phillies.

The 23-year-old Anderson has pitched well against Philly so far this season, going seven innings himself in his most recent outing versus the team (back on June 10). In four total starts against the NL East rival in 2021, Anderson owns a 3.09 ERA to go with 24 strikeouts in 23.1 innings. Phils batters are hitting just .224 against the Braves righty this season, and their .671 OPS doesn’t exactly scare anyone either. Can Anderson keep up the good work?

As many of us are aware, Thursday’s matchup is no doubt the biggest game of the Braves season thus far. With the NL Central already decided by the Brewers’ clinching this past Sunday, Atlanta’s postseason opponent is set. In the West, the Giants and Dodgers are battling it out for first, though both are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. The East is currently the only NL division still waiting for a postseason representative. But that can change tonight at Truist!

Brewers hit with devastating injury as reliever Devin Williams fractures pitching hand

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

-Clint Manry

Unfortunate news broke while I was working on an NLDS preview for the Braves potential playoff series with the Brewers. According to reports, righty Devin Williams will require surgery on his pitching hand after suffering a fracture.

As you can see from the tweet above, this appears to be a Huascar Ynoa-like situation, which you never like to see. There’s no doubt Williams regret what he did as soon as it happened. Anger can make us do very questionable things sometimes.

In case you aren’t aware of how big of an injury this is for Milwaukee, just take a look at Williams’ stat sheet. The 27-year-old has no doubt been one of the top arms out of the bullpen for the Brew Crew in 2021, ranking only behind closer Josh Hader in fWAR with 1.4. A former second round pick from the 2013 draft and a top-15 prospect in the organization (according to FanGraphs) back in 2020, Williams has been a strikeout artist this year, averaging 14.5 punch outs per nine and inducing a 47.2% whiff-rate with his trademark changeup. This is definitely a big blow to the Brewers, who as of this past Sunday, clinched an NL Central title.

Shea Langeliers and Spencer Strider debut for Triple-A Gwinnett in final homestand

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

-Clint Manry

Gwinnett won its series opener versus Jacksonville on Wednesday by a score of 6-1, although all the attention was focused on two prospects who recently made their Triple-A debuts. Both Shea Langeliers and Spencer Strider got in on the action today for the first time, with the former starting at catcher and batting sixth and the latter coming in as a reliever.

Langeliers put the bat on the ball in his very first try, lining out softly to shortstop in the first inning. After striking out in each of the fourth and the sixth, the prospect catcher drew a walk in the eighth to finish his day 0 for 3. 

Following four innings of two-hit ball by starter Bryce Elder, and a hitless inning by Trevor Kelley in the fifth, Strider appeared in the sixth and was sharp from the get go. 

Strider struck out the first two batters of the frame, allowed a ground-ball single, and then ended the inning with another swinging strikeout. The prospect pitcher threw 12 of his 14 pitches for strikes as he looks plenty ready for the Triple-A level.

Overall, Gwinnett’s offense looked great. Prospect outfielder Cristian Pache finished the day 2 for 4 with three RBI, while Yolmer Sanchez, Johan Camargo and Maikel Franco all three contributed with two hits apiece as well. Travis Demeritte also homered for the 21st time this season, going deep off a breaking ball in the opening inning.

There was also a Touki Toussaint sighting as the righty worked both the seventh and eighth innings, allowing a hit, a walk and striking out two. 

The Stripers will finish out its final homestand with four more games against Jacksonville over the next four days. With all other Braves affiliates now done for the year, Gwinnett is the last minor league team left playing.

Shea Langeliers and Bryce Elder named Braves minor league players of the year; Langeliers added to Triple-A Gwinnett roster

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

-Clint Manry

I must’ve been on to something when I selected my own version of 2021’s minor league MVP and Cy Young for the Braves farm system. Both of my award winners have been named the best at their respective position groups for this season. Although, it’s not as if they were difficult choices. On Tuesday, the Braves announced its Players of the Year for the 2021 season, naming Shea Langeliers Batter of the Year and Bryce Elder Pitcher of the Year.

Oh… and Langeliers was also added to Triple-A Gwinnett’s active roster for the team’s final week of play.

In case for some reason you’ve missed the entire 2021 minor league season, both Langeliers and Elder have evolved into superstars this year, with the former at Double-A Mississippi and the latter… well… essentially everywhere.

Langeliers also took home the Hank Aaron award and Elder the Phil Neikro award, both accolades representing the top position-player and pitcher in the farm system.

If you’re interested in catching the Stripers before its 2021 season is over, today Gwinnett begins a five-game series with Jacksonville at home, with Elder taking the mound for what will most likely be his final outing of the year. So far, in six starts at the Triple-A level, the 22-year-old Elder has pitched to a 2.20 ERA, including 9.9 strikeouts per nine. The Braves prospect has been especially stingy lately. Over his last four starts, Elder has only allowed three earned runs in 21 innings – good for a 1.29 ERA.

Meanwhile, Langeliers will look to keep his impressive performance going this season. Spending all of 2021 with the M-Braves, the prospect catcher has managed to hit .258 with 22 homers and 52 RBI (128 wRC+), putting himself among some of the best hitters in all of Double-A. It’s not much of a sample-size, but hopefully a week-long look at the top level of the minors will at least give Langeliers an opportunity to get ready for 2022, where he’ll likely start his season. Both Elder and Langeliers are on track to potentially debut in the majors next year.

Braves 2021 Minor League Awards: Reliever of the Year

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

-Clint Manry

I’ve covered perhaps the two most noteworthy end-of-year awards for the Braves minor league system, awarding righty Bryce Elder this season’s Cy Young winner and catcher Shea Langeliers MVP. Today it’s time to look at another Braves minor league award: Reliever of the Year.

Braves 2021 Minor League Team Awards: Reliever of the Year

Indigo Diaz

You may not remember him as a prospect, but Craig Kimbrel’s career in the Braves minor league system was unlike anything we’d seen at the time. From 2008 until late-2010, the hard-throwing right-hander was nearly unhittable, and in 2009 – spanning four different levels – Kimbrel averaged 15.5 strikeouts per nine to go with a 2.85 ERA in 60 innings of relief. There was no doubt about it – this kid was the Braves future closer. And we all know what happened next. Kimbrel ended up spending five seasons in Atlanta (2010-14), tallying 186 total saves and 476 strikeouts. As a reliever with the Braves, the Alabama native accrued 11 fWAR, running out to Welcome to the Jungle on an almost nightly basis.

The Braves have rostered some pretty sharp closers since then. But never as incredibly dominant as Kimbrel.

It’s impossible to predict the next Craig Kimbrel, as potential Hall of Fame closers don’t usually come around very often. But in Indigo Diaz, the Braves may have their next homegrown star.

Diaz – drafted in the 27th round by Atlanta in 2019 – wasn’t a very sought-after prospect. He only pitched one season at a major college (Michigan State), and his numbers were far from inspiring (5.73 ERA / 5.9 walks per nine). However, Diaz’s time as a pro has been much different.

Going from nowhere to currently 19th on my latest Braves Top 30, Diaz is now a bonafide prospect within the organization. And although it was only at the rookie level, Diaz actually began showing signs of stardom during his draft year in 2019. With the Gulf Coast League Braves, the then-20-year-old only pitched 10.1 innings that season, but his ability to rack up strikeouts was obvious as he averaged 13.1 punch outs per nine. Admittedly, High-A Rome to start 2021 seemed a little aggressive, but it didn’t take long for Diaz to master that assignment either. In 27 innings there, the righty struck out an incredible 54 batters, which went nicely with his just-as-impressive 1.00 ERA. At nearly three years younger than the average player in Double-A, Diaz continued to mow down the opposition with the M-Braves. Tallying his final 18 frames of the 2021 campaign with Mississippi, the 22-year-old struck out 29 batters – good for an average of 14.5 K/9.

Add it all up and the numbers were video game-like this season. A whopping 83 of the 175 batters Diaz faced in 2021 (or 47.4%) went down on strikes. The kid allowed one home run this year, and amazingly that lone long ball came in Diaz’s very last appearance of the year on September 16 — part of an outing in which he allowed two runs in one inning of work (his one and only appearance in 2021 in which he surrendered more than one run).

So who knows if Diaz has a Kimbrel-like future ahead of him. But either way, this is a slam dunk of a prospect; and at this rate, it won’t be long before he’s contributing in an Atlanta uniform.

Michael Harris II takes biggest step forward among Braves prospects per Eric Logenhagen

 Monday, September 27, 2021

-Clint Manry

I don’t exactly agree with his choice, but on Monday ESPN’s Eric Logenhagen named outfielder Michael Harris II as the Braves prospect who’s made the biggest step forward in 2021

Harris, in his age-20 season, played all year with High-A Rome, easily putting together the best numbers of his two-year pro career. In 101 games, the prospect slashed .294/.362/.436 with seven home runs, 26 doubles and 27 stolen bases.

The Braves third round pick from 2019 has evolved into a national star ever since spending most of last season at the Braves alternate site. Heading into the 2021 regular season, Harris was named on several well-known prospect lists, and I ranked the outfielder sixth on my Braves Top 30 in June. In August I moved him up to fifth, just behind catcher Shea Langeliers (who I believe should’ve actually been Logenhagen’s choice on Monday and also my pick for the Braves minor league MVP). 

With a full season of High-A ball now completed, it’s all but guaranteed that Harris will begin 2022 with Double-A Mississippi, where the toolsy prospect will get a taste of higher competition. At this rate, Harris could even find himself with a shot at the majors by the second-half of next year, assuming all goes well with both the M-Braves and then of course Triple-A Gwinnett. However, with him still so young and the Braves so deep in terms of talented prospect outfielders, perhaps it’s more realistic to look for a 2023 ETA to the majors. Either way, Harris is progressing nicely, and there’s no doubt he’s one of the top-five prospects in the organization. 

Spencer Strider promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett 

Monday, September 27, 2021

-Clint Manry

Go ahead and add another big Braves prospect promotion to the list for this season. According to Talking Chop’s Eric Cole on Monday morning, right-handed pitcher Spencer Strider is headed to Triple-A Gwinnett. 

The promotion comes with only five regular season games remaining for the Stripers, so it’s obviously less exciting than a midseason or even August assignment. However, Strider should have plenty of time to acquire some innings at the highest level of the minors. Per the report from Cole, Strider is expected to pitch out of Gwinnett’s bullpen.

Strider, taken in the fourth round by the Braves in the shortened 2020 MLB Draft, is a former Clemson star who, at the time of the draft last year, had recently undergone Tommy John surgery, causing many to question just how quickly he would progress as a pro. Although, the now-typical operation hasn’t appeared to slow him down.

Surging fast on my Braves Top 30 list this year, Strider currently ranks seventh on my latest ranking, just behind lefty Tucker Davidson. The 22-year-old Strider began 2021 with Single-A Augusta, but after averaging more than 18 strikeouts per nine and pitching to a 0.59 ERA in 15.1 innings, he was quickly moved up to High-A Rome. With the R-Braves, Strider’s stint was even shorter, thanks to 14.7 K/9 and a 2.45 ERA in 14.2 frames. His second promotion of the season, a late-June call-up to Double-A Mississippi, gave Strider his first taste of adversity, though he wound up becoming one of the top starters in the rotation. In 63 innings with the M-Braves, the talented prospect pitcher put together a 4.71 ERA despite allowing only a .211 AVG from opposing batters. 

Any time a player is on his third promotion in one year in the minors it means he’s doing something right. Along with his 2020 draft mate, Bryce Elder, Strider’s move to Triple-A sets him up nicely to possibly debut in the majors as soon as 2022. MLB debut or not, though, this kid is the real deal. 

M-Braves are Double-A South champs

Monday, September 27, 2021

-Clint Manry

With a tough catch in foul territory by third baseman CJ Alexander in the ninth, last night the Mississippi Braves defeated the Montgomery Biscuits to win the Double-A South League championship. Faced with a Game 5 on Sunday, the M-Braves put a perfect bow on what was an incredible 2021 season.

The scoring started in the second inning, after a scoreless first. Mississippi starter Alan Rangel – who wound up pitching the game of his life on Sunday – worked around a single and a walk in the opening frame, but ran into trouble the next inning, allowing a one-out single, a stolen base and then a sac-fly to give the Biscuits its first run of the game. However, that’s literally all the damage Rangel surrendered in this outing. Following a lead-off single in the third, the 24-year-old righty set down 12 consecutive batters before being replaced by reliever Brandon White to begin the seventh inning. Rangel’s final line was solid: 6 IP, 3 H, R, BB, 8 K.

The man who gave the M-Braves the last out was the one who put the offense on the board first. In the second, down 1-0, Alexander slapped an RBI double to right to make it a tied game.

Of course… Rangel just kept dealing…

Then, like so many times during the final few weeks of this campaign, Greyson Jenista came through with a huge hit in the fifth. Following back-to-back strikeouts by Drew Lugbauer and Luke Waddell, Jenista put a charge in one and drove a solo-homer out to center to put the M-Braves up 2-1.

The Mississippi bullpen was terrific. White tossed a scoreless seventh, striking out two, and then Jake Higginbotham and Nolan Kingham each worked scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively. From the fourth frame up to the eighth, the Biscuits didn’t record a single hit.

The win wasn’t in usual fashion for the M-Braves, whose lineup has been perhaps one of the best in the minors in 2021. Both Mississippi and Montgomery combined for just eight hits in the championship game on Sunday, and Alexander’s double to go with Jenista’s homer were the only two XBH.

With the M-Braves 2021 season now over, and Gwinnett down to its final five games (both Rome and Augusta’s seasons are done as well), soon I’ll start putting out some team-by-team season recaps (along with my team awards). As far as the Braves minor league system goes, though, this Mississippi club was by the far the most talented affiliate within the organization in 2021.

Up against elimination, the M-Braves can win it all tonight versus Montgomery

Sunday, September 26, 2021

-Clint Manry

The 2021 minor league season may be coming to an end soon, but the Double-A Mississippi Braves are going to enjoy every last second of what’s been an incredible run this year. After being routed 14-2 by Montgomery on Saturday night, the M-Braves now face a Game 5 elimination game on Sunday at 6:05 PM (ET) to decide the best of the South division.

Below is a recap of the games played so far in this championship series, as well as a brief preview of Sunday night’s Game 5…

Game 1:  7-1, Montgomery

M-Braves starter Jared Shuster threw the ball well but the Mississippi offense couldn’t figure out Montgomery’s pitching, only tallying three hits overall as a team. Biscuits’ starter Adrian De Horta tossed five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out seven. Third baseman Wendell Rijo was the only M-Braves batter to record an XBH.

Game 2:  8-5, Mississippi

The M-Braves redeemed itself on the offense in Game 2, this time coming away with 11 hits and a pair of homers. A five-run third-inning, featuring home runs from both Rijo and Greyson Jenista, gave Mississippi a big lead in the first half of the game. However, the M- Braves bullpen nearly spoiled the win when reliever Troy Bacon allowed three runs in the fourth. Fortunately, the M-Braves offense scored another pair of runs late in the contest to pull ahead for good. Mississippi starter Freddy Tarnok struck out seven in 4.1 innings, allowing just two runs from three hits to go with a pair of walks.

Game 3:  11-9, Mississippi

This one turned into a slugfest as both Mississippi and Montgomery combined for 24 hits altogether, including six home runs. M-Braves first baseman Drew Lugbauer had a big game, scoring three runs himself and finishing 2 for 3 with a homer and a double. Also, third baseman CJ Alexander and centerfielder Justin Dean combined to go 5 for 9 with five RBI, with the former homering as well and the latter slapping a double. Starter Spencer Strider pitched well and limited the damage from Montgomery during the first five innings, although the Biscuits nearly pulled off an epic comeback when they put up a five spot in the final frame. Thankfully Mississippi scored six runs in the eighth to give the M-Braves just enough margin for error during that horrific ninth as they barely won what ended as a close game.

Game 4:  14-2, Montgomery

William Woods got the start on Saturday in which the M-Braves needed just one more win to take the series. However, Woods only lasted three innings, and the Mississippi bullpen imploded. Relievers Troy Bacon, Sean McLaughlin and Matt Withrow combined to allow 12 earned runs before Odalvi Javier stopped the bleeding in the ninth. Montgomery’s Ford Proctor – a former third-round pick by the Rays – finished 2 for 4 with four RBI as four different Biscuits batters ended up with multi-hit games. For Mississippi, Jefrey Ramos homered (as a pinch-hitter) while Dean and Trey Harris both finished with two hits apiece.

Game 5 preview

Tonight’s matchup pits the 24-year-old righty Alan Rangel against Montgomery for the elimination game. At the time of this writing, the Biscuits have yet to announce a starter. Justin Dean and Trey Harris, as well as the rest of the M-Braves lineup, will be looking to stay hot on offense as the team has continued to score runs in bunches during this series. The only problem, though, is Montgomery has done the same so far. Hopefully the Mississippi bullpen can settle down tonight in what should be a close one. So far, even though both teams have scored seemingly at will, the M-Braves starting staff has mostly held its own. The four starters so far – Jared Shuster, Freddy Tarnok, Spencer Strider and William Woods – have combined to pitch to a 4.70 ERA with 12 strikeouts per nine and 3.1 walks. Everything just seems to fall apart once the bullpen gets involved. Maybe that changes tonight!

Braves 2021 Minor League Team Awards: MVP

Friday, September 24, 2021

-Clint Manry

Earlier this week I kicked off this year’s Braves MiLB Team Awards with the system’s Cy Young, naming righty Bryce Elder as the top pitcher for 2021. Today it’s time to name an MVP…

Braves 2021 Minor League Team Awards: MVP

Shea Langeliers 

We always knew the Braves top pick from 2019 was going to be a good one — nearly a .300 career AVG at a Power 5 college (Baylor) that featured three consecutive seasons of 10+ home runs. And, oh yeah… as a catcher, he provided perhaps some of the best glove work in the country. Leading up to the 2019 MLB Draft, Shea Langeliers definitely wasn’t sneaking under anyone’s radar. 

But even with such a prestigious track record as a collegiate player, and a title as one of the best catchers in the class, Langeliers was still considered primarily a defensive player. FanGraphs gave him poor marks when it came to both his Hit tool and Game Power, pegging him with 30 grades for each (out of 80). As Langeliers began his pro career, the then 21-year-old was considered a glove-first player whose stock was dependent on how well his bat would progress. 

… and progress… it very much did…

After showing flashes during his draft year and recovering nicely from a slow start to post a .255 AVG and .652 OPS with 15 XBH in 55 games at the Single-A level in 2019, Langeliers quickly blossomed into a superstar with Double-A Mississippi in 2021. Now at the tail-end of his first full professional season, the former top pick has been one of the Braves best minor league hitters, and has arguably been the organization’s most complete players this year.

It would be one thing if Langeliers’ outstanding performance this season was built only from offense. But if you’ve followed his 2021 season any, then I’m sure you know by now that that certainly hasn’t been the case. Don’t get me wrong, Langeliers has been a top 10 hitter in all of Double-A this year, ranking among the best in the South League in AVG, homers and wRC+ (through Thursday).

Langeliers on offense (2021)

92 G, .258 AVG, 128 wRC+, 22 HR

However, what makes Langeliers the Braves minor league MVP for 2021 is that he’s been able to post the numbers above at the plate while still managing to exceed expectations as a star behind the dish.

Langeliers on defense (2021)

  • 79 starts at catcher 
  • 679.1 innings 
  • 73 assists 
  • 4 errors (.995 Fld%)
  • 42 stolen bases
  • 30 caught-stealing (42 CS%)

Yes, this is Double-A. Not even Triple-A… and certainly not the majors. But a 42% caught-stealing rate is ridiculous, especially considering Langeliers’ rate stayed at roughly 50% for over half of the season this year. As of Friday, the average caught-stealing rate for a big league catcher is just 25%. And the Braves Travis d’Arnaud is currently hovering below 20%. 

So in a nutshell, Langeliers has done it all in 2021. He’s become even more dangerous as a defensive catcher, while drastically exceeding any and all expectations as a hitter. Add it all up… and you get the most valuable player in the Braves minor league system. 

Braves 2021 Minor League Team Awards: Cy Young

Thursday, September 21, 2021

-Clint Manry

The 2021 regular season is coming to an end, both at the major and minor league level. Last week I began a team awards series for the Braves, in which I named Charlie Morton as Atlanta’s Cy Young pitcher for this year. Today I will do the same for the Braves minor league system.

Who has been the best minor league pitcher for the Braves organization?

Braves 2021 Minor League Team Awards: Cy Young

Bryce Elder

Like the major league version of this award, this wasn’t all that close. No other prospect starting pitcher has accomplished what Bryce Elder – ranked no. 8 on my Midseason Braves Top 30 list — has in 2021, and other than perhaps reliever Indigo Diaz, none have flown through the minor league system with such dominance. Last year’s fifth-round pick is looking at a potential 2022 MLB debut, and for a system already rich with talented arms, Elder’s ascent within the minors this season has been one of the most-exciting storylines to follow.

Elder’s 2021 stats (all levels combined)

23 starts, 128.2 IP, 2.80 ERA, 10.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9

For Elder, 2021 started with a quick and easy assignment at High-A Rome. There, the righty averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings and posted a 2.60 ERA in 45 innings (nine starts). It was evident from his very first outing, though, that the 22-year-old was much too advanced for lower-minors competition.

On June 29 Elder made his first Double-A start with the M-Braves. At the time, it was his worst performance of the season as he allowed four runs from seven hits in just four innings. His debut in the upper-minors was far from ideal, but Elder made up for that one poor outing by quickly becoming one of Mississippi’s staff aces. Over his next eight Double-A starts, Elder pitched to a 2.77 ERA and struck out nearly 30% of the batters he faced. By the middle of August, following a five-start stretch in which he lasted exactly seven innings in each outing and allowed just two earned runs over his final 12 frames with the M-Braves, it was time for another challenge. Surprisingly, the Braves promoted Elder to Triple-A Gwinnett.

On August 20 the Braves rising prospect debuted for the Stripers, striking out six in five innings to go with two runs from three hits. Elder has been with Gwinnett ever since, and to this day – now with just a handful of games remaining – the righty hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a single start. Heading into a new minor league week (Tuesday), Elder’s Triple-A ERA sits at a cool 2.28 and his K rate is holding steady at just over 10 strikeouts per nine. At each and every level, this kid continues to impress.

So for the 2021 minor league season, there’s no other Braves pitcher more deserving than Elder. For him to not just dominate the High-A ranks, but to also maintain that performance all the way up the ladder to Triple-A is incredible all by itself; him doing so while only in his first full pro season is basically unheard of. There have been several strong performances by Braves prospect pitchers in 2021. But in terms of the system’s Cy Young… that honor has to go to Bryce Elder.

Braves drop fourth in a row while farm gets swept

Sunday, September 19, 2021

-Clint Manry

Saturday was a rough day for the Braves organization as not only did Atlanta lose but so did each of the three minor league affiliates that played.

I’m out of town for a family vacation, so today’s report is short and sweet. But I’ll definitely have some material to write regarding the conclusion of the minor league campaign. I’ve also started a team award series at SportsTalkATL, with the first post covering the Braves Cy Young pitcher for this season… so be sure to check that out.

Here are your scores and stats from Saturday’s Braves action…

(76-70) Atlanta Braves

L, 2-0 vs. Giants

SP, C. Morton – (L), 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

RP, A. Minter – IP, 2 K

RF, J. Soler – 1 for 3, 2B, BB

1B, F. Freeman – 1 for 4

(67-51) Gwinnett Stripers

L, 6-4 vs. Nashville

SP, K. Muller – (L), 2.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, ER, 4 BB, 2 K

1B, J. Camargo – 2 for 2, HR, 2B, 2 RBI

RF, D. Waters – 2 for 4, 2B, 2 R, BB, SB

CF, C. Pache – 1 for 5, RBI

(67-44) Mississippi Braves

Cancelled vs. Chattanooga (Rain

(56-60) Rome Braves

Cancelled vs. Hickory (Wet Grounds)

(53-66) Augusta GreenJackets

L, 12-2 vs. Myrtle Beach

SP, R. Rodriguez – (L), 3.1 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, HR

C, T. Tolve – 3 for 4, HR, 2 RBI

2B, C. Conley – 1 for 2, R

(25-31) FCL Braves

L, 5-4 (F/7) vs. Rays

SP, J. Bautista – 2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

RP, S. Strickland – 2 IP, 3 K

LF, J. Palma – 1 for 4, 2 RBI, R

3B, J. Dilone – 2 for 3, 2B, BB

2B, E. Stevens – 2 for 3, 2B, R

SS, F. Floyd – 1 for 1, 2 BB, SB

Daysbel Hernández and Brooks Wilson promoted to Gwinnett

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

-Clint Manry

The 2021 minor league regular season may soon draw to a close, but the Braves aren’t done making moves down on the farm. On Tuesday, both righties Daysbel Hernández and Brooks Wilson were moved from Double-A Mississippi to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Hernandez – currently ranked no. 21 on my midseason Braves Top 30 list – has already had one opportunity with the Stripers. To start the 2021 campaign, the righty spent most of the month of May in Gwinnett, but after posting a 9.64 ERA in five relief appearances he was sent down to Mississippi. Beginning the year in Triple-A was always a rather aggressive assignment for Hernandez, given his most-recent completed level prior to 2021 was High-A Rome two seasons ago; however, considering just how much he dominated that year, many believed he could handle the competition. Regardless, Hernandez is obviously deserving of another shot. Ever since his demotion, the righty has been a consistent weapon out of the M-Braves bullpen, averaging 12.6 strikeouts per nine to go with a solid 2.76 ERA in 32.2 innings in 2021. At 25-years-old, and with a nice track record in the Braves system thus far, a good showing with Gwinnett to end 2021 could give Hernandez some much-needed momentum to potentially make an MLB debut next season.

Wilson – also 25 — is another interesting arm to pay attention to. A former seventh-round pick, the 6-2, 205-pound righty has absolutely exploded this season with Mississippi, becoming one of the most dominating relievers in the league. In 44 innings in 2021, Wilson has averaged 14.9 strikeouts per nine and has posted a 2.45 ERA. He also advanced from the High-A level in 2019, where Wilson was just as strong run-prevention wise, but nowhere near as dominate in terms of strikeouts. He’s another righty that, if all goes well, could be right on the cusp of a big league debut in 2022.

Congrats to both Hernandez and Wilson as they try and master the final level of the minors. The Braves look to be set up nicely with bullpen depth pieces, and these two should get their shot to contribute as soon as next spring.

Braves can’t complete comeback against Marlins while Augusta’s Justyn-Henry Malloy slugs a pair of homers

Sunday, September 12, 2021

-Clint Manry

We had a full slate of games yesterday as all five of the Braves minor league affiliates were on the docket, including a doubleheader for the FCL team. Unfortunately, the main event on Saturday night – Braves vs. Marlins – didn’t end the way we hoped, however there was still plenty of action down on the farm.

I don’t have time today to do a full report today, but let me let you in on a kid who’s crushing it right now: third baseman Justyn-Henry Malloy. Playing at the Single-A level currently (Augusta), the Braves sixth-round pick from this year’s draft bopped two more homers last night against Columbia, giving him five already this season in just 30 games. The 21-year-old is presently sporting a .271 AVG overall with a 137 wRC+ and looks primed to become another solid prospect outfielder in the Atlanta system. In his last 11 games, Malloy is batting a cool .351 with six XBH. Keep an eye of this dude.

Here’s your scores and stats from Saturday’s Braves action…

(75-66) Atlanta Braves

L, 6-4 vs. Marlins

SP, C. Morton – 7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 7 K, HR

LF, A. Duvall – 1 for 3, 2B, BB

RF, J. Soler – 1 for 5, 2B, RBI, R

PH, E. Adrianza – 1 for 1, 2B, R

1B, F. Freeman – 2 for 5, 2 RBI, R

(65-48) Gwinnett Stripers

L, 3-0 vs. Columbus

SP, C. Johnstone – (L), 4 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 K, 2 HR

RP, J. Flaa – 3 IP, BB, 3 K

LF, D. Waters – 1 for 3, BB

1B, J. Camargo – 1 for 3, BB

*Gwinnett’s offense only managed three hits

(65-41) Mississippi Braves

L, 6-3 vs. Montgomery

SP, S. Strider – (L), 3.1 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 K

RP, C. Clouse – 1.2 IP, H, BB, 2 K

DH, H. Clementina – 1 for 3, HR, 3 RBI

3B, C. Alexander – 1 for 3, 2B, R

RF, T. Harris – 1 for 4, 2B

(53-59) Rome Braves

L, 15-3 vs. Asheville

SP, D. Dodd – (L), 3 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 6 K, 4 HR

RP, M. Stallings – 4 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 4 K, HR

LF, D. Campbell – 3 for 4, 3B, 2 2B, 2 RBI, R

1B, C. Martinez – 1 for 4, 2B, RBI

(50-63) Augusta GreenJackets

W, 6-4 vs. Columbia

SP, R. Rodriguez – 4 IP, 3 H, ER, 3 BB, 6 K

RP, R. Munoz – (W), 3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, ER, 7 K

3B, J-H. Malloy – 2 for 3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB

2B, C. Bunnell – 1 for 4, HR, 2 RBI

LF, L. Stephens – 2 for 4, HR, RBI

SS, C. Conley – 2 for 5, 2B, 2 R

1B, B. Horne – 1 for 4, 2B

RF, C. Robinson – 2 for 4

(25-28) FCL Braves

L, 3-1 (F/7) vs. Rays

W, 2-1 (F/7) vs. Rays

GAME 1

SP, J. Bautista – (L), 3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 4 K, HR

RP, E. Joseph – 2 IP, H, 2 BB, 4 K

DH, K. Morton – 2 for 3, 2B, R, SB

GAME 2

SP, A. Shoemaker – 2.1 IP, ER, 5 BB, K

RP, J. Niekro – (W), 2.2 IP, BB, 5 K

CF, J. Palma – 1 for 3, R

LF, E. Workinger – 1 for 3, RBI

C, G. Pena – 1 for 2, RBI, BB

3B, J. Fernando – 1 for 3

Checking in on the Braves prospects for August: Nos. 20-11

Sunday, September 12, 2021

-Clint Manry

We’re back a little late with the second installment of our monthly check-in series, but today we’ll look at how several Braves prospects performed during the month of August. This column will cover nos. 20-11. Let’s get started…

For the last installment (covering nos. 30-21) click here.

*stats below are from only the month of August

20. Trey Harris (OF) ↓

AA — Mississippi

17 G, .209 AVG, 3 XBH, 56 wRC+

Harris has regressed a bit during the second-half of the 2021 season, and even further back, where he’s sported a .233 AVG since July 1. In that span, consisting of 40 games, the outfielder only has 12 XBH (six HR) to go with a .384 SLG%. Harris has never really been a power-hitter, but if he isn’t going to maintain his usual .280-.300 AVG, he’ll need to offer something to help him stand out. This year hasn’t been his best as a full season of Double-A has resulted in some struggles. However, I still believe Harris will finish with decent numbers.

19. Indigo Diaz (RHP) ↑

AA – Mississippi

5.1 IP, 2 H, 0.00 ERA, 3 BB, 11 K

Diaz just continues to dominate every level he pitches at, working 5.1 scoreless frames last month with the M-Braves, while striking out 50% of the batters he faced (or 18.56 K/9!!). The soon-to-be 23-year-old has come out of nowhere in 2021, but I think plenty are now aware of his incredible stuff on the mound. This is a future big league closer if I’ve ever seen one.

18. Victor Vodnik (RHP) ↓

AA – Mississippi (7-day IL)

3 starts, 10.1 IP, 8 H, 6.10, ERA, 7 BB, 13 K

Vodnik, currently on the injured list (for the second time this season), has really had a rough go since July, posting a 7.45 ERA in 19.1 innings since July 9. The transition to becoming a starting pitcher can be difficult, and it doesn’t help that he keeps missing time. But at some point, hopefully the 21-year-old will be able to consistently stay on the mound. Vodnik has always been sort of an underdog as a small-sized, hard-throwing righty with poor command. However, I’m still keeping the faith. There hasn’t been any news (that I can find) regarding Vodnik’s injury. But at this point I think it’s doubtful he pitches again in 2021.

17. Spencer Schwellenbach (RHP) ↔

Not active

As we know, Schwellenbach had to undergo Tommy John surgery not long after he was selected by the Braves in the 2021 MLB Draft, so the former second-round pick will be on the shelf until at least mid-2022.

16. Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP) ↓

AAA – Gwinnett

3 starts, 7.1 IP, 14 H, 11.05 ERA, 5 BB, 3 K

So back on August 14 I was examining that day’s minor league box scores and noticed that De La Cruz had exited his start for Gwinnett in the first inning after just 19 pitches. I assumed he was injured… and I’m still assuming that – even though it’s not noted on Baseball Reference — given he hasn’t been back on the mound since. The 2021 campaign has been somewhat of a wake-up call for those of us who’ve always been high on De La Cruz as the righty has struggled mightily at the Triple-A level, posting a 6.59 ERA in 54.2 total innings this season. Who knows when he’ll return (and he’s still listed on the Braves’ 40-man), but perhaps it’s finally time to start looking at De La Cruz for what he truly is… a multi-inning reliever.

15. Joey Estes (RHP) ↑

A – Augusta

5 starts, 30.2 IP, 17 H, 2.64 ERA, 9 BB, 41 K

The 19-year-old Estes just continues to dominate the competition as he’s now down to a 2.91 ERA / 3.30 FIP and 11.5 strikeouts per nine in 99 innings overall this season. He’s ready for the High-A level, but the challenge may not come until 2022. Either way, it was another successful month for Estes.

14. Ryan Cusick (RHP) ↑

A – Augusta

3 starts, 8 IP, 6 H, 1.13 ERA, 3 BB, 15 K

Nah, that’s not a typo, Cusick really did strike out 15 batters in just eight innings last month, which works out to 16.8 K/9 (or a 45.5 K%). Punch outs are exactly what this kid is known for as he came into the draft with a 70-grade fastball and 60-grade breaking ball – two offerings that’ve already allowed him to dominate his first pro assignment with the Braves. The above average command has been a bit of a surprise for Cusick, though. Hopefully the former top pick can keep it up.

13. Vaughn Grissom (3B) ↑

A+ — Rome

24 G, .312 AVG, 7 XBH, 5 SB, 123 wRC+

The stats from last month all still feature Grissom with the GreenJackets, but as of September 2 the prospect played his first game with Rome. In his final stretch at the Single-A level in August, the 20-year-old was as hot as ever at the plate as ten of those 24 contests consisted multi-hit performances for Grissom. This kid has improved his stick tremendously during the second-half of 2021, displaying some newfound power and even more contact with his new team. I can’t wait to see his end-of-season numbers.

12. Braden Shewmake (SS) ↔

AA – Mississippi

16 G, .246 AVG, 5 XBH, 85 wRC+

August wasn’t Shewmake’s best month, but it certainly wasn’t anything like the first two months of his 2021 season (which was… like… historically BAD). However, the M-Braves shortstop really needs a late-season hot streak to get his numbers in the right place. The 23-year-old is still at an 81 wRC+ overall this year, and his .225 AVG for the season also isn’t ideal. It was always going to be a challenge to crawl out of that massive hole he put himself in earlier in the season, though I was really hoping Shewmake could do it.

11. Jared Shuster (LHP) ↑

AA – Mississippi

5 starts, 22.2 IP, 22 H, 4.37 ERA, 5 BB, 28 K

Because of my lack of time lately, I failed to report on Shuster’s early September promotion to Double-A Mississippi, where he’s already made a pair of starts. However, the lefty’s month of August featured five outings with Rome, where Shuster continued to rack up the strikeouts, averaging 11.2 K/9 (or a K rate of 29.2%). Like the other three pitchers part of that 2020 draft, Shuster has mostly flourished in his first full season of pro ball, and his command has appeared much better than originally expected by most evaluators.

Shea Langeliers hits homer no. 20; Landon Stephens tallies five RBI in Augusta’s big win

Saturday, September 11, 2021

-Clint Manry

It’s a historic day today, marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I still remember where I was on that horrible day – in my fifth-grade history classroom (Mrs. Jeffries’ class). Although, at just 10-years-old, I had no idea what was going on.

Anyways, because my Saturday is a bit busy, today’s report only features scores and stats. However, I did put out a piece on the Braves outfield yesterday that I think you may like, so check it out. I’m still behind on my monthly check-ins for August but will hopefully have another installment out soon.

Here’s your Braves action from Friday…

(75-65) Atlanta Braves

W, 6-2 vs. Marlins

SP, I. Anderson – (W), 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, HR

Braves bullpen – 4 IP, 2 H, 8 K

RF, J. Soler – 1 for 4, 2 RBI. R

1B, F. Freeman – 2 for 4, 2B

C, T. d’Arnaud – 1 for 2, 2B

(65-47) Gwinnett Stripers

W, 6-3 vs. Columbus

SP, J. Rodriguez – (W), 5 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 BB, 4 K

RP, D. Lee – IP, H, BB, 3 K

RF, T. Demeritte – 2 for 3, HR, 3 RBI

CF, D. Waters – 2 for 5, HR, RBI

DH, C. Pache – 2 for 5, 2B, R

(65-40) Mississippi Braves

W, 7-0 vs. Montgomery

SP, F. Tarnok – (W), 6.1 IP, H, BB, 8 K

RP, O. Javier – IP, 2 K

C, S. Langeliers – 2 for 4, HR, 3 RBI

CF, J. Dean – 2 for 5, 2B, R

DH, C. Alexander – 3 for 4, 3B, 2B, RBI, R

1B, G. Jenista – 1 for 4, 2B, RBI

(53-58) Rome Braves

L, 8-2 vs. Asheville

SP, J. McSteen – (L), 6 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 6 ER, BB, 5 K, 3 HR

DH, M. Harris – 2 for 3, 2 2B, RBI, BB

SS, V. Grissom – 1 for 4, R

3B, R. Delgado – 3 for 4, R

(49-63) Augusta GreenJackets

W, 11-1 vs. Columbia

SP, J. Johnson – 4 IP, H, R, 5 BB, 6 K

RP, K. Wells – (W), 3 IP, 2 H, 5 K

LF, L. Stephens – 3 for 4, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB

C, T. Tolve – 2 for 4, 3B, 2 RBI, R, BB

CF, C. Robinson – 3 for 5, 3B, 2 RBI

RF, W. Carter – 3 for 5, 2B, RBI, 2 R

(24-27) FCL Braves

L, 13-2 vs. Rays

SP, D. Florentino – (L), 2.1 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, BB, 3 K, HR

C, A. Barranca – 1 for 3, 2B

2B, G, Quintero – 2 for 4, R

Which of the four outfield additions from July should be retained?

Friday, September 10, 2021

-Clint Manry

With a dozen different players accumulating at least 30 PA so far in 2021, the Braves outfield has been quite a revolving position group this season. And let’s be honest… the results haven’t always been that inspiring. No offense to these guys: but this year the Atlanta outfield has featured a lot of Guillermo Heredia and Ehire Adrianza, even some Abraham Almonte, a little bit of Ender Inciarte… and even a brief look at Orlando Arcia. Some of these names you probably never had heard of before this season. And regardless of whether or not that’s a good thing… it’s just the way things have gone for the Braves. Hell, Ronald Acuna Jr. – who hasn’t played in a game in exactly a month as of Friday – still leads the group in fWAR (and by a whole helluva lot too).

But fortunately GM Alex Anthopoulos made some crucial acquisitions in July. Trades featuring the likes of Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler gave the Braves outfield a complete makeover. And not only does this position group look much more formidable for the last remaining month of the current regular season, but now it appears to likely be a strength for the next season… and possibly beyond.

It’s probably not realistic to expect all four of those recently-acquired outfielders to return in 2022. However, it’s possible two of the four could be retained.

Both Pederson and Duvall each have mutual options for next year, with the former’s worth $10 million (featuring a $2.5-million buyout) and the latter’s worth $7 million (with a $3-million buyout). Those figures aren’t necessarily chump change… but $17 million in combined 2022 salaries, for that level of production, certainly seems like an appropriate cost. Then there’s Rosario and Soler, who are both slated to enter free agency this upcoming offseason. The fact that those are the two headed to the market actually fits rather well, being that those are perhaps the unlikeliest to be retained of the four players.

To me, Duvall is probably the most attractive player of the group. The guy has superb power at the plate, not to mention his defense is top notch. Plus, since August 1 (just days after being acquired by Atlanta), Duvall leads the Braves outfield in fWAR (0.5) and is tied for first in RBI (19). The same pretty much goes for Pederson as well, who like Duvall, can swing the bat and play some solid center field if needed, which, as we’ve seen since Acuna hit the IL, is a valuable skill to have. He’s cooled off of late, but hopefully his heroics on Thursday against the Nationals — when he slapped a walk-off RBI single in extras – can create some momentum.

That leaves Rosario and Soler. If you recall, the former had a much later start then the other three as he was in the process of rehabbing from an injury when the Braves traded for him. At 31 PA with Atlanta, Rosario has played the least so far, but his .259 AVG and 132 wRC+ while a Brave is nothing to scoff at (especially considering he posted only an 84 wRC+ with Cleveland earlier this year).

Soler is the wild card here, and of the four, the one who’s probably improved his stock the most as a potential candidate to return to the Braves. At the time of the trade that brought the 29-year-old to Atlanta (from KC), many of us were a bit confused on exactly what his role would be. With a nearly unplayable glove in the corner outfield, he oftentimes DHed for the Royals, and with a .192 AVG in 94 games leading up to the deal, it wasn’t as if he was tearing it up at the plate. But ever since he began wearing a Braves uni, Soler has raked. Now in his eighth season as a big leaguer, the big-bodied slugger has hit .286 with ten homers and 19 RBI in just 35 games thus far for Atlanta – good for a 145 wRC+ (just 13 points below Acuna’s and the best mark among Braves outfielders since Aug. 1). We know the universal-DH is coming, so at the right price Soler could be a very useful bench bat / DH in the coming seasons.

So who should Anthopoulos pick?… and should he choose more than one? I believe the combination of Duvall and Pederson would be the most bang for the Braves buck, given how versatile the two are defensively. Although Soler has really shown just how valuable a power-bat can be, especially with the way the game has evolved over the years. Atlanta’s front office sure will have some tough decisions to make, and I haven’t even mentioned the up and coming prospects on the way. We’ll see what happens… but I know one thing… the Braves have a pretty nice problem on their hands.

Braves organization probables – Thursday, September 9

Thursday, September 9, 2021

-Clint Manry

It’s been a super busy week so there hasn’t been time for any daily reports lately. Although here’s a look at tonight’s probable pitchers for the entire Braves organization…

(73-65) Atlanta vs. (58-81) Nationals // 7:20 PM

SP, Huascar Ynoa (4-5, 3.19 ERA)

(63-47) Gwinnett vs. (51-57) Columbus // 6:15 PM

SP, Bryce Elder (1-1, 4.02 ERA)

(63-49) Mississippi vs. (56-53) Montgomery // 7:35 PM

SP, Alan Rangel (2-2, 4.91 ERA)

(52-57) Rome vs. Asheville // 6:35 PM

SP, Darius Vines (3-4, 3.46 ERA)

(46-63) Augusta vs. Columbia x2 // (GM 1: 5:05 PM)

SP, Ryan Cusick (0-1, 4.15 ERA)

SP, Andrew Hoffmann (0-2, 4.58 ERA)

(24-26) FCL Braves vs. (18-22) Pirates Black // already completed

Pirates won 6-2

Greyson Jenista wins Batter of the Week

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

-Clint Manry

The Braves place among MiLB.com’s Player of the Week column continues this season as Mississippi Braves slugger Greyson Jenista won Batter of the Week for last week’s performance.

Jenista, 24-years-old, only played in three games last week, though he made quite the impression. The former second-round pick finished the week 5 for 10 with four home runs and six RBI, with three of those long balls coming in one game as part of a five-RBI performance at the plate last Thursday.

The big week was definitely needed for Jenista. This season the slugger has struggled mightily with strikeouts, seeing his overall K rate in 2021 rise by almost 10% relative to 2019. To begin the current campaign, I had Jenista ranked 22nd on my 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List, but due to a first-half that featured a .178 AVG in the months of May and June combined, I was forced to drop him down to no. 25 in the list’s midseason update. With next season being his age-26 campaign, the 6-4, 210-pound first baseman/DH doesn’t have much longer to correct his whiff issues.

Despite all of the swing and miss, though, Jenista wields more power than probably any other Braves prospect in the system right now (save for perhaps teammate Drew Lugbauer). The kid is now up to 17 homers so far this season with the M-Braves – more dingers than he managed to hit in the previous two years combined. Because of that power, Jenista still manages to sport an above average 119 wRC+ this year, despite carrying a middling .214 AVG.

Hopefully Jenista can cut back on some of the whiffs soon and eventually earn a deserved promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett. The Braves could always use a dangerous lefty-power bat… and Jenista could one day be just that. Regardless, congrats to another trending prospect in the Atlanta system.

Braves end Rockies series with a bang; Spencer Strider tosses two-hitter for Mississippi

Monday, September 6, 2021

-Clint Manry

It’s Labor Day today so I’m going to keep today’s report brief. The Braves fortunately ended its series versus the Rockies on a good note on Sunday, and they’ll have an off day today before starting a series with the Nationals tomorrow. Still barely hanging on to the division lead!

Here are you scores and stats from yesterday’s Braves action…

(72-64) Atlanta Braves

W, 9-2 vs. Rockies

SP, C. Morton – (W), 7 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

RF, J. Soler – 2 for 5, 2B, 2 R

3B, A. Riley – 1 for 2, HR, 3 RBI

2B, O. Albies – 1 for 5, HR, RBI

CF, A. Duvall – 1 for 4, HR, 3 RBI

C, T. d’Arnaud – 1 for 3, HR, RBI

The Braves offense finally woke up during this series and broke out with four homers in Sunday’s win over the Rockies. Save for Dansby Swanson, every Atlanta batter in the starting lineup recorded a hit, with Jorge Soler finishing with two. The win was very much-needed as the Braves were able to maintain its two-game lead in the division (the Phillies also won yesterday).

Austin Riley just continues to rake. Among third baseman in the majors, Riley’s 3.7 fWAR is tied with Manny Machado for fourth. The Braves star at the hot corner may not actually win NL MVP, but this has been such an incredible season for him… and one I admit I never saw coming. Riley is currently hitting .305 with 29 homers and 76 RBI, good for a 141 wRC+.

(61-47) Gwinnett Stripers

L, 4-3 vs. Memphis

SP, C. Johnstone – 4 IP, 2 H, ER, 2 K, HR

1B, J. Camargo – 2 for 4, RBI

2B, J. Kipnis – 1 for 3, HR, RBI

3B, Y. Sanchez – 1 for 2, HR, RBI

RF, D. Waters – 1 for 4, R, SB

Despite a couple of homers – one each coming from Yolmer Sanchez and Jason Kipnis – Gwinnett dropped its game versus Memphis on Sunday.

Conner Johnstone got the start, and pitched well, allowing just a couple of hits in four innings of work. But Jay Flaa and Thomas Burrows combined to allow three runs, spoiling Johnstone’s effort. Drew Waters and Cristian Pache also contributed with a hit apiece, and Johan Camargo tacked on an RBI with a 2 for 4 performance. Also noteworthy, Waters tallied his 24th stolen base of the season.

(61-40) Mississippi Braves

W, 7-2 vs. Biloxi

SP, S. Strider – (W), 5 IP, 2 H, BB, 8 K

RF, T. Harris – 2 for 5, 2B, 3 RBI, R

1B, D. Lugbauer – 1 for 2, 2B, RBI, 2 BB

2B, J. Miller – 1 for 5, 2B, R

As usual in a Spencer Strider start, this game was all about Strider. The prospect pitcher threw 50 of 79 pitches for a strike on Sunday, and a single in each of the second and third inning was all Biloxi could muster against the righty. If not for a walk in the fourth, Strider would’ve have set down the final seven batters he faced in the outing.

(51-56) Rome Braves

W, 3-2 (F/11) vs. Winston-Salem

SP, M. Stallings – 5 IP, 4 H, ER, 5 K

RF, S. Michel – 1 for 5, HR, RBI

3B, R. Delgado – 2 for 4, 2B, RBI, BB

This one was excruciatingly boring, but the R-Braves wound up with the extra-innings win. Drew Campbell – a 23rd round pick from the 2019 MLB Draft – provided the walk-off sac-fly in the eleventh…

Campbell is definitely someone worth paying attention to. He started the season in rookie ball and has since made it all the way to High-A, where he’s currently hitting .242 with four XBH in just eight games so far. The kid played college ball at Louisville, and though he wasn’t a huge talent there, he ended up finishing with a career .310 AVG and .810 OPS in 121 total games. Not too shabby.

(45-63) Augusta GreenJackets

W, 8-6 vs. Fayetteville

SP, J. Estes – IP, H, 2 ER, 2 BB, K, HR (23 pitches)

RP, D. Spain – (W), 2 IP, H, 4 K

3B, J-H. Malloy – 2 for 5, HR (GS), 2B, 4 RBI

DH, B. Vasquez – 3 for 5, HR, 2 RBI

SS, C. Shepherd – 2 for 4, RBI

C, T. Tolve – 2 for 5, 2B, R

The video isn’t the greatest, but here’s Justyn-Henry Malloy’s go-ahead grand slam from yesterday.

Malloy has certainly enjoyed pro ball so far. The kid is currently hitting .275 with seven XBH (three HR) in 25 games with Augusta. His plate discipline has been solid as well, shown by 16 walks and 20 strikeouts.

As far as I know, there’s nothing wrong with Joey Estes, who only threw 23 pitches on Sunday for the GreenJackets, exiting after just one inning. Maybe that was the plan all along, but it does seem odd that he came out that quick. Anyways, here’s an interesting tweet from the guys at Outfield Fly Rule…https://twitter.com/OFRSports/status/1433802044364689418?s=20

Vaughn Grissom is yet another Braves prospect on the ascent

Sunday, September 5, 2021

-Clint Manry

They say A-ball is the first step into the real world of professional baseball, usually following the mastering of one of two rookie-level leagues (or both) such as the Dominican Summer League (DSL) and Florida Coast League (FCL). As a teenager, the Braves Vaughn Grissom already paid his rookie dues, playing in 44 games with the FCL Braves in 2019 as a young 18-year-old. Evidently that was all he needed.

Coming out of that year’s MLB Draft as an 11th-round pick by Atlanta, Grissom’s performance two years ago no doubt put him on the map as an up-and-coming prospect. In 184 PA in ’19, Grissom hit .288 with 11 XBH and 23 RBI, good enough to post an above average 120 wRC+. If not for a global COVID-19 outbreak, the 6-3, 180-pound shortstop would’ve most likely made his A-ball debut last year.

But Grissom’s big promotion into the full-season ranks had to wait until 2021. To begin this season the Braves assigned him to Single-A Augusta where he was nearly 1.5 years younger than the average player. His 20- and 25-grade Hit and Power tools (given to him by FanGraphs coming out the ’19 draft) certainly didn’t seem to hold him back. Grissom’s 24 XBH (five homers) in 75 games with the GreenJackets came out of nowhere, and his .311 AVG and 13 stolen bases showed that he’s way more than just a glove-first middle-infielder. To anyone that’s been paying attention, this is a top 100 prospect in the making… and there’s no signs of him slowing down.

Finally, just as the calendar flipped to September, the Braves promoted Grissom to the highest level of A-ball… to Rome. If he can perform so well in Low-A… perhaps the same results will come in High-A. Grissom played his first game with the loaded R-Braves offense this past Thursday. In that debut, all of his tools were on display as he worked two walks, singled, scored a run and stole a base. In his second game on Friday, Grissom showcased his power by hitting his first home run with Rome. On Saturday he singled again and knocked in two more runs, pushing his AVG up to .444 while at his newest level of competition. Today, with Rome wrapping up its series versus Winston-Salem, it appears Grissom received a much-needed day off.

Grissom’s ascent this season probably isn’t the biggest storyline among the Braves minor league organization. Players like Shea Langeliers, Jesse Franklin V and the quartet of pitchers from last year’s draft are all highlights from 2021 that most likely deserve more attention once the campaign is over. But just because the Braves farm has featured a ton of success this season doesn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss what Grissom has accomplished in such a short time. In the span of a season, this kid has evolved from a fringy prospect into one that could potentially crack the top 10 in the near future. In my Midseason Top 30, I already have Grissom ranked 13th, just behind fellow infielder Braden Shewmake (who has been with Double-A Mississippi all season). Like Shewmake, Grissom will soon get his chance to show what he can do in the upper-minors.

So as part of a long list of success stories from the 2021 season, you can now add Grissom to the mix. Many of us maybe didn’t even really know this kid at the start of the year, but now he’s likely on everyone’s list of talented Braves prospects. The 2022 campaign will certainly be a big one for Grissom. In just his age-21 season, he’ll likely face Double-A pitching in 2022, suggesting he’s only within a couple of years of possibly debuting in the majors. That’s crazy to think about for a young player who’s just now reaching 80 total games above the rookie level. But that’s how it goes when a prospect catches fire like this. A-ball has been the first real test for this kid, and Grissom is currently passing it with flying colors. Let the hype begin!

Saturday’s (9/4/21) Braves MiLB scores and stats; Bryce Elder, Jake McSteen and Dylan Dodd shine in strong day of pitching

Sunday, September 5, 2021

-Clint Manry

Today’s report is short and right to the point. Here are your scores and stats from Saturday’s Braves minor league action…

(61-46) Gwinnett Stripers

W, 5-3 vs. Memphis

W, 5-2 vs. Memphis

SP, B. Elder – 4 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 7 K

SP, J. Rodriguez – (W), 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 6 K

PH, P. Ervin – 1 for 1, HR, RBI

CF, C. Pache – 3 for 7, 2 RBI, R

1B/3B, C. Camargo – 2 for 6, HR, 4 RBI, R

C, J. Morales – 1 for 2, 2B, R, BB

(60-40) Mississippi Braves

W, 6-4 vs. Biloxi

SP, F. Tarnok – 4 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, BB, 4 K

RP, T. Ferguson – (W), 2.1 IP, 2 H, R, BB, 2 K

CF, J. Dean – 3 for 4, 2 R, 2 SB

1B, D. Lugbauer – 1 for 4, HR, 3 RBI

RF, G. Jenista – 1 for 3, HR, RBI

*Down 4-2 in the ninth, Mississippi scored four runs in the final inning to win.

(50-56) Rome Braves

W, 7-3 vs. Winston-Salem

SP, J. McSteen – (W), 7 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 K

RF, D. Campbell – 2 for 5, 2B, 2 RBI, R

LF, J. Franklin – 2 for 4, HR, 2B, RBI, SB

2B, V. Grissom – 1 for 4, 2 RBI

3B, R. Delgado – 3 for 4, RBI, R

(44-63) Augusta GreenJackets

W, 6-2 vs. Fayetteville

SP, D. Dodd – 4.1 IP, H, ER, BB, 6 K

RP, A. Barger – (W), 2.2 IP, 3 H, ER, 5 K, HR

LF, W. Carter – 2 for 4, RBI, R, BB

1B, B. Horne – 2 for 5, HR, 2B, 2 RBI

3B, L. Malloy – 1 for 3, 2B, RBI

SS, C. Conley – 1 for 3, R, 2 BB, SB

2B, B. Vasquez – 3 for 4, HR, 2B, RBI, 2 R, 2 SB

(22-25) FCL Braves

L, 3-2 (F/8) vs. Rays

L, 4-1 (F/7) vs. Rays

SP, J. Johnson – 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 10 K, HR

SP, A. Shoemaker – (L), IP, H, 2 R, ER, BB, K

1B, M. Backstrom – 1 for 4, 2B

LF, B. Mezquita – 1 for 7, RBI

2B, C. Durbin – 1 for 4, SB

1B, L. McGill – 1 for 3, 2B

LF, J. Palma – 2 for 3

CF, T. Collins – 1 for 3, R

The Braves are lucky to still be on top of division

Sunday, September 5, 2021

-Clint Manry

The Braves dropped another game on Saturday, it’s second-straight loss and fifth consecutive one-run contest. Somehow, one of MLB’s worst teams, the Colorado Rockies, are up 2-1 in a series they have no business leading or winning. For the Braves, the division lead had already dwindled significantly. This time last week, as Atlanta wrapped up a series with San Francisco by handing the MLB-best Giants its worst loss of the 2021 campaign, the Braves led the NL East by 4.5 games. Three days later, following three games in LA with the Dodgers, that advantage fell to 4.0. And now, after losing two of three in Denver, the Braves pace has been slashed in half to just two. But really… it could be much worse.

Thankfully, the Phillies have sort of been under the same scuffling spell over the last several days, which is why, despite losing seven of its last ten, the Braves’ odds to win the division or make the postseason – per FanGraphs — have barely been impacted since last Sunday (in fact: Atlanta’s odds to win the division have increased by 0.02 points over the last several days, despite losing over two games of a lead). Philadelphia has dropped two in a row to Miami, which couldn’t have come at a better time given the Phillies were just recently on a six-game winning streak that included sweeping the Nationals and almost the D’Backs. We know how easy Philly’s schedule is through this final month, so any loss from them is very much appreciated.

But it’s the aforementioned one-run games that seem to be killing the Braves, and it’s something the team must tighten up in order to maintain its slim lead for the regular season’s final 27 games.

A fun fact found in David O’Brien’s post at The Athletic on Saturday (before the latest Rockies matchup), Atlanta has played in 47 one-run games this season – the second-most in the majors so far. The team’s 22-25 record in those games is also the second-worst winning percentage of any team that would be in the postseason if the playoffs started today. That’s not just bad for the Braves playoff outlook, but it’s also a narrative that could carry on into the postseason, when one-run games are potentially much more common due to the level of competition. Getting blown out is one thing, but to constantly lose games that go down to the wire – that can be incredibly frustrating.

The final push

Starting with today’s series finale versus Colorado, Atlanta will play 27 games in a span of 29 days to wrap up the 2021 regular season, featuring series against the Nationals, Marlins, Rockies, Giants, D’Backs, Padres, Phillies and Mets. There are a few easily winnable games mixed in that remaining schedule, but there will also be some tough matchups as well.

Luckily second baseman Ozzie Albies seems to be perfectly fine following his injury scare, homering in back-to-back nights against the Rockies on Friday and Saturday. Hopefully his bat will stay as hot as it has been in 2021. Righty Ian Anderson’s first two starts since returning have been a mixed bag, but surely he’ll get back to his late-June/early-July ways, when he posted a 2.31 ERA during a four-start stretch before going down with his injury. This Braves starting rotation must be in tip top shape in this final month of play, and Anderson will undoubtedly play a huge part in that.

I believe one of Atlanta’s wild cards in September could be Eddie Rosario, who has now been up with the Braves for seven games. In that span, the 29-year-old has hit .294 with three XBH (one HR) and five RBI, good for a 149 wRC+. With fellow outfielder Joc Pederson currently scuffling at the plate (hitting just .080 in his last 12 games), perhaps more regularly the Braves should slide Adam Duvall over to center and let Rosario take over the reps in left (which is what the team did this past Friday). Rosario may be in the midst of one of his worst seasons overall this year, but manager Brian Snitker should ride the hot hand.

Either way, it appears this season is set to go down to the final few days, which can be both exciting but super stressful for those of us who’ve labored through following this team all year long. It’s been a helluva ride filled with plenty of ups and downs. But right now the Braves are lucky to still be at the top.

Checking in on the Braves prospects for August: Nos. 30-21

Sunday, September 5, 2021

-Clint Manry

Many minor league teams have now crossed the 100-game threshold as the 2021 regular season is inching closer to its conclusion. As I have throughout the campaign here, now into September, I’ll look at how the Braves top 30 prospects performed during the recently-completed month. Be sure to also check out the site’s most-recent Braves Top 30 Prospect List, updated in early August.

As usual, let’s start with nos. 30-21…

*all stats listed are only from the month of August

30. Jefrey Ramos (OF) ↓

AA – Mississippi

14 G, .191 AVG, 3 XBH, 39 wRC+

Boy has it been a rough year for Ramos, who recently was placed on the injured list for the second time this season. At the plate, the 22-year-old outfielder has not only struggled with a massive increase in strikeouts, but his power has also suffered as Ramos only has 14 XBH in 54 total games this season. It really is unfortunate, because this time two years ago it looked like he could become a top-tier outfielder in the Braves system. Now… I’m not so sure Ramos is still consider a prospect at all.

29. Brandol Mezquita (OF) ↑

A – Augusta

12 G, .282 AVG, HR, 102 wRC+

He’s new to our Top 30, but Mezquita has been around for a while — signing with the Braves as an international free agent in 2017. So far, the 20-year-old has played well with the FCL team, leading the rookie level Braves on offense and hitting .328 overall in 2021. Mezquita’s month of August wasn’t as impressive as the rest of his work this year, but there’s no doubt he’s headed for full-season ball soon. Chalk it up as yet another talented outfielder in the Braves system.

28. Cody Milligan (2B) ↓

A+ — Rome

20 G, .153 AVG, 2 XBH, 34 wRC+

I may have jinxed Milligan, who’s not only new to our Top 30 but is also a player not many in Braves Country look at as a prospect. As you can see, the 22-year-old had a pretty bad month of August, pushing his season numbers on down to a .245 AVG and 81 wRC+. Maybe July was just a fluke, but it doesn’t help that Milligan posted a .224 BABIP last month. Hopefully he can finish the 2021 campaign on a much better note.

27. Drew Lugbauer (1B/DH) ↓

AA – Mississippi

16 G, .136 AVG, XBH, 55 wRC+

Lugbauer finally cooled off, following a July in which he finished with a 148 wRC+ thanks to 14 XBH (six homers) in 24 games. It has had to be hard, though, for the M-Braves haven’t been able to play a full slate recently due to weather and an apparent COVID-19 scare. To me it looks like Lugbauer just hasn’t had a chance to get going at the plate. Sure, his K rate rose to over 40% for the month of August, but like Milligan above, the first baseman’s BABIP was only .154, nearly .200 points below his 2021 average. I’m not worried yet.

26. Tanner Gordon (RHP) ↑

A+ — Rome

4 starts, 2.52 ERA, 10.8 K/9

Gordon has been both up and down this season, starting off the year with a 3.26 ERA in May, only to post a 4.91 and 4.26 in June and July, respectively. However, his current stint in High-A Rome appears to be going much better than the previous one. Gordon’s three starts with the R-Braves so far have each featured six innings and three earned-runs or less. I’m a big Gordon fan, and he seems to be developing nicely this season. A strong finish to 2021 and we could be seeing his name a lot more next year.

25. Greyson Jenista (1B/OF) ↓

AA – Mississippi

16 G, .196 AVG, HR, 70 wRC+

I write this blurb on a Friday, just a day after Jenista pulled off the hat trick and homered three times for the M-Braves, as part of a win that featured seven long balls by the Mississippi offense. The 24-year-old maybe should’ve saved some hits for the remainder of the season, because in 2021, production at the plate has been hard to come by for Jenista as he currently sports a .211 AVG in 79 total games so far. The ability is what still gives me hope with this kid, and I’m not giving up on him yet. But the strikeouts are really beginning to damage his stock.

24. William Woods (RHP) ↓

A+ — Rome

2 starts, 6.75 ERA, 10.1 K/9

Woods has had a late start to the 2021 season, appearing for the first time on August 19 with the FCL Braves. But now the 22-year-old seems ready to roll, having made two starts for Rome at the time of this writing. It’s still early, and it appears Woods is still in the process of being stretched out, but so far the righty has struggled mightily with walks. If you recall, he has primarily been used as a reliver as a pro, but this season it appears the Braves have transitioned him into a starter role. We’ll see how Woods progresses as he begins going deeper into outings.

23. Darius Vines (RHP) ↑

A+ — Rome

4 starts, 3.65 ERA, 8.4 K/9

Vines has really developed into a complete pitcher, progressing from the Single-A level to now High-A Rome. The righty suffered a bit of a setback in the K rate department this past month, but in terms of run-prevention he’s still sporting a 3.09 ERA in 96 total innings in 2021. Even better, at the time of this writing, the former seventh-round pick has allowed only a combined six runs over his last 19 innings (2.84 ERA), to go with a stingy .638 OPS. He doesn’t get much attention, but the 23-year-old Vines is a sneaky riser within the Braves system.

22. Cal Conley (SS) ↑

A – Augusta

19 G, .234 AVG, 2 HR, 84 wRC+

His numbers don’t jump off the page, but I’ve really been impressed with Conley so far. Taken in the fourth-round of the 2021 MLB Draft by the Braves, the 22-year-old Conley has held his own in Single-A in the 21 games he’s played, posting a .679 OPS so far, which features a .327 OBP. As a shortstop, the bat was never really a carrying tool for Conley (hence the 30-grade), but an 80ish wRC+ is respectable enough. We’ll see how he finishes 2021, but right now I like what I see.

21. Daysbel Hernández (RHP) ↑

AA – Mississippi

6 G, 5.2 IP, 0 ER, 14.3 K/9

Hernández hasn’t pitched since August 22, and it’s a real shame because he was absolutely dominant last month. The righty didn’t allow a single run in any of his six appearances for the M-Braves in August as he continues to mow down Double-A batters. The only concern regarding Hernández (other than a possible injury) is just how much is game declined once in Triple-A. If you recall, the 24-year-old’s stint with Gwinnett this season didn’t last long as he was crushed to the tune of five earned runs in 4.2 innings with the Stripers. His setback did impact his stock and his place on our Top 30, but I still believe in Hernández.

Braves Farm 2021 Midseason Braves Top 30 Prospect List: The top 10 and full list

Today we’ll wrap this series up by discussing the top 10. Below you’ll find tables for each group of ten covered so far, with the final ten at the bottom. If you click on the title of each table it will direct you to that particular post regarding those ten players. You can also find a list of all 30 players here. This final update to the Top 30 will likely serve as my rankings until pre-season 2022, though I’ll continue to provide monthly check-ins on these players for the rest of the current season (currently underway for August), as well as any updates regarding promotions, trades… etc.

Let’s get to it…

RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
30Jefrey Ramos (OF)AA
29Brandol Mezquita (OF)RK
28Cody Milligan (2B)A+
27Drew Lugbauer (1B/DH)AA
26Tanner Gordon (LHP)A
25Greyson Jenista (1B/OF)AA
24William Woods (RHP)RK
23Darius Vines (RHP)A+
22Cal Conley (SS)A
21Daysbel Hernández (RHP)AA
RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
20Trey Harris (OF)AA
19Indigo Diaz (RHP)AA
18Victor Vodnik (RHP)AA
17Spencer Schwellenbach (RHP)
16Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP)AAA
15Joey Estes (RHP)A
14Ryan Cusick (RHP)A
13Vaughn Grissom (3B)A
12Braden Shewmake (SS)AA
11Jared Shuster (LHP)A+
RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
10Jesse Franklin V (OF)A+
9Freddy Tarnok (RHP)AA
8Bryce Elder (RHP)AAA
7Spencer Strider (RHP)AA
6Tucker Davidson (LHP)MLB
5Michael Harris II (OF)A+
4Shea Langeliers (C)AA
3Drew Waters (OF)AAA
2Kyle Muller (LHP)AAA
1Cristian Pache (OF)AAA

10. Jesse Frankilin V (OF) ↑

Summer rank — 19th

A+ — Rome

I’ve really been impressed with just how fast Franklin has made a name for himself as a pro. This is a kid that was given a 30-grade for his Hit tool coming into the 2020 draft, not to mention a 35-grade Game Power by FanGraphs. Boy they couldn’t have been wrong. The 22-year-old Franklin has been a dangerous power-hitter all year long for High-A Rome, shown by his 22 homers and 56 RBI in 93 games so far this season. He’s certainly cooled off a bit since the beginning of August (86 wRC+ from Aug. 1 to this past Friday), but right now I have no problem saying that Franklin is this organization’s fourth-best outfielder, behind Cristian Pache, Drew Waters and Michael Harris II.

9. Freddy Tarnok (RHP) ↑

Summer rank — 16th

AA — Mississippi

For me, Tarnok has become the new Jasseel De La Cruz as I have him ranked right where De La Cruz was this past summer. The two young pitchers are actually a lot alike, though De La Cruz is two years older and has damaged his stock a bit with his struggles in Triple-A. Right now Tarnok seems to have the brighter future as a traditional starter, having managed to mostly dominate the Double-A level by pitching to a 2.64 ERA in 30.2 innings this season. Even better, the 22-year-old Tarnok appears to have the better secondary pitches, which is something that has plagued De La Cruz in 2021. Basically, I have Tarnok as the fourth-best pitcher in the system right now. This kid got a late start to the year, but he’s certainly on the rise.

8. Bryce Elder (RHP) ↑

Summer rank — 10th

AAA — Gwinnett

What a year its been for the Braves fifth-round pick from back in 2020. Elder has flew through the system, starting the year in Rome and now currently pitching in Triple-A Gwinnett. The 22-year-old has regressed just a tiny bit with each promotion, but given this is just his first pro season, his performance has been nothing but extraordinary:

A+ Rome — 45 IP, 2.60 ERA, 11 K/9

AA Mississippi — 56 IP, 3.21 ERA, 9.6 K/9

AAA Gwinnett — 11.2 IP, 3.86 ERA, 8.4 K/9

At this rate, Elder is making a strong case to earn an MLB debut sometime next season, which is pretty incredible for a guy with only 112.2 pro innings so far. A lot of other sites have been a bit slow to move Elder up on their lists. Hell, FanGraphs has the righty ranked 21st in the Braves system. But I believe this is one of the org’s most talented pitchers right now.

7. Spencer Strider (RHP) ↑

Summer rank — 18th

AA — Mississippi

Strider hit a rough patch during July, but make no mistake, 2021 has been a complete success for him. The 22-year-old righty is one of the most dangerous strikeout artists in this system as he averaged 18.7 K/9 in Single-A this year, 14.7 in High-A and now 13.3 with the M-Braves. Strider has just as much talent as Elder above, although I believe the former’s stuff will play better in the majors. Either way, it’s unreal to have these two in the top 10 so soon. Sure, they’re both former college arms… but no one expected them to produce like this so quickly.

6. Tucker Davidson (LHP) ↔

Summer rank — 4th

MLB — Atlanta (60-day IL)

This was supposed to be Davidson’s year, but a forearm/elbow injury has spoiled the 2021 season for the 25-year-old and he’s currently on the 60-day injured list. With it being September, it’s very unlikely the kid makes it back in time to make any sort of contributions to the big league team, but it’s still worth mentioning how well he pitched when he was healthy. Davidson was nearly unhittable in Triple-A this year, posting a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings with Gwinnett, to go with 10.3 strikeouts per nine. With the Braves, Tucker was nearly just as impressive, sporting a 3.60 ERA in the same amount of innings. Given his experience, age and track record, I don’t really even look at Davidson as a prospect any more. However, until he can consistently remain active and pitching with Atlanta, he’ll stay ranked on this list. Hopefully next year he pulls an Ian Anderson and graduates as that would mean he’s providing innings for the big league team.

5. Michael Harris II (OF) ↑

Summer rank — 6th

A+ — Rome

Harris has played up the hype this season, displaying plenty of tools while starring at Rome. At just 20-years-old, the prospect outfielder currently sports a 115 wRC+ and has stolen 23 bases in 90 games so far. He’s heated up even more over the last month or so too, hitting .316 with seven XBH (137 wRC+) since August 1. Given he’s still so young, the Braves will most likely stay pretty conservative with Harris, but at this point it’s probably safe to assume a Double-A assignment is in the cards for the start of 2022. Hell, he may even earn a promotion before 2021 is over with. The outfield depth chart is deep in this system, but Harris is right up there with Pache and Waters. He just needs more ABs.

4. Shea Langeliers (C) ↑

Summer rank — 5th

AA — Mississippi 

Lately the power has all but disappeared as Langeliers has been stuck on 19 home runs since August 11. But the bat remains hot for the star catcher, shown by his .286 AVG since the beginning of last month. Langeliers has been a success story like no other this season, performing well beyond his expectations as he’s quickly evolved into a complete player behind the plate and at the plate. We always believed William Contreras would eventually take over the reigns as the next Braves catcher, but at this rate I’m not so sure. Hopefully the universal-DH really does come soon and both Contreras and Langeliers can contribute at the big league level. If not, GM Alex Anthopoulos may eventually have to choose between the two. This kid is not someone to keep off the roster, and if he continues to improve with the bat the Braves won’t have a choice but to give him an opportunity. The next test is to see whether Langeliers can perform so well versus Triple-A pitchers as that’s currently the only advantage Contrereas holds.

3. Drew Waters (OF) ↔

Summer rank — 2nd

AAA — Gwinnett

It’s been sort of a quiet season for Waters as he’s mainly just been hanging in there with the Stripers, hitting .236 with eight homers and 22 stolen bases in 81 games so far (95 wRC+). Don’t get me wrong, the kid has improved, making nice gains regarding his patience at the plate. But I think we all expected the 22-year-old to sort of take off now deep into his second stint at the Triple-A level. I’d still like to see Waters cut his K rate to below 30% as the lack of consistent game power isn’t something I’m too concerned with (hell, eight homers is pretty good anyways). Many presume that he’ll get his MLB debut in 2022, and that seems pretty accurate; however, unless he wants to end up like Pache, the extra whiffs will need to be corrected. I’m still a believer in Waters. I just really want him to stick it whenever he does make it to the majors.

2. Kyle Muller (LHP) ↑

Summer rank — 7th

AAA — Gwinnett

Muller takes Waters spot on the Top 30, and honestly I almost put the lefty at no. 1. Take away Muller’s first and last major league appearance from this season, and the kid posted a 2.43 ERA in 33.1 innings with Atlanta in 2021, to go with 9.4 strikeouts per nine. I know those other two games count, but what Muller did for a seven-start stretch was amazing, and his performance really helped the Braves turn its season around. Since being demoted back down to Triple-A, the southpaw hasn’t let up a bit, having produced a 1.00 ERA in three starts with Gwinnett so far. I thought Muller was no doubt going to be part of Atlanta’s September roster, but I guess the big league starting rotation is finally all healthy enough. Either way, Muller certainly showed he’s prepared to be a mainstay in the major league rotation. And hopefully he will be to begin 2022.

1. Cristian Pache (OF) ↓

Summer rank — 1st

AAA — Gwinnett

This was the closest I’ve ever come to moving Pache off the no. 1 spot. His horrid big league performance, coupled with some more middling play in the minors just hasn’t made me feel as confident about him leading this system. However, the kid might’ve saved his spot in the rankings by actually playing really well over the last month. Since August 1, Pache was hit .321 with 9 XBH and has generated an 11% walk-rate in the last 21 games, good for a 143 wRC+ in that span. He may not be able to fix his major league numbers, but this newfound momentum with Gwinnett may just save his season totals in the minors. Pache really just needs a fresh start, so hopefully the spring of 2022 will allow him to get on track. I think we’re all ready to see him in the Braves outfield.

Braves outlast Rockies; Greyson Jenista slugs three homers for Mississippi

Friday, September 3, 2021

-Clint Manry

We had a full slate last night as the Braves and Rockies began a series in Denver, to go along with six minor league games. Also, before all the action got started, Atlanta made a pair of significant moves down on the farm, promoting both Luke Waddell and Vaughn Grissom, with the former heading to Double-A Mississippi and the latter on his way to High-A Rome. Grissom was in the starting lineup for the R-Braves on Thursday night, and even contributed on offense.

Here’s a look at all the Braves action from last night…

(71-62) Atlanta Braves

W, 6-5 vs. Rockies

SP, T. Toussaint – 3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, HR

RF, J. Soler – 2 for 5, HR, RBI

3B, A. Riley – 2 for 3, 2B, 2 RBI, R

CF, A. Duvall – 1 for 4, HR, 2 RBI

(59-46) Gwinnett Stripers

L, 9-6 vs. Memphis

L, 3-2 vs. Memphis

SP, K. Wright – (L), 4 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

SP, C. Johnstone – 2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, K, HR

LF, T. Demeritte – 1 for 4, HR, 2 RBI, SB

SS/2B, Y. Sanchez – 2 for 3, 2B, 2 RBI, BB

CF, D. Waters – 1 for 3, 2 R

1B, J. Camargo – 1 for 3, HR, 2 RBI

(59-39) Mississippi Braves

W, 16-8 vs. Biloxi

SP, J. Shuster – 4 IP, 7 H, 8 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 2 HR

RF, G. Jenista – 3 for 4, 3 HR, 5 RBI

2B, W. Rijo – 3 for 5, HR, 3 RBI

LF, T. Harris – 2 for 5, HR, 2 RBI

CF, J. Dean – 2 for 5, HR, RBI

SS, B. Shewmake – 2 for 5, HR, RBI

3B, C. Alexander – 2 for 5, 2B, RBI, R

(48-56) Rome Braves

W, 5-0

SP, A. Puckett – 4 IP, BB, 6 K

CF, M. Harris – 1 for 3, 2B, RBI, R

SS, V. Grissom – 1 for 2, R, 2 BB, SB

3B, B. Philip – 1 for 4, 2B

(43-62) Augusta GreenJackets

L, 6-3 vs. Fayetteville

SP, A. Hoffmann – (L) – 4.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, BB, 6 K

RP, R. Munoz – 2 IP, BB, 2 K

LF, L. Stephens – 1 for 3, HR, RBI

SS, C. Conley – 2 for 4, 2B, R, SB

1B, B. Horne – 2 for 4, 2 2B, RBI, R, SB

RF, W. Carter – 1 for 4, 2B, RBI

(22-23) FCL Braves

L, 7-5 vs. Pirates Gold

SP, R. Corona – 3 IP, 2 H, BB, 3 K

2B, G. Quintero – 2 for 3, 3B, 2B, 2 R

SS, C. Durbin – 3 for 4, RBI, R, 4 SB

1B, M. Backstrom – 1 for 4, R

RF, B. Mezquita – 1 for 3, RBI, BB, SB

DH, E. Workinger – 1 for 3, 2B, RBI

CF, T. Collins – 1 for 3, 2B, RBI, R, BB

Luke Waddell promoted to M-Braves; Vaughn Grissom to Rome

Friday, September 3, 2021

-Clint Manry

The Braves made a few more minor league moves on Thursday, this time impacting two talented middle-infielders — shortstop Luke Waddell and shortstop/third baseman Vaughn Grissom.

Waddell — the Braves’ fifth-round pick in this year’s MLB Draft — has certainly enjoyed his first taste of pro ball. The 23-year-old, former Georgia Tech star, has hit .304 with six home runs and 13 RBI in just his first 21 games with High-A Rome — good enough for a well above average 148 wRC+. If you recall, I recently wrote about the kid following a stint earlier this week in which he slugged six homers in just six games for the R-Braves. I didn’t rank Waddell in my Midseason Braves Top 30, but at this rate he’s definitely on his way to making the next list. Either way, with prospect Braden Shewmake holding down shortstop for the M-Braves all this season, it’ll be interesting to see how the Mississippi roster is setup with Waddell in the mix. The lefty-hitter has experience at other positions in the infield as he also played both third and second base in college.

For Grissom (currently ranked 13th on my Top 30), the High-A assignment is sort of a long time coming. The 20-year-old has been one of the better Single-A hitters in 2021, and when healthy, he’s no doubt led the Augusta lineup. Grissom entered Thursday with a .311/.402/.446 slash-line, to go with 24 XBH and 13 stolen bases in 75 games with the GreenJackets. And it didn’t take long for the former 11th-round pick to make an impact for the R-Braves, either, as he finished his first High-A game last night 1 for 2 with a run, two walks and a stolen base. The sky is the limit for Grissom, who I think could easily become a top 5 prospect in the Braves system once he starts developing a bit more power with his bat. We have to remember, though, this kid is only 20.

Congrats to both players, and hopefully each of Waddell and Grissom can put a nice bow on what’s already been impressive seasons for the two.

Max Scherzer’s historical September struggles against Atlanta could save tonight’s series

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

-Clint Manry

Whether you choose Pickswise or something else to help you choose your MLB bets, I can almost guarantee the Braves are ‘dogs tonight against the Dodgers. Atlanta has lost both of the first two games of the series, and they’ll face the infamous Max Scherzer for the finale — at Dodger Stadium no less. What I’m getting at is that no one would blame you for putting your money on LA.

But this matchup of the Maxes is a little more interesting than simply a Braves team holding onto the division for dear life versus a red-hot Dodgers club. If you squint… there’s a world where Atlanta could be worth a small play in this one, especially when considering the veteran’s late-season struggles against the Braves.

I caution you when looking at Max Scherzer’s numbers for this season. Not only does he rank sixth in baseball in fWAR (3.7) among starting pitchers with at least 140 innings in 2021, but the 37-year-old veteran is currently as hot as ever, having become nearly unhittable over the last month or so.

Max Scherzer (last six starts)

35 IP, 1.54 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 2 BB/9

And unlike his opponent on the mound tonight in Max Fried, Scherzer has faced some pretty stacked competition lately, going up against the likes of the Phillies, Astros, Phillies again, the Mets twice in a row… and most-recently the Padres. Hell, last week Scherzer tossed a two-hitter versus San Diego, lasting into the eighth. He punched out ten. I think it’s safe to say… the man is coming in HOT.

But don’t forget about Fried. His stellar work of late may have come against lesser offenses, but the younger Max has been just as impressive…

Max Fried (last six starts)

40 IP, 1.58 ERA, 8.3 K/9, 0.9 BB/9

Tonight is no doubt a must-see as both starters are at the top of their game, and you probably already knew that. But I propose, in case you’re a bit worried about tonight, that you have a little faith. As we’ve seen many times over the last several seasons, Scherzer can sometimes implode against the Braves.

Numbers-wise, the splits aren’t bad. Scherzer has compiled a 4.04 ERA versus Atlanta over his career, in 151.2 innings worth of work. That’s not great, especially for him… but it’s certainly not terrible. For one thing, Scherzer is plenty familiar with the Braves offense, or at least some of the main contributors. However, historically it really hasn’t seemed to help him any.

  • Last September, while with the Nationals, Scherzer’s worst outing of the 2020 campaign came against the Braves. The Atlanta offense roughed him up for six runs in 5.1 innings of work and ended up winning that game 8-4. Luckily for Scherzer, he only had to face the Braves once during that shortened regular season slate.
  • The 2019 season featured another horrid September outing against Atlanta. In this one, Scherzer was much better, though, allowing just three runs from seven hits in five innings. Still, it still went down as the second-worst start of his season, and the Braves ended up winning that one 10-6. Of course I can’t just cherry-pick the bad. Scherzer also had one solid outing versus Atlanta in September of 2019 – one in which he struck out nine in six innings and allowed just one run from two hits.
  • In 2018, Scherzer saw plenty of the Braves, facing them five times that season. Of those five, three of them were among his six-worst starts of the year, including a September 14 outing in which the hard-thrower allowed six runs in four innings as part of a 17-7 loss. Yeah, that one in particular was scored as a 27 in terms of Game Score – a whopping 17 points lower than his next-worst start during that season. This September trend is looking pretty good, right?
  • And what do ya know… another worst-start-of-the-year happened to be against the Braves in 2017… in September… again! In this one, the Braves routed the Nationals 14-6 after Scherzer allowed seven runs and walked six in six innings of miserable pitching. In a May 20 start that season he also allowed a pair of homers in a 4-3 loss to Atlanta. Three of Scherzer’s other outings versus the Braves that year wound up as solid starts, though.
  • Scherzer’s 2016 results against Atlanta were better, but he did have two August outings in which he allowed four runs apiece (though somehow managing to win both). He also went up against the Braves twice in September that year, but he managed to allow a combined four runs over 14 innings, including 13 strikeouts.

I figure five seasons is far enough to go back, but there’s certainly a trend here. Scherzer has had some remarkable performances against the Braves in his time, but when he’s off, it definitely seems to come during the season’s final month. Of course, baseball doesn’t operate under these types of splits. Lineups change every season, and the Braves offense in 2021 is nowhere near what it was the last time Scherzer faced it. Just because there are several bad outings in the past, doesn’t mean one is likely tonight. But for the Braves, now just 2.5 games up in the division, any sort of optimism is needed.

Atlanta is facing a possible series sweep on Wednesday, and to make matters worse they’ll go up against one of the hottest pitchers in baseball right now. At this point a win is incredibly valuable. So if you’re concerned with the Scherzer matchup tonight… that’s fair. But if the last five years of late-season games against Scherzer is any indication, the Braves chances at success actually doesn’t look too bad.

Bullpen spoils Braves night, cutting NL East lead to just 2.5; Royber Salinas strikes out 10 for FCL club

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

-Clint Manry

It feels like it’s been awhile, but the Braves bullpen ruined another late-game lead on Tuesday, dropping Game 2 versus the Dodgers by a score of 3-2.

Following two strong innings from Braves starter Charlie Mortin (featuring four strikeouts and only a double by LA), Joc Pederson got the scoring started for Atlanta with a solo-homer in the third. How the hell he was able to get his bat to the ball… who knows.

The Braves struck again in the fourth. Austin Riley came through with a one-out single, and Travis d’Arnaud followed up with a double to push Riley across home plate. With a 2-0 advantage and Morton looking sharp thus far, it appeared Atlanta was on their way to a series split. But unfortunately Mookie Betts had something different in mind…

Betts homer was really the only mistake of the night for Morton, who managed to throw 106 pitches and induce seven groundouts compared to just one flyout. However, once he walked off the mound after six quality innings, the Braves bullpen began to implode.

First, it was Luke Jackson in the seventh, surrendering a sac-fly off the bat of LA’s Chris Taylor (despite actually throwing a very nice pitch)…

Then, to break the 2-2 tie and put the Dodgers up, lefty Tyler Matzek allowed an RBI double by Corey Seager, who somehow managed to turn on a 98-MPH fastball on the outside corner…

Following the go-ahead drive by Seager, Matzek was able to get out of the jam, which should be appreciated given the Braves had its nos. 4-6 batters coming up in the ninth. However, a quick 1-2-3 inning for closer Kenley Jansen was all she wrote as Riley popped out and both d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson struck out. Braves lose.

It really isn’t a good time for Atlanta to lose two in a row, either, as both Philly and the Mets are currently on winning streaks of their own. Last night’s loss cuts the Braves’ division lead to just 2.5 games. The Phillies are definitely closing in, but hopefully Atlanta can somewhat keep the walls from closing in with a win tonight. It’s going to be a tough one. The two Maxes will face off as Max Fried opposes Max Scherzer on Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 10:10 PM (ET) tonight.

My work schedule has been crazy this week, plus all but Augusta and the FCL team were either rained out or canceled due to COVID on Tuesday. So today will feature just scores and stats…

(70-61) Atlanta Braves

L, 3-2 vs. Dodgers

SP, C. Morton – 6 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 8 K, HR

CF, J. Pederson – 1 for 2, HR, RBI

C, T. d’Arnaud – 1 for 4, 2B, RBI

3B, A. Riley – 2 for 4, R

(58-44) Gwinnett Stripers

PPD vs. Memphis (Rain)

(58-39) Mississippi Braves

PPD vs. Biloxi (COVID-19)

(46-55) Rome Braves

PPD vs. Winston-Salem (Wet grounds)

(42-61) Augusta GreenJackets

L, 6-4 vs. Fayetteville

SP, R. Rodriguez – (L), 4.2 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, BB, K, HR

3B, J-H. Malloy – 2 for 4, HR, 2 RBI

1B, C. Bunnell – 2 for 3, HR, RBI, SB

RF, C. Robinson – 2 for 4, 2B, RBI

SS, V. Grissom – 1 for 4

(22-22) FCL Braves

L, 8-5 (F/7) vs. Pirates Gold

L, 11-8 (F/8) vs Pirates Gold

SP, K. Anglin – 2 IP, H, ER, 2 BB, HR

SP, R. Salinas – 4 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, BB, 10 K, HR

1B, M. Backstrom – 1 for 3, HR, RBI

RF, B. Mezquita – 3 for 4, HR, 4 RBI, BB

2B, C. Durbin – 1 for 3, 3B, RBI, R

3B, F. Floyd – 1 for 3, 2B

CF, T. Collins – 2 for 4, 2B, R

CF, J. Palma – 3 for 5, RBI, 2 R, SB

2B, E. Stevens – 2 for 5, RBI, SB

Braves Farm 2021 Midseason Top 30 Prospect List: Nos. 20-11

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

-Clint Manry

In early August, I released a midseason update to my Braves Top 30, but last week I began explaining my list. Last Friday’s installment covered nos. 30-21, and today’s looks at nos. 20-11. You can find the entire list of 30 at my personal blog, Braves Farm.) As usual, below the table I’ve written a paragraph on each prospect.

Let’s get to it…

RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
30Jefrey Ramos (OF)AA
29Brandol Mezquita (OF)RK
28Cody Milligan (2B)A+
27Drew Lugbauer (1B/DH)AA
26Tanner Gordon (LHP)A
25Greyson Jenista (1B/OF)AA
24William Woods (RHP)RK
23Darius Vines (RHP)A+
22Cal Conley (SS)A
21Daysbel Hernández (RHP)AA
RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
20Trey Harris (OF)AA
19Indigo Diaz (RHP)AA
18Victor Vodnik (RHP)AA
17Spencer Schwellenbach (RHP)
16Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP)AAA
15Joey Estes (RHP)A
14Ryan Cusick (RHP)A
13Vaughn Grissom (3B)A
12Braden Shewmake (SS)AA
11Jared Shuster (LHP)A+

*all stats are through this past Sunday

20. Trey Harris (OF)

Summer rank – 11th

AA – Mississippi

That I dropped Harris nine spots is less to do with his actual performance and more to do with the fact that there just appears to be more viable outfield options in the Braves organization right now. Don’t get me wrong, the 25-year-old certainly hasn’t played as well this season, now sporting an 84 wRC+ in 84 games so far with the M-Braves; but in terms of rate stats Harris has mostly remained the same (in fact, he’s even better in regards to his plate discipline). The fact of the matter is: Harris is 25 and still hasn’t mastered the Double-A level, and though I still feel he’s a potential fourth outfielder in the majors, I no longer look at him as a fringy top 10 prospect in the system. If you don’t agree with me, FanGraphs has Harris ranked 14th in the Atlanta system.

19. Indigo Diaz (RHP)

Summer rank – N/A

AA – Mississippi

Two years ago — when Diaz was drafted by the Braves in the 27th round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Michigan St. — Tomahawk Take’s Fred Owens provided some hard-to-find stats on the righty while he was a JUCO star, featuring a stretch of 36 consecutive wins and a World Series title. Still, though, Owens stated that Diaz’s fastball was below-average and that (and I quote) “he reminded him of Dan Winkler” (which, these days, is sort of a compliment). Boy has the 22-year-old came a long way since being selected 817th overall. Consider the dominance Diaz has displayed so far in 2021…

High-A Rome: 27 IP, 18 K/9, 1.00 ERA, 0.67 FIP

Double-A Miss.: 13 IP, 15.9 K/9, 0.00 ERA, 1.74 FIP

The kid is literally unhittable right now, which has led to his quick ascent to the Double-A level. That used-to-be below average fastball is now a dangerous weapon and Diaz looks like a true home-grown closer for the Braves. We’ll see how he does the rest of the season, but this appears to be a slam dunk… and one that pretty much came out of nowhere.

18. Victor Vodnik (RHP)

Summer rank – 13th

AA – Mississippi

This is the first season the Braves began using Vodnik as a full-time starting pitcher, and though he’s shown flashes of brilliance on the mound, the kid just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Vodnik is currently on the injured list (for the second time this season) and hasn’t thrown a pitch for the M-Braves since August 13, when he tossed a no-hitter over five innings that featured nine strikeouts. It really is unfortunate, but hopefully Vodnik gets a chance to finish the year strong and give him some much-needed momentum for 2022. It’s evident he needs a bit more time in Double-A, but I still believe in the under-sized Vodnik.

17. Spencer Schwellenbach (RHP)

Summer rank – N/A

Inactive

Placing Schwellenbach on the list was a bit of a challenge simply because we now know it’ll be at least on into next season before we see the right-hander (Tommy John surgery). However, the 2021 second-round pick put together quite a collegiate career with Nebraska, and his two-way stardom pretty much speaks for itself. In three seasons with the Huskies, Schwellenbach hit .282 and posted an .829 OPS as a hitter. Then as a pitcher, in his final year, he posted a 0.57 ERA in 31.2 innings. I think it’s safe to say that this is at least a top 20 prospect in the Braves system. We’ll just have to wait and see exactly how talented he is once he finally takes the field next year.

16. Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP)

Summer rank – 9th

AAA – Gwinnett

When it was announced that De La Cruz was getting a Triple-A assignment to begin the 2021 season, I immediately went all in on the righty, ranking him inside the top 10 this past June in my Summer list. However, I’ve had to reevaluate my opinion of De La Cruz as his time in Gwinnett hasn’t gone anything like I expected. In 54.2 innings for the Stripers so far in 2021, the 24-year-old has pitched to a 6.59 ERA / 5.13 FIP to go with 4.94 walks per nine. I had the opportunity to watch him in-person in Memphis about a month ago, and he just didn’t appear to have the stuff to get opposing batters out. Hopefully he can turn things around soon, but right now I see De La Cruz as more of a multi-inning reliever. Regardless, he definitely needs to work on his secondary pitches.

15. Joey Estes (RHP)

Summer rank – 23rd

A – Augusta

Estes continues to mow down Single-A batters as he leads the South League in practically every pitching category, including strikeouts and ERA. You wouldn’t think it would be possible, but the 19-year-old has been even better during the month of August, maintaining an ERA even lower than his 2.76 for the 2021 season. Estes seems to have everything you’d want in a prospect pitcher: strikeouts, above-average run prevention; and lately he’s even lasting longer into starts, tossing his first complete-game back on August 14. He’ll continue to soar in on this list.

14. Ryan Cusick (RHP)

Summer rank – N/A

A – Augusta

The Braves have understandably been extremely careful with Cusick, keeping his pitch count around 50-60 pitches in each of the three starts he’s made so far for Augusta. The results have been about as good as you can hope for given the short leash as Cusick has given up just one earned run in eight innings thus far, which pairs nicely with his 15 strikeouts and three walks. There’s no doubt this kid has the stuff to generate a ton of punch outs as a pro, but it’ll probably be next season before we see him face any real competition. FanGraphs already has Cusick in the top 10 in the Braves system, at no. 7, which is probably close to where he’ll likely end up in my rankings by the start of 2022.

13. Vaughn Grissom (SS)

Summer rank – 21st

A – Augusta

Since returning from an injury back in mid-July, Grissom has been one of the best performing prospect in the Braves system, hitting .351 with 14 XBH and eight stolen bases in 35 games (good for a 166 wRC+ in that span). Grissom will end the 2021 campaign as one of the top hitters in Single-A, which means he’s looking at a High-A assignment to begin next season. At just 20-years-old, Grissom could see a Michael Harris-type rise among national evaluators next offseason.

12. Braden Shewmake (SS)

Summer rank – 8th

AA – Mississippi

I’ll give him props, Shewmake definitely pulled off a remarkable turnaround to what was a horrid start to the 2021 season. But unfortunately, after posting a 178 wRC+ in 14 games in July, the shortstop’s play has regressed again in August. Still, Shewmake is playing much better than he did during the first few months of the year, and he’s even showcased some surprising pop with the bat. I had to dock him for the early-season struggles, but make no mistake, this is still a future big leaguer.

11. Jared Shuster (LHP)

Summer rank – 12th

A+ — Rome

Like the other three prospect pitchers from the 2021 class (Bryce Elder, Spencer Strider and Joey Estes), Shuster has flourished in his first pro season. The 23-year-old is probably ready for the Double-A level at this point as he’s spent all season mowing down High-A batters to the tune of 11.2 strikeouts per nine. But the Braves are in no hurry… and they shouldn’t be. I could’ve bumped Shuster up into the top-10 of this list; he’s certainly deserving. But the only reason I didn’t is because I’d still like to see what he does once with the M-Braves. He’s currently running a FIP nearly a run higher than his 3.70 ERA, so it might be wise to wait before getting to carried away. Regardless, FanGraphs is a believer as they have Shuster ranked seventh in the Braves system.

MiLB preview: Spencer Strider and Luke Waddell headline another week of Braves minor league baseball

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

-Clint Manry

Down to the final day of August, it’s another week for the Braves five minor league affiliates. Hopefully the weather cooperates (as well as COVID), but below is a preview of each team’s schedule, as well as some players to keep an eye on.

Gwinnett Stripers (58-44 / 2nd place)

vs. Memphis Redbirds (STL)

The Stripers will face the Redbirds at home this week, with lefty Kyle Muller taking the mound for Game 1 on Tuesday. Since being optioned to Triple-A earlier this month, Muller has been especially good, tallying 12 scoreless innings in two outings so far. Today will be another opportunity for the 23-year-old to impress as he’s had some solid success against Memphis in 2021. In two starts so far versus the Cardinals’ Triple-A club, Muller has only allowed a pair of runs from four hits to go along with 14 strikeouts. With Ian Anderson now back in the fold and Touki Toussaint looking much better in his recent outings with Atlanta, the Braves are pretty well-stocked in the starting rotation department. However, it seems reasonable to believe that Muller will be part of the September major league roster.

Speaking of September rosters: will Johan Camargo make the cut? As we enter a new week of minor league baseball, Camargo sports the third-highest AVG (.304) in Triple-A’s East League, to go with a 135 wRC+ (ranks ninth). And those numbers haven’t just popped up of late, either, as the 27-year-old has been raking in the minors all season long. But given his 0 for 16 performance in the majors in 2021, would Atlanta consider bringing up Camargo for the final month of the major league season? I guess we’ll see.

Prospect Cristian Pache seems like a viable choice too, though the Braves outfield is pretty full at the moment (especially following all the additions at the trade deadline). Pache has hit a lot better with Gwinnett lately, but is there room for him on the big league roster? It’s likely only a handful of players will be recalled for the September playoff push, and most of those slots will be filled by pitchers. Can the Braves fit both Camargo and Pache on the roster… or will only one make the cut?

Mississippi Braves (58-39 / 1st place)

@ Biloxi (MIL)

Due to COVID-19, the M-Braves only played one game last week – a 1-0 defeat to Pensacola at Trustmark. However, this week the Double-A club will travel to Biloxi to take on the Shuckers with a scorching-hot Spencer Strider raring to go. Strider made Baseball America’s weekly Hot Sheet column for his performance last Tuesday against the Blue Wahoos, in which the prospect pitcher struck out 10 in five innings of dominant work. The 22-year-old righty took a tough loss that night, but the outing now gives him 16 punch outs over his last 10.2 frames – a two-start stretch that features a 3.37 ERA. Strider appears determined to finish strong in his first pro season.

It’s another week and another potential breakout for M-Braves catcher Shea Langeliers – leader of the team on offense and one of the seven-best hitters in the Double-A South League so far this season. His 131 wRC+ in 2021 has been much better than expected, and even more surprising has been Langeliers’ power (which has resulted in 19 home runs at this point). Can the former top pick hit no. 20 this week? Either way, this kid is on a path to become Atlanta’s next star behind the plate.

Rome Braves (46-55 / 4th place)

vs. Winston-Salem (CWS)

It’s been a bit of an up and down season for Rome, but the R-Braves are currently on a three-game win streak and will look for righty Tanner Gordon to keep the momentum going today versus Winston-Salem. Gordon has also experienced quite a roller coaster of a 2021 season, but so far during the month of August he’s been at his best, pitching to a 2.52 ERA with 10.8 strikeouts per nine in his last four outings.

The other Brave to make BA’s Hot List column for last week’s play was Rome’s Luke Waddell. The Braves selected Waddell in the fifth-round of the 2021 MLB Draft, and following a bit of a slow start, the young shortstop has taken High-A by storm. I already wrote about Waddell this week, and it’s doubtful he continues to hit this well, but I’m curious to see where his numbers end up by season’s end.

Augusta GreenJackets (42-60 / Last place)

@ Fayetteville (HOU)

The GreenJackets are one of the league’s worst teams this year in terms of record, but like every week, prospect Joey Estes is the guy everyone wants to see. Ranked 15th on my Midseason Top 30, the 19-year-old righty currently leads Single-A’s East League in essentially every pitching category, including strikeouts (126) and ERA (2.76). There are also a few 2021 draftees to pay attention to. Recently the trio of Ryan Cusick (first round), Dylan Dodd (third round) and Andrew Hoffmann (12th round) have made their pro debuts for Augusta.

Prospect infielder Vaughn Grissom has been on a tear lately and he’s had a solid month of August so far, hitting .315 with seven XBH and five stolen bases in 23 games. This year’s strides by him have been nice to see, and at this rate he’ll likely see a High-A assignment to begin 2022. Grissom’s plate discipline is incredible, and though he hasn’t yet displayed much power, his overall abilities as a middle-infielder make him a potential top-10 prospect in the Braves system in the near future. Cal Conley is another 2021 draftee that has impressed. The former fourth-round pick is hitting a solid .247 in his first 18 pro games so far, and I’ve seen him put together some really good at-bats in the few games I’ve watched.

FCL Braves (22-20)

Tue – in progress vs. Pirates Gold

Wed – OFF

Thu – @ Pirates Gold

Fri – vs. Rays

Sat – @ Rays

Sun – OFF

Outfielder Brandol Mezquita (now ranked 29th on my Midseason Top 30) has been one of the ten-best hitters in the FCL so far this season, currently sporting a 132 wRC+ (ninth) in 32 games with the Braves. His .312 AVG ranks third among all batters, and it appears – at just 19-years-old – that he’s every bit of what we thought he’d be when Atlanta signed him several years ago. The kid is raw at the plate, but he’s a line drive machine. I can’t wait to see him in full-season ball next season.

The Braves rookie club is pretty thin when it comes to pitchers but there are a few arms too keep an eye on. Atlanta’s seventh-round pick this year, 18-year-old righty AJ Smith-Shawver, just made his pro debut on Monday for the FCL team, striking out five batters in just two innings of work. He’ll likely get a 3-4 inning start at some point this week. Then there’s also 20-year-old Darling Florentino, who has maintained a 4.19 ERA in nine games this season. Florentino isn’t really a potential prospect, but he’s been around in the Braves system for a while. He’s also a former third baseman who this year has transitioned into a pitcher, so it’ll be interesting to see what he does on the mound from here on out.

Luke Waddell named Batter of the Week by MiLB.com

Monday, August 30, 2021

-Clint Manry

Well… it didn’t take long for one of the Braves recent draft picks to put himself on the map as a pro. On Monday, MiLB.com announced its weekly awards for Batter and Pitcher of the Week, and this time fifth-rounder Luke Waddell took home the accolade.

Waddell’s performance with High-A Rome last week (six games) — highlighted by two-homer finishes on each of Tuesday and Friday — included a 12 for 22 (.545 AVG) stretch at the plate to go with six home runs and six RBI (good for a ridiculous 365 wRC+).

All of that production this past week really catapulted Waddell out of what was a rather slow start as a professional. After beginning his pro career by hitting .190 over his first 13 games, the former Georgia Tech star is now hitting a strong .313 for the season and is already up to seven XBH (six HR) in his first 19 games overall.

I wrote about Waddell this past Sunday, following his latest two-homer performance for the R-Braves, but it’s nice to see him getting the national recognition he deserves.

Waddell will most likely finish 2021 with Rome, but if he continues to rake at the High-A level over these last few weeks it’s likely he’ll receive a Double-A assignment at some point next season, possibly taking the place of current M-Braves shortstop, Braden Shewmake. Either way, congratulations to kid as he appears to be the real deal.

Luke Waddell appears determined to rise quickly

Sunday, August 29, 2021

-Clint Manry

I haven’t looked deep into it, but the Braves did something I don’t believe they usually do: they drafted three shortstops in the 2021 MLB Draft (four if you count two-way player Spencer Schwellenbach, although he’ll pitch as a pro).

  • Cal Conley (4th round)
  • Luke Waddell (5th round)
  • Caleb Durbin (14th round)

Each of these field generals above have experienced different results as professional ball players so far. Durbin – who’s currently playing at the rookie level with the FCL Braves – has mostly struggled, sporting a .231 AVG with no XBH in nine games. Conley, though, has been a bit better with Single-A Augusta, currently carrying a .261 AVG with four XBH in 17 games. But then there’s Waddell – a 23-year-old out of Georgia Tech. He’s playing on a totally different level.

After starting his pro debut a bit slow by hitting .167 in his first nine games with Rome, the lefty-hitting Waddell has been on a complete tear over the last week or so. Beginning with a combined 3 for 6 performance during the R-Braves doubleheader on August 20, Waddell has rarely missed, going 13 for 31 (.419 AVG) with five home runs and eight RBI in his last nine games – good for a 248 wRC+ in that span. Even more impressive, all five of those long balls have come in his last five games as the young shortstop already has two multi-homer performances during that stretch.

Now we knew going into the draft that Waddell could hit. His 55-grade Hit tool was one of his best grades on draft day, which compliments well with his above-average speed. But the power-stroke is admittedly a bit of a surprise, given Waddell received a 30-grade for Power and only tallied 12 homers in 172 career games in college, spanning across four seasons. But blasts like these don’t just come from good luck…

Waddell’s outlook in the system

It’s reasonable to believe, as Braves Journal managing editor Ryan Cothran opined on Sunday, that if Waddell can keep this up he’ll most likely see a Double-A assignment next season. Braden Shewmake has looked much better of late and with his age he’ll need to see Triple-A pitching soon, opening a spot for the Braves latest star at shortstop in Waddell. However, we also shouldn’t generate too high of expectations. We’ve seen this before where first-year players go crazy at the plate only to regress drastically in Year 2. If you recall, first baseman Bryce Ball hit the pro ranks by storm when he was drafted in 2019 but struggled mightily with Rome earlier this season (leading to him being traded to the Cubs in exchange for outfielder Joc Pederson).

Either way, though, it’s great to see some middle-infield talent developing in the Braves system. This organization hasn’t had this much depth at the shortstop position in a long time, which leads me to believe that the draft strategy this year was intentional. We’ll see how he develops through the rest of this season, but it appears the Braves have a potential top-tier prospect in Waddell. If nothing else, he sure is putting together an incredible debut as a pro.

Jorge Soler’s heroics is becoming a regular occurrence

Sunday, August 29, 2021

-Clint Manry

Part of a complete outfield makeover at the trade deadline, the Braves acquired Jorge Soler from the Royals in exchange for prospect reliever Kasey Kalich. The transaction was a bit questionable at the time, especially considering the 29-year-old’s struggles at the plate to date. But Atlanta believed in Soler’s bat. And despite underwhelming overall numbers, it’s a damn good thing they made the move.

In just a short span so far in an Atlanta uniform, Soler has already made a huge impression as a clutch hitter. And the slugging outfielder’s most clutch performance yet came just this past Friday in the team’s win over the Giants.

By the time Soler touched home plate, after absolutely murdering this ball by the way, the Braves win-expectancy advantage grew to 87-13, a swing of 31% in just an instant. It may not have been the biggest play of the 2021 season for the Braves, but it’s pretty impressive just how many times Soler has come through when its mattered most, given he’s played only 23 games with the team so far.

To put into perspective, in the span of just several weeks, six of Soler’s 15 biggest WPA events this season have taken place while in Atlanta, with his most-recent one leading the way.

I mean, the samples are of course incredibly small, but just check out Soler’s numbers as a Brave in both High Leverage and Medium Leverage situations combined so far…

7 for 28 (.250 AVG), 2 HR, 9 RBI, 129 wRC+, 45.8 Hard%

This comes after he hit just .167 and posted a 65 wRC+ in 150 AB in those same situations as a Royal this season. The fact that he’s seemed to of flip a switch in the clutch with the Braves could mean his recent success is maybe unsustainable; although it could also mean perhaps he just enjoys delivering for Atlanta.

Regardless, there’s something definitely special about Soler and his time so far as a Braves hitter. Hell, just look at his overall numbers with each team this year…

Soler w/KCR – 94 G, .192 AVG, 13 HR, 80 wRC+, 26.9 K%, -1.0 fWAR

Soler w/ATL – 23 G, .274 AVG, 6 HR, 146 wRC+, 17.3 K%, 0.3 fWAR

Maybe it lasts… and maybe it won’t. But even though the addition didn’t seem too significant at the time, Soler has been quite a blessing since coming over from Kansas City. And his ability to come through in the clutch has been one of the many reasons Atlanta is once again playing great baseball.

Braves drop Game 2 to Giants; Rome’s Luke Waddell stays scorching hot

Sunday, August 29, 2021

-Clint Manry

Unfortunately the Braves offense just couldn’t figure out the Giants’ Logan Webb last night as the 24-year-old righty tossed seven scoreless innings and struck out six. Webb allowed just five hits, all of which were just singles, and San Francisco cruised to a shut-out win (5-0) on Saturday.

For Atlanta’s Huascar Ynoa, it was only his third start since coming off the injured list, and overall he pitched really well. The righty totaled 96 pitches over six innings, allowing two runs from just three hits to go with three walks and three strikeouts. Ynoa did allow a homer to the second batter of the game, Tommy La Stella, but other than that the 23-year-old pitcher limited the damage. Relievers Richard Rodriguez and Chris Martin allowed three runs combined as the former allowed a homer to Mike Yastrzemski in the seventh and the latter surrendered both an RBI single (by Darin Ruf) and an RBI double (by Yastrzemski) in the ninth.

The Braves division lead has now shrunken to just 4.5 as both the Phillies and Mets won on Saturday. Philly and New York are currently in the midst of some pretty easy series, with the former facing the D’Backs and the latter going up against the Nationals. However, given the news regarding a special somebody in the starting rotation, Atlanta has a chance to push that NL East advantage back to 5.5 games. It was reported on Friday that righty Ian Anderson would be back with the Braves on Sunday. And today Anderson will start Atlanta’s day game (1:20 PM) against the Giants, facing a solid righty in Anthony DeSclafani.

With how great Anderson has thrown the ball in Triple-A Gwinnett, he should be able to keep the Giants contained so that hopefully the Atlanta lineup can get going.


And I didn’t plan on doing any writing on the Braves minor league action from yesterday. However, I have to say something about one of the Braves 2021 draft picks, fifth-round shortstop Luke Waddell.

Waddell homered again for Rome on Saturday night, giving him five long balls in the last five games. Thanks to a current five-game stretch in which he’s hitting .526 with a 1.316 OPS, Waddell is hitting .245 in 15 total games as a pro this season, and looks like a damn good-hitting shortstop. I didn’t include Waddell in my latest Braves 2021 Top 30 earlier this month, but now I’m wondering if I should have. Keep an eye on this kid.

But anyways, here are scores and stats from Saturday’s Braves action down on the farm…

(69-59) Atlanta Braves

L, 5-0 vs. Giants

SP, H, Ynoa – (L), 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, HR

2B, O. Albies – 2 for 4, SB

3B, A. Riley – 2 for 4

1B, F. Freeman – 2 for 4

(58-43) Gwinnett Stripers

L, 2-1 vs. Nashville

SP, J. Rodriguez – 7 IP, 3 H, BB, 4 K

C, W. Contreras – 1 for 3, 2B

CF, C. Pache – 2 for 3, BB

1B, J. Camargo – 2 for 4, RBI

(58-39) Mississippi Braves

Cancelled (COVID-19)

(45-55) Rome Braves

W, 4-3 vs. Bowling Green

SP, D. Vines – (W), 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 6 K, HR

SS, L. Waddell – 2 for 3, HR, 2 RBI

LF, A. Moritz – 2 for 5

DH, C. Milligan – 1 for 3, 2B, BB

RF, D. Campbell – 1 for 4, HR, RBI, SB

(42-59) Augusta GreenJackets

L, 6-2 vs. Charleston

SP, D. Dodd – (L), 3.2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, BB, 7 K

3B, C. Bunnell – 2 for 5, R

C, A. Zebrowski – 1 for 4, 2B, RBI

RF, L. Stephens – 1 for 2, RBI, BB

(21-20) FCL Braves

PPD vs. FCL Rays

The 2022 starting rotation could be the deepest one yet

Sunday, August 29, 2021

-Clint Manry

A lot like most seasons, the Braves starting rotation hasn’t performed quite like expected coming into April. Injuries, ineffectiveness and just plain old bad luck has painted a very different picture than what expected by many. And as a result, a few other pitchers have been forced to step up (though a bit remarkably, as projected, Charlie Morton is in fact leading the Atlanta staff in fWAR).

PLAYERSTARTSERAWAR
Charlie Morton263.603.3
Max Fried223.542.6
Ian Anderson183.561.9
Huascar Ynoa102.951.1
Kyle Muller83.790.6

The absolute shit show that was Mike Soroka’s injury/recovery/injury again is pretty self-explanatory. And even though he had a bit of a slow start, this year Max Fried has still managed to become one of the better starters. However, as you can see, two very young (and very promising) arms burst onto the scene in Atlanta, in Huascar Ynoa and Kyle Muller, so far slotting themselves in as two of the rotation’s most productive starters. Of course both Ynoa and Muller has dealt with their own bits of adversity, as the former injured himself punching a dugout bench and the latter sort of fizzled out after producing eight excellent big league starts. And the two tables above doesn’t even include a few others who’ve seemed to find their way this season (especially of late). In terms of WAR, neither Drew Smyly nor Touki Toussaint have hit their projected marks, but each one is over-achieving in the run-prevention department and has really pitched well recently.

PLAYER’21 ZiPS ERA’21 ZiPS WARACTUAL ERAACTUAL WAR
Drew Smyly4.700.94.540.5
Touki Toussaint4.661.03.690.3

But regardless of your opinion regarding Morton’s late-career dominance or Smyly’s second-half turn-around, it’s not guaranteed that those two will return for another season in 2022 (both are pitching on one-year contracts in 2021). In fact, it’s actually probably doubtful for either one considering the team’s other more pressing obligations, which, most significant right now, is an extension for Freddie Freeman. Losing both your most productive starter on the staff all season (in Morton) AND one of your hottest hands for much of the second-half (in Smyly), would usually be quite the downer. But given what we’ve realized regarding several current major league contributors, combined with what appears to be coming up the pipe in the near future… perhaps we haven’t even seen just how great this starting staff can be.

Braves 2022 starting rotation outlook

Below is an outline of in-house pitchers who could possibly make an impact for the Braves starting rotation next season. I’ve divided the list between rotation locks, contenders and potential debuts, of which feature both major league and minor league players. Of course not all of these guys will make contributions in 2022. But this shows just how talented and deep the Atlanta starting staff could possibly be between now and then, given everyone remains healthy and the team avoids any major blockbuster trades.

Rotation locks

Max Fried (LHP)

Ian Anderson (RHP)

Huascar Ynoa (RHP)

These three above are essentially guaranteed to make up 3/5 of the Braves starting rotation in 2022 as all are currently 100% healthy (Anderson is nearly finished with his rehab assignment) AND have already proven they can contribute at the big league level on a consistent basis. Of those three arms, the left-handed Fried is perhaps the forerunner, though really any of these guys are capable of putting the Atlanta starting staff on his back at any given time. Regardless, already rostering three quality arms such as these really boosts next seasons starting rotation, and this isn’t even counting Mike Soroka, who should be available at some point in 2022.

Rotation contenders

Kyle Muller (LHP)

Touki Toussaint (RHP)

Tucker Davidson (LHP)

Kyle Wright (RHP)

Unless GM Alex Anthopoulos again brings in one or two veteran arms to help stabilize a young Braves starting rotation, the quartet of arms above will compete for the final two slots to start the 2022 season. We already know what Muller and Toussaint are capable of, so those two will surely have the upper-hand next spring. However, Davidson is a guy that, when healthy, could really make things interesting, especially given how well he’s performed at the Triple-A level. Speaking of Triple-A,Wright has been sharp with Gwinnett for a several weeks now, and if he can finish 2021 strong, he too could become a legit contender for one of the Braves staff openings to start next year.

Potential 2022 debuts

Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP)

Bryce Elder (RHP)

Spencer Strider (RHP)

Freddy Tarnok (RHP)

Victor Vodnik (RHP)

William Woods (RHP)

Corbin Clouse (LHP)

Of the seven names above, De La Cruz may be the only one the Braves would even consider throwing to the MLB fire right now (although he’s had a pretty rough year with Gwinnett). However, some of these guys could become potential options later on in the 2022 season or in the event there are numerous injuries. Elder is an interesting prospect, who’s already pitching at Triple-A Gwinnett right now… and he’s performing well. It seems reasonable to believe that, if he were to finish 2021 strong AND pitch well to start the ’22 campaign, he could be in the running for a possible Braves debut sometime during the second-half. Strider, Tarnok and Vodnik are all still in Double-A but have both shown advanced abilities in the upper-minors (though the latter of those three has struggled to remain healthy this season). And lastly, Woods and Clouse are two exciting pitchers who started late in 2021, with the former just making his High-A debut on Friday and the latter recently appearing for the M-Braves. It’s going to take a ton of momentum next season for either of Woods or Clouse, but it’s not completely unrealistic.

So while it would be nice to retain one of Morton or Smyly (preferably the former), with how many options currently available in-house, the Braves won’t necessarily be required to. This organization has seemingly always had plenty of pitching depth, but given the strides of several of its prospects, and a few others who’ve seemed to turn things around, next season looks like it could one of the deepest yet.

Eddie Rosario homers again for Gwinnett; William Woods debuts on the mound for Rome

Friday, August 27, 2021

-Clint Manry

Last night was another Braves-less slate as Atlanta wrapped up its two days off on Thursday. However, there was plenty of action down on the farm as three of the four full-season affiliates, plus the rookie club, played games. Fortunately, the big league team’s two-day vacation is over. Starting tonight, Kevin Gausman and the Giants will come to town to take on Max Fried and the Braves at Truist Park, with first pitch scheduled for 7:20 PM.

Until then, though, here’s a recap of Thursday’s minor league action…

(58-41) GWINNETT STRIPERS

W, 2-1 vs. Nashville

SP, K. Wright – (W), 7 IP, 4 H, ER, 8 K

2B, Y. Sanchez – 3 for 4, 3B, 2B, RBI

CF, E. Rosario – 1 for 3, HR, RBI

3B, S. Kazmar Jr. – 1 for 4, 2B, R

Many of us may have forgotten about Kyle Wright, but last night was another strong performance by the 25-year-old righty. Wright allowed a single in the first, one in the third and then a pair of base-hits in the sixth (one of which resulted in a run), before finishing strong with a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh. Overall, he threw 63 of 89 pitches for a strike, and best of all he kept the ball in the infield, inducing nine groundouts compared to just two flyouts. The great work by Wright started back in July as he now has a 2.89 ERA over his last eight starts, including 48 strikeouts in 46.2 innings. He’s certainly had his ups and downs as a pro pitcher, but Wright is still hanging in there. And I know we’ve said it a million times, but he could still be a contender for a rotation spot next season.

Gwinnett’s offense last night came from both Yolmer Sanchez (RBI single in the fifth) and Eddie Rosario (solo-homer in the sixth). It took him a few games to get going, but Rosario is scorching-hot right now with the bat, having hit four homers in his last seven games while posting a .290 AVG in that span. The recently-acquired outfielder should be ready to join the Braves squad any time now.

(58-39) MISSISSIPPI BRAVES

PPD vs. Pensacola

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 concerns, the rest of the M-Braves and Blue Wahoos series this week has been postponed. Evidently either the team itself or personnel at the stadium is in the midst of an outbreak, so it appears the team is trying to be extra cautious. Hopefully everyone in Pearl is alright and the team can get back to playing next week.

(43-55) ROME BRAVES

L, 2-1 vs. Bowling Green

SP, W. Woods – 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, HR

SS, R. Delgado – 3 for 4, R

DH, L. Waddell – 1 for 4

2B, C. Milligan – 2 for 3, BB

A prospect a lot of us have been waiting all season to see, righty William Woods made his Rome debut last night and threw 34 pitches. The 22-year-old appeared sharp, though a damn good Bowling Green lineup wound up manufacturing a few runs in the second with a two-run homer to put the Hot Rods up 2-0. The R-Braves offense never could overcome the deficit, however, Riley Delgado scored the team’s lone run when he cross home plate on a wild-pitch in the fourth.

(41-58) AUGUSTA GREENJACKETS

L, 7-2 vs. Charleston

SP, A. Hoffmann – (L), 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, BB, 4 K

LF, L. Stephens – 2 for 3, HR, 2 RBI

1B, B. Horne – 1 for 3, BB

C, T. Tolve – 3 for 4

The Braves 12th-round pick in this year’s draft, pitcher Andrew Hoffmann made start no. 3 for Augusta last night, working up to a season-high of 57 pitches. The 21-year-old righty allowed a single in the first but then set down six-straight batters in the second and third, before running into some trouble in the fourth in which he allowed three consecutive hits. Young righty Roddery Munoz then came in and had one of his worse performances of the year, allowing five runs from five hits in just 1.2 innings of work.

Offensively, Landon Stephens provided the GreenJackets with their only runs as he belted his 15th home run of the season in the eighth inning. The Braves 17th-round pick, catcher Tyler Tolve, also contributed with three hits (his first three-hit performance as a pro). Tolve is now hitting .273 through his first 13 games with the organization, including a homer and a double.

(21-19) FCL BRAVES

W, 6-5 (F/7) vs. Orioles Black

SP, R. Salinas – 3 IP, 3 H, R, 2 BB, 6 K

LF, K. Morton – 2 for 4, 3 RBI

RF, E. Workinger – 2 for 3, 2B, R

SS, F. Floyd – 2 for 3, 2B, RBI, R

The rookie Braves scored two runs in the final inning to beat the Orioles Black yesterday. Outfielder Kadon Morton provided the walk-off hit in the seventh as he slapped an RBI single to the left side, scoring Caleb Durbin from second base (the Orioles shortstop made a throwing error). The 20-year-old Morton finished with three RBI on the day, though he’s still struggling to get going at the plate this season. Outfielder Ethan Workinger is another struggling FCL batter but he finished with a pair of hits on Thursday, including a double.

Royber Salinas got the start in yesterday’s win and managed to strike out six batters in just three innings. Salinas didn’t allow a single earned run in the outing, but the FCL Braves bullpen quickly imploded by surrendering four runs over the next 2.2 frames. This year’s 19th-round pick, lefty Samuel Strickland, worked the final 1.1 innings in scoreless fashion, earning the win.

Braves Farm 2021 Midseason Top 30 Prospect List: Nos. 30-21

Thursday, August 26, 2021

-Clint Manry

This past weekend I covered the eight players no longer included in my new Midseason Top 30, so now it’s time to start discussing the ones actually on the list. This group of ten will feature several newcomers, including those who’ve played their way onto the list, as well as a few 2021 draftees. Regarding the latter, we still don’t know a whole lot about these guys, so look at their ranking as more of a starting point based on the scout evaluations currently available.

Let’s get started. Here are nos. 30-21…

RANKPLAYERLEVELTREND
30Jefrey Ramos (OF)AA
29Brandol Mezquita (OF)RK
28Cody Milligan (2B)A+
27Drew Lugbauer (1B/DH)AA
26Tanner Gordon (LHP)A
25Greyson Jenista (1B/OF)AA
24William Woods (RHP)RK
23Darius Vines (RHP)A+
22Cal Conley (SS)A
21Daysbel Hernández (RHP)AA

*all stats below are through this past Monday

30. Jefrey Ramos (OF)

Summer rank – 28th

AA – Mississippi

I really struggled with Ramos as I’ve always been a bit higher on the outfielder than most. But this season just hasn’t gone well for the 22-year-old, evident by his overall 55 wRC+ in 52 games so far with the M-Braves. Strikeouts have really plagued Ramos as he’s currently sporting a K rate roughly 10% higher relative to 2019 (28.9% / 19.9%), when he posted a career year with High-A Rome. The month of August has been even worse in regards to his whiff issues, and even with a strong finish, it doesn’t appear likely that Ramos will get himself out of this hole.

29. Brandol Mezquita (OF)

Summer rank – N/A

RK – FCL Braves

At just 20-years-old, Mezquita is still a rather raw prospect, even though he’s been in the Braves system for several seasons now. We knew this kid was talented coming into the 2021 campaign, but his play has surpassed expectations as he’s currently maintaining a 148 wRC+ down in rookie ball, to go with a .437 OBP and a .333 AVG in 25 games so far for the FCL Braves. A lot still depends on how he approaches full-season ball, which will likely come in 2022, but at the moment I see Mezquita as another talented prospect outfielder in the Atlanta system.

28. Cody Milligan (2B)

Summer rank – N/A

A+ — Rome

This isn’t the first season Milligan has impressed as he posted 104 wRC+ in 59 games in rookie ball two years ago, which as a middle-infielder, is nothing to scoff at. Jumping up to the High-A level this year, the 22-year-old hasn’t lost much at all. In 76 games with the R-Braves, Milligan is hitting .248 with 12 XBH and 14 stolen bases, good for a solid 81 wRC+. There’s not much power in his swing, but as a second baseman with some speed, Milligan’s bat only needs to be average for him to continue his ascent within the organization.

27. Drew Lugbauer (1B/DH)

Summer rank – N/A

AA – Mississippi

Lugbauer showed signs of an above-average hitter back during his draft year in 2017, when he posted a 141 and 131 wRC+ in both rookie ball and Single-A, respectively. But his next two seasons (2018-19) just didn’t match, and the big first baseman struggled with strikeouts. Now into 2021, the whiffs are still there, but Lugbauer has also developed some patience, nearly doubling his walk-rate from four years ago. Plus, the 24-year-old still has that power stroke as he now has 16 home runs in 72 games with the M-Braves, which is as many as he had in 2019 (in a span of 127 games). I’ve already written about Lugbauer recently, but this is a guy the Braves should be paying attention to when it comes time to fill the DH spot.

26. Tanner Gordon (LHP)

Summer rank – N/A

A+ — Rome

Gordon began 2021 in Rome but struggled to the tune of a 5.32 ERA in 22 innings as opposing batters slashed .303/.370/.539 (.909 OPS), causing his first stint in High-A this year to only last about a month. However, with Single-A Augusta, Gordon really made some impressive strides, and following his first two outings there, he had a stretch in which he only allowed one run over 24.2 frames (or four starts). The 23-year-old southpaw hasn’t been as dominant lately, although earlier this month he earned himself another shot with the R-Braves. In his first outing back with Rome, Gordon struck out five in six innings, allowing just one run from three hits. This kid has the size (6’5”, 215 lbs) and the track record (sixth-round pick) to become a top-tier prospect pitcher, and he’s certainly shown flashes this season.

25. Greyson Jenista (1B/OF)

Summer rank – 22nd

AA – Mississippi

A strong July dug Jenista out a pretty deep early-season hole as the 24-year-old hit .243 with six homers in 23 games last month – good for a 153 wRC+. However, one solid month isn’t going to cut it, and as a result, I dropped the outfielder three spots on the Top 30 (and I still think I was a bit too generous). Jenista’s problem from Day 1 has been too many strikeouts, and those swing-and-miss issues have continued on into 2021. The former second-round pick sports a 37.4% K rate through Monday, which is by far a career-high for him. Fortunately, he’s also maintaining a career-high walk-rate (16.1%), and his 13 home runs so far is eight more than he had back in 2019 in roughly the same amount of games. If Jenista can ever cut down on the whiffs, he could easily become a top 10 prospect in the Braves system. Although it just hasn’t happened yet.

24. William Woods (RHP)

Summer rank – 24th

RK – FCL Braves

Woods remains at no. 24 given he just now got started this season. The 22-year-old righty is currently active with the rookie level Braves and has made just one start so far, facing only four batters in a one-inning outing. There’s still a ton of excitement regarding Woods, so I’m going to wait and see.

23. Darius Vines (RHP)

Summer rank – N/A

A+ — Rome

With the June and July he put together, I had no choice but to include Vines in my latest Top 30, especially given the fact that he was pitching so well despite moving up from Single-A to High-A. The 23-year-old has adjusted nicely to the new challenge in Rome, currently sporting a 3.67 ERA in 10 starts thus far, including a recent two-outing stretch in which he’s allowed just four runs in his last 13 innings (2.77 ERA). This kid’s repertoire has developed really well this season and he has a chance to put a nice finish to a productive 2021 campaign, giving him some momentum for next year.

22. Cal Conley (SS)

Summer rank – N/A

A — Augusta

I have Conley about where most — somewhere in the no. 20 range (FanGraphs has him 20th). And so far the fourth-round pick has adjusted beautifully to pro baseball, currently hitting .274 with a pair of homers in 15 games for Augusta (good for a 105 wRC+). The 22-year-old Conley is a switch-hitting middle-infielder with 55-grade Raw Power. But the question is whether his glove and bat can catch up with that power stroke. If so, this could be a big time prospect in the Braves system.

21. Daysbel Hernández (RHP)

Summer rank – 15th

AA – Mississippi

I’ve been a big Hernández fan for quite some time now, but unfortunately his initial stint with Triple-A Gwinnett to begin the 2021 season hurt his stock a bit. I discussed his struggles in some of my Month Prospect Check-in posts, but the 24-year-old righty was surprisingly beat up while with the Stripers. Ever since returning to the Double-A level, Hernández has been fine, and he’s coming off a damn good month of July in which he averaged 13.9 strikeouts per nine and finished with a 1.64 ERA. He’s also pitching really well in August, now up to 5.2 scoreless frames. We’ll wait and see how Hernández performs in his second stint with Gwinnett, but I still think he’s a future big league reliever.

Be sure to check back soon for the next installment, covering nos. 20-11. To see my Braves 2021 Midseason Top 30 list in its entirety, check out my personal blog, Braves Farm.

Is this the best Braves infield of all time?

Thursday, August 26, 2021

-Clint Manry

The Braves have certainly had some great infielders. Chipper Jones, Dale Murphy and Eddie Matthews is a trio that immediately comes to mind as not only three of the best third basemen in franchise history but also among the best players overall. It’s a rather well-known fact that this has always been a franchise built off of superb starting pitching, although the Braves has also featured its share of prolific infielders. But of course, Jones, Murphy and Matthews weren’t stars for the Braves at the same time, which is why we more-easily remember the greatness of pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.

Reciting the best starting rotation in Braves history is a fairly easy task. But doing the same for its infield is a bit more difficult.

… or is it?

The tweet above is a nice conversation-starter, however, according to FanGraphs WAR, so far in 2021 the Braves have compiled an above-average amount of WAR at all non-catcher positions in the infield. And as you can see, most of them aren’t just simply above-average…

2021 Braves Infield FanGraphs WAR Ranks (among MLB)

  • 1B – 3.4 WAR (4th)
  • 2B – 3 WAR (13th)
  • SS – 3.3 WAR (10th)
  • 3B – 3.2 WAR (t-6th)

Now we know how important WAR is, as it’s currently the best stat we have that quantifies a player’s overall contributions. But for Atlanta, it’s on offense that the infield has positively impacted the team the most.

Having every member of your infield tally 25 or more homers is quite the accomplishment, but it’s not just homers for the Braves. Looking at Baseball Reference’s 2021 MLB Team Position Performance by OPS really puts everything in perspective.

  • 1B – .887 OPS (4th)
  • 2B – .811 OPS (5th)
  • SS – .811 (7th)
  • 3B – .910 (1st)

At the plate, essentially every member of the Braves infield is in the midst of a career-best season in 2021, which in turn, has no doubt made it one of the best in baseball. I mean, how rare is it for an entire infield to exceed its pre-season projections? Consider the following performances for the Braves’ infielders below…

1B – Freddie Freeman

2021 stats: 126 G, 27 HR, .296 AVG, 137 wRC+, 3.7 WAR

I’m not so sure you can say Freeman is having a career-best season in 2021, given he did win the NL MVP last season. Although he is once again performing at an elite level, which is exactly what he’s done ever since debuting in the majors roughly a decade ago. At the rate he’s currently going, Freeman will easily surpass his ’21 ZiPS projections, again finishing a campaign with a .300ish AVG, 35ish homers, 100ish RBI and 4.5-5 WAR. That’s not quite what he was on pace to achieve in 2020 but it’s damn good enough to help lead this Braves offense. Freddie ranks fourth in MLB in fWAR and is second in the NL.

2B – Ozzie Albies

2021 stats – 125 G, 24 HR, 10 SB, .274 AVG, 125 wRC+, 3.5 WAR

Ozzie is in the process of possibly putting together the best season of his career as he’s performing near his 2019 levels (4.6 WAR). A jump in walk-rate coupled with a drop in strikeout-rate (along with some adjustments with his stance) has obviously unlocked some more power for the Braves second baseman, and with 30ish games left to play he’s only three homers away from surpassing his single-season best of 24. And it’s not just Ozzie’s counting stats and plate discipline that’s giving him the extra boost in 2021. Per FanGraphs, his 6.5 BsR (Base Running) is the second-best mark in baseball, behind only Whit Merrifield. Ozzie ranks ninth in MLB in WAR and is currently fourth in the NL.

SS – Dansby Swanson

2021 stats: 127 G, 25 HR, 9 SB, .266 AVG, 113 wRC+, 3.3 WAR

Swanson is already at an entirely different level this season, on his way to compiling nearly twice as much WAR as he did in 2020, when he finished that year with a career-high 1.9. Everything is clicking for the shortstop, including a newfound power stroke that’s resulted in a career-best 25 homers and 77 RBI. Also, like Ozzie, Dansby has made some strides with his K rate, which has allowed him to make more contact, further improving his results at the plate. The last two seasons has really changed the narrative surrounding Swanson, and at this point it seems like a given the Braves will eventually lock him up with an extension. Shortstops that can slug 30 homers – which is what Dansby’s on pace to hit in 2021 – don’t grow on trees, and his defense has always been elite. Swanson is tied for sixth in MLB in WAR and is fifth in the NL.

3B – Austin Riley

2021 stats: 126 G, 27 HR, .300 AVG, 140 wRC+, 3.3 WAR

Perhaps the most-improved and most-impactful Braves infielder in 2021, third baseman Austin Riley has officially broke out. And this doesn’t seem like the unsustainable-type breakout from 2019 either, for Riley’s plate discipline is right where it needs to be (9.2 BB% / 24.5 K%). You name it and the kid is doing it, already recording career-bests in homers (27), RBI (77), AVG (.300), wRC+ (140) and WAR (3.3), not to mention Barrel% (12.9%), HardHit% (43.8%) and wOBA (.385). We always hoped Riley would one day become this type of player, and damnit here he is. For a several seasons now the Braves have always had a weakness at the hot corner… but that certainly isn’t the case anymore. Riley currently ranks fifth in MLB in WAR and second in the NL.

Along with an improved starting rotation and bullpen, these four players above have helped turn this season around. Perhaps we’re accustomed to this kind of play from guys like Freeman and maybe even Albies, but the big difference-maker for 2021 is the fact that, along with those two, both Swanson AND Riley appear to have figured things out at the plate. Add it all up, and by the time this season ends, this could be the best Braves infield of all time. Either way, it’s been incredibly exciting to watch and hopefully it continues on into the final month of the regular season.

William Contreras leads Gwinnett to extra-inning win; Kyle Muller and Tanner Gordon toss quality-starts

Thursday, August 26, 2021

-Clint Manry

Thanks to losses by both the Phillies and Mets last night, Atlanta’s NL East lead increases to five, even while they remain idle. The Braves will need its rest anyways, though, because Friday begins a three-game weekend series with the best team in baseball, the Giants.

As the Braves take their two days of rest, the farm continues on. With the M-Braves game postponed and the FCL team also off, Gwinnett headlined yesterday’s minor league slate.

Here’s a recap of Wednesday’s action down on the farm…

(57-41) GWINNETT STRIPERS

W, 5-4 (F/10) vs. Nashville

SP, K. Muller – 6 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 4 K

CF, C. Pache – 3 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI, SB

C, W. Contreras – 2 for 4, RBI, R, BB

LF, T. Demeritte – 2 for 5

Lefty Kyle Muller continues to impress in his bid to return to the big league rotation. The 23-year-old started Wednesday’s matchup versus the Sounds and once again kept the damage to a minimum. After allowing a single in the opening frame, Muller held Nashville hitless all the way until the sixth, giving up a harmless base-hit before finishing up his outing. Overall, the big southpaw totaled 90 pitches and induced seven groundouts to go with two flyouts. Last night’s gem now gives Muller 12-straight scoreless innings with the Stripers as his two starts there has featured just three hits allowed and eight strikeouts. With Huascar Ynoa back for Atlanta, and Ian Anderson nearing a return as well, Muller may be on the outside looking in as far as the rotation goes. However, he could become a real weapon out of the bullpen next month. Regardless, the kid is throwing the ball well.

The Stripers ended up winning last night’s extra-inning battle due to a go-ahead RBI single by catcher William Contreras. However, the highlight of the game perhaps goes to outfielder Cristian Pache, who made THIS play in the sixth…

As you can see above, Pache also finished with three hits last night, pushing his season AVG in Gwinnett up to a respectable .261. The Braves top prospect has picked a nice time to get hot at the plate as Pache is currently hitting .333 with nine XBH in 17 games this month. Look for the 22-year-old to be added to Atlanta’s roster in September.

(58-39) MISSISSIPPI BRAVES

PPD vs. Pensacola

(43-54) ROME BRAVES

L, 8-6 (F/10) vs. Bowling Green

SP, T. Gordon – 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 8 K, 2 HR

3B, R. Delgado – 2 for 5, 3B, 2B, 2 RBI

DH, J. Franklin – 1 for 5, HR, RBI

2B, L. Waddell – 2 for 3, R

RF, S. Michel – 1 for 4, 3B, 2 RBI, R

LF, D. Campbell – 1 for 4, 2B, R

Bowling Green walked it off in the tenth against Rome last night with a two-run homer by Evan Edwards, however, R-Braves starter Tanner Gordon put together another impressive outing on the mound. Also, this year’s fifth-round pick, shortstop Luke Waddell, stays hot with the bat adding two hits for Rome. Waddell is 4 for 7 over his last two games, including a pair of home runs. He’ll enter Thursday hitting .245 with a .715 OPS so far this season.

(41-57) AUGUSTA GREENJACKETS

L, 9-1 vs. Charleston

SP, R. Cusick – (L), 3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, BB, 4 K

RP, G. Rodriguez – 1.2 IP, BB, 4 K

1B, C. Bunnell – 1 for 4, HR, RBI

C, A. Zebrowski – 1 for 3

RF, C. Robinson – 1 for 3

The Braves top pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, righty Ryan Cusick, made his third pro start last night for Augusta, laboring through a 55-pitch outing. Cusick has been on a pretty short leash pitch-count wise, but so far his results have been strong. Counting Wednesday’s start, the 21-year-old sports a 1.17 ERA in 7.2 innings thus far, including a whopping 15 strikeouts (17.6 K/9) and three walks. Another 2021 draftee that has enjoyed his first taste of pro ball, catcher Adam Zebrowski added another hit last night, pushing his AVG for the season up to .333 (.833 OPS). Zebrowski has only played in seven games for Augusta thus far, but he’s managed to record a hit in all but two of them. For a 13th-round pick out of a small college, the 20-year-old is looking more and more like a steal of a pick for the Braves.

Braves snubbed versus Yanks while Ian Anderson and Spencer Strider rack up strikeouts

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

-Clint Manry

I’m not even going to dive into the Braves 5-4 loss from last night, but once again Atlanta was the victim of some atrocious work by the umpires. Luckily, though, the division standings remain exactly the same for the three contenders on Wednesday as both the Phillies and Mets also lost, keeping the Braves’ NL East lead at 4.5 games.

I’ve been swamped with work AND I’m currently in Little Rock so my spare time for writing has been severely reduced. So as a result today’s report is pretty bare…

(68-58) ATLANTA BRAVES

L, 5-4 vs. Yankees

SP, C. Morton – (L), 5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 9 K, 2 HR

3B, A. Riley – 3 for 3, RBI, R

2B, O. Albies – 2 for 5, R

SS, D. Swanson – 1 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI

(56-41) GWINNETT STRIPERS

W, 3-1 vs. Nashville

SP, I. Anderson – 5 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 9 K

RP, D. Lee – (W), IP, H, K

RP, J. Webb – (S), IP, H, 3 K

CF, E. Rosario – 3 for 4, HR, 2 RBI

2B, J. Kipnis – 2 for 3, 2B

C, J. Morales – 1 for 3, 2B

Pache + Waters – 0 for 8, 3 K

(58-39) MISSISSIPPI BRAVES

L, 1-0 vs. Pensacola

SP, S. Strider – (L), 5 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 10 K, HR

RP, C. Clouse – 2 IP, 5 K

LF, J. Ramos – 1 for 3, 2B

RF, T. Harris – 1 for 3

(43-53) ROME BRAVES

W, 5-4 vs. Bowling Green

SP, J. McSteen – 4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, BB, 7 K

RP, M. Crouse – 1.1 IP, 2 H, ER, BB, 4 K

RP, J. Yeager – (W), 2 IP, H, BB, 3 K

SS, L. Waddell – 2 for 4, 2 HR, 2 RBI

CF, M. Harris – 3 for 4, HR, RBI

RF, D. Campbell – 2 for 4, 2B

C, R. Estrada – 2 for 3, HR, 2 RBI, BB

*Luke Waddell (5th round pick this year) hit go-ahead HR in the ninth

(41-56) AUGUSTA GREENJACKETS

W, 6-3 vs. Charleston

SP, R. Rodriguez – 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

3B, J-H. Malloy – 2 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI

2B, C. Conley – 3 for 5, 3B, 2 R

SS, V. Grissom – 2 for 3, 2 RBI, BB

RF, C. Robinson – 1 for 4, R

Tied at three apiece after six innings, Augusta scored three runs combined in the seventh and eighth to pull away with win.

(19-19) FCL BRAVES

L, 3-1 vs. FCL Red Sox

SP, R. Corona – (L), 4 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, HR

RF, B. Mezquita – 2 for 4, RBI, SB

1B, M. Backstrom – 1 for 3, BB

SS, C. Durbin – 1 for 3, SB

Braves winning streak ends against Yankees despite another strong outing by Huascar Ynoa

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

-Clint Manry

The winning streak finally came to an end on Monday as the Braves fell to the Yankees 5-1. However, for Huascar Ynoa, it was once again a strong showing as he appears primed to to finish the season strong. In his second outing since returning from the IL, Ynoa lasted six innings last night and threw 60 of 93 pitches for a strike, including nine strikeouts, one walk and only three runs allowed from four hits. The 23-year-old has looked a lot like his old self since returning on August 17…

Huascar Ynoa since returning from IL

2 starts, 11.1 IP, 10.3 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 2.38 ERA, 2.82 FIP

Overall, the Braves offense scuffled a bit on Monday as the entire lineup tallied just five hits for the night. A solo-homer by Dansby Swanson in the second inning was all Atlanta could muster versus Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery. However, for Swanson, it was yet another example of how much he’s improved this year as he walloped a first-pitch breaking ball for a 408-foot dinger (the furthest hit ball of the game).

In the end, though, the Yankees lineup was just too dangerous. New York’s no. 5 hitter, right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, ended up finishing the night 2 for 3 with a homer and a double to go with three RBI, and catcher Gary Sanchez added two ribbies as well.

Ending such an exciting winning streak is disappointing, but let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture. Thanks to all of those wins they banked up over the last few weeks, the Braves still lead the division by 4.5 games. Even better, Atlanta has a very good shot at splitting this series with New York, given a red-hot Charlie Morton will take the mound today against a struggling Andrew Heaney. The streak may have died, but the Braves are far from done!

Atlanta wraps up road trip with ninth-straight win; Dylan Dodd makes pro debut with Augusta

Monday, August 23, 2021

-Clint Manry

On Sunday the Braves achieved something many probably never could’ve imagined just a few weeks ago: Atlanta swept its road trip by beating Baltimore 3-1, making it nine-straight victories for the Bravos. As the team returns home for a two-game series with the Yankees beginning on Monday, the Braves current playoff odds sit at a strong 80.8%, according to FanGraphs (with a 79% chance to win the division). To put those percentages in perspective, this time last month Atlanta’s odds were 7% and 6.1%, respectively. Yeah… that’s quite the turnaround.

For the fourth consecutive outing, starter Touki Toussaint allowed two earned runs or less as he worked around five hits and a run last night. Touki struck out five Orioles batters, giving him 17 punch outs over his last 16.2 frames with the Braves. He could very well play an integral part come playoff time, both as a starter or an option out of the Atlanta bullpen.

Both teams remained scoreless through the first three innings on Sunday, however, as the Braves have done so many times during this winning streak, the offense came though with a big inning in the fourth. Following a groundout by Ozzie Albies, last night’s DH Jorge Soler demolished a 2-1 pitch over the left field wall to put the Braves up 1-0.

Freddie Freeman followed with a double, and two batters later Austin Riley drew a walk, which setup an RBI opportunity for outfielder Adam Duvall. With two outs and a 1-2 count, Duvall crushed a 92-MPH fastball up in the zone and deposited it to deep left-center for a two-hopper against the wall. Both Freeman and Dansby Swanson scored, giving Atlanta a 3-0 advantage.

The Orioles answered back with a run of their own in the bottom-half of the inning as Ramon Urias slapped a two-out RBI double. But Touki regrouped and got himself out of the inning. The righty managed a relatively clean fifth, working around a lead-off single, and then in the sixth he started off the frame with another strikeout before being chased by a one-out single from Baltimore’s Anthony Santander.

That three-run fourth inning by the Braves was all the team needed to take care of business on Sunday. Once Touki hit the showers, a five-man group of Braves relievers finished the final 3.2 innings as AJ Minter, Chris Martin, Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson and Will Smith combined to strike out seven Orioles batters while allowing just three hits altogether.

Along with the Braves, both the Phillies and Mets also won, spoiling Atlanta’s chance to tack on another game to its division lead. Still, the Braves pace the NL East by a solid five games with just 38 games to go.

I’m flying back out this morning for work, so the minor league report will only feature scores and stats. Remember, all four of the Braves full-season affiliates will take a scheduled day off today, while the FCL Braves has already started its double header versus the Red Sox. At the time of this writing, the rookie-level Braves trail 1-0 in the third inning of Game 1.

The big league Braves will begin its series against the Yankees at home tonight. First pitch is scheduled for 7:20 PM as righty Huascar Ynoa will face New York’s Jordan Montgomery. Let’s keep the wins going!

(68-56) ATLANTA BRAVES

W, 3-1 vs. Orioles

SP, T. Toussaint – (W), 5.1 IP, 5 H, ER, 3 BB, 5 K

DH, J. Soler – 2 for 4, HR, RBI

LF, A. Duvall – 2 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI

1B, F. Freeman – 1 for 4, 2B, R

(55-41) GWINNETT STRIPERS

L, 5-3 vs. Louisville

SP, T. Roark – 2 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, K

RP, D. Lee – IP, 3 K

C, R. Casteel – 1 for 3, HR, 2 RBI

3B, J. Camargo – 1 for 4, RBI

(58-38) MISSISSIPPI BRAVES

W, 2-1 vs. Montgomery

W, 5-3 vs. Montgomery

SP, F. Tarnok – (L), 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, BB, 3 K

SP, A. Rangel – 2 IP, 2 K

RP, O. Javier – (H), 1.2 IP, 2 H, BB, 4 K

CF, J. Dean – 2 for 6, SB

RF/1B, G. Jenista – 2 for 5, 2 RBI, SB

DH/C, H. Clementina – 2 for 5, HR, 2 RBI

3B, C. Alexander – 1 for 6, 2B, R

2B, J. Miller – 1 for 5, 2B, R

(43-53) ROME BRAVES

L, 6-0 (F/7) vs. Greenville

SP, M. Stallings – (L), 3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

RP, B. Dum – 2 IP, H, 3 K

C, C. Martinez – 2 for 3

DH, M. Harris – 1 for 2, BB

(40-56) AUGUSTA GREENJACKETS

L, 15-7 vs. Carolina

SP, D. Dodd – 3 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, BB, K

DH, V. Grissom – 3 for 4, 3B, R, SB

CF, C. Robinson – 1 for 5, 3B, 4 RBI

RF, W. Carter – 2 for 3, RBI, 2 R, SB

SS, C. Conley – 1 for 4, HR, RBI

(2021 draftee)

Atlanta wins again while Travis Demeritte tallies four hits in Gwinnett’s fifth-straight victory

Sunday, August 22, 2021

-Clint Manry

It’s crazy to think about, but there once was a time this season in which Drew Smyly seemed like the worst starting pitcher in baseball. Seriously, up until around mid-June of this year, the guy was atrocious. You have to look at Smyly’s 2021 season in two halves to see just how stark the improvement has been. There’s his first 11 starts… and then his last 11 starts…

First 11 starts — 56 IP, 5.63 ERA, 6.03 FIP, 7.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9

Last 11 starts – 55 IP, 3.44 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9

If you can get past the three homers allowed, last night was another strong start for Smyly. The veteran lefty once again allowed exactly three runs, which is something he’s done in six of his last eight outings, but he still managed to appear in control against the Orioles.

And once again the Braves offense delivered when needed. After trailing 1-0 through the first two innings, Atlanta answered in the third when Dansby Swanson demolished a 93-MPH fastball to right-center field to score Jorge Soler AND Freddie Freeman.

The lineup kept it going in the fourth, as still up 2-1, outfielder Joc Pederson went deep with his 15th homer of the 2021 season to put the Braves up by two…

However, two homers by Baltimore in its half of the fourth tied the game back up at three apiece, and it looked as if the Braves bullpen was going to need to be at its best to escape this one. Although that was before third baseman Austin Riley came to the plate in the fifth…

That long ball gives Riley 27 on the year as he continues to perform like an MVP candidate. His dinger put the Braves up 4-3 and all Atlanta needed to do was keep things where they were to hold onto the win.

Smyly hit the showers after five and Richard Rodriguez took over and pitched the sixth in scoreless fashion, followed by Tyler Matzek in the seventh. Then in the eighth, Luke Jackson worked around two hits and Will Smith allowed a gut-punch of a home run in the ninth. But a sac-fly by Soler in that final frame made all the difference.

The win gives Atlanta eight victories in a row and a 9-1 record in its last ten. The Braves was the only NL East team to win on Saturday so its division lead increases to five over the second-place Phillies, seven over the Mets, 13.5 over the Nationals and 16.5 over the Marlins. Touki Toussaint and Atlanta – with William Contreras behind the plate – will go for the series sweep today, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 PM.


Down in Gwinnett, it was all about the middle of the lineup as the Stripers’ nos. 4-6 batters combined for 10 of the team’s 14 hits, including Travis Demeritte’s 4 for 4 performance. Rehabbing Eddie Rosario also continues to swing a hot bat as he finished with three hits…

Gwinnett’s starter, Jose Rodriguez, didn’t have his best stuff, however, the Stripers bullpen was perfect. The trio of Jesse Biddle, Yoan Lopez and Chasen Bradford combined to pitch three scoreless innings to hold onto the team’s big lead. Gwinnett’s offense scored an additional three runs late in the game and wound up coasting to a 10-4 win, giving them five consecutive victories.


The M-Braves game was rained out yesterday, so we move on to Rome. The R-Braves got into a bit of a pitcher’s duel as Mississippi’s Jared Shuster and Montgomery’s Brandon Walter wound up combining for 11 innings of five-hit ball, including just two earned runs and 12 strikeouts. However, the R-Braves bullpen performed better and ended up outlasting the Biscuits. A two-run sixth-inning, featuring a wild-pitch that scored Cody Milligan and an RBI single by Jesse Franklin, pushed Rome ahead for the 4-2 win.


Man it was a rough start for Augusta’s Chad Bryant, who allowed eight runs (three earned) from just two hits on Saturday night, thanks to four total errors by the GreenJackets defense. Batters Cal Conley, Vaughn Grissom and Bryson Horne all combined to finished 4 for 12 with three RBI, however, Augusta still wound up with the nine-run loss. Roddery Munoz appeared in the third and struggled as well, allowing three runs (two earned) in 2.1 innings.


The FCL Braves played a doubleheader against the Rays yesterday and ended up splitting the day. The Braves only managed five hits overall in Game 2’s 6-0 loss, but in Game, the baby Braves won 2-0 thanks to contributions from a pair of 2021 draftees – a bases-loaded walk by Adam Zebrowski and an RBI single by Caleb Durbin.

Here are scores and stats from Saturday’s action…

(67-56) ATLANTA BRAVES

W, 5-4 vs. Orioles

SP, D. Smyly – (W), 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 8 K, 3 HR

3B, A. Riley – 2 for 4, HR, RBI

SS, D. Swanson – 1 for 3, 2B, 2 RBI, BB

RF, J. Pederson – 2 for 4, HR, RBI

2B, O. Albies – 1 for 5, 2B

(55-40) GWINNETT STRIPERS

W, 10-4 vs. Louisville

SP, J. Rodriguez – (W), 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, HR

1B, T. Demeritte – 4 for 4, HR, 4 RBI

3B, S. Kazmar Jr. – 3 for 4, R

CF, C. Pache – 2 for 5, 2B

LF, E. Rosario – 3 for 5, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R

(57-37) MISSISSIPPI BRAVES

PPD vs. Montgomery

Will make up game as part of a doubleheader today.

(42-52) ROME BRAVES

W, 4-2 vs. Greenville

SP, J. Shuster – (W), 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BB, 5 K

RP, E. Ramirez – (H), 2 IP, BB, 4 K

LF, J. Franklin – 1 for 3, RBI

2B, C. Milligan – 2 for 4, 2 R

RF, S. Michel – 1 for 3, 2 R, BB

(40-55) AUGUSTA GREENJACKETS

L, 15-6 vs. Carolina

SP, C. Bryant – (L), 2 IP, 2 H, 8 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, K, HR

1B, B. Horne – 2 for 4, RBI, BB

SS, V. Grissom – 1 for 5, 2B, RBI, R, SB

C, R. Rodriguez – 3 for 4, RBI, 2 R

RF, W. Carter – 1 for 3, 2B, R, SB

2B, C. Conley – 1 for 3, RBI, R, SB

(19-16) FCL BRAVES

W, 2-0 (F/7) vs. FCL Rays

L, 6-0 (F/7) vs. FCL Rays

SP, D. Florentino – IP, 4 BB

SP, R. Salinas – (L), 3 IP, 2 H, R, 2 BB, 7 K

RP, E. Rodriguez – (W), 4 IP, 2 H, 2 K

CF, D. Campbell – 3 for 3

3B, G. Quintero – 2 for 4, R

C. Durbin – 2 for 3

DH, J, Fernando – 2 for 3, SB

(2021 draftee)