Monday, August 16, 2021
We’re down to the final 30-game stretch of the 2021 minor league season, although there’s still plenty of schedule left for those that still need to finish digging out of a hole this year. Because of that, this week’s preview focuses more on the Braves prospects in need of a strong finish this season.
GWINNETT STRIPERS (50-40 / 3RD PLACE)
@ Louisville Bats (CIN)
Hitter in need of a big week: Cristian Pache has had a 2021 campaign to forget as he not only lost his job in the Atlanta outfield and missed time due to an injury, but he simply hasn’t hit while in the minors. In the majors, Pache posted a minus-7 wRC+ in 22 games, and up until this month his performance in Triple-A was nothing to celebrate either as he managed an 87 wRC+ in that span. However, the month of August has been a nice turnaround for the prospect outfielder. In 11 games this month with Gwinnett, Pache has hit .359 with seven XBH – good for a 190 wRC+. I still have this kid listed as the top prospect in the system, but it would be really nice to see him end the year on a positive note.
Pitcher in need of a big week: Jasseel De La Cruz dropped seven places and out of the top 10 of my Midseason Braves Top 30 earlier this month, and overall it’s been a pretty dreadful year for the prospect righty. Even worse, I’m not even sure De La Cruz is 100% healthy, considering he left his most-recent start with Gwinnett after just 14 pitches and without even getting an out. The 24-year-old is up to a 6.59 ERA in 15 starts in 2021. IF he starts this week… a quality-start would be appreciated for those of us De La Cruz fans.
MISSISSIPPI BRAVES (53-37 / 1ST PLACE)
@ Montgomery Biscuits (TBR)
Hitter in need of a big week: This may be my last time ranking outfielder Greyson Jenista as a Top 30 prospect in the Braves system as he recently fell three more spots to no. 25. At nearly 25-years-old, Jenista has barely hit Double-A pitching, saved only by the fact that he’s managed some nice pop with 13 homers in 72 games so far. The swing and miss has hurt him this year, and it’s making that strong 2018 campaign seem like forever ago. A big finish would be ideal… and a requirement for him to maintain his prospect status.
Pitcher in need of a big week: Last week we witnessed the real Victor Vodnik as he tossed five innings of no-hit ball and struck out nine against Biloxi. Per Game Score (75) it was his best start of the season, beating out two solid outings he made back in May. That it’s been that long since Vodnik has been at the top of his game has a lot to do with why he dropped a few spots on the Top 30, falling from 13th to no. 18 in my midseason update. Vodnik still sports a 5.35 ERA with the M-Braves this season. A solid start this week could get him below 5.00 and make his numbers look much better.
ROME BRAVES (40-49 / 5th PLACE)
vs. Greenville Drive (BOS)
Hitter in need of a big week: I’m thinking outside the box with this one and going with recently-drafted Luke Waddell, the fifth-round pick by the Braves. At 23-years-old and from a major college (Georgia Tech), Waddell earned himself a rather challenging assignment by being placed at High-A Rome to begin his pro career. So far he has held his own, but his .200 AVG and .550 OPS is still lacking. I’m not looking for a Bryce Ball-type breakout with the R-Braves, but it would be awesome if he showed a real ability to hit pro pitching during these final 30ish games, especially with how thin the Braves system is in terms of talent at the middle-infield positions. Cody Milligan is another Rome hitter who needs to put a nice bow on his 2021 season. Milligan cracked the Top 30 in my updated list as an infielder currently hitting .246 with 12 XBH in 73 games with the R-Braves
Pitcher in need of a big week: Darius Vines has really improved his stock this season, even making my Top 30 recently as he mastered the Single-A level this season as a 23-year-old. However, now in Rome, August hasn’t been his best month as, despite a solid outing last time out, Vines carries a 4.63 ERA this month (his worst monthly ERA so far in 2021). A rather substantial drop in K rate has hurt him over these last two starts, but hopefully Vines can get back to racking up the punch outs this week against Greenville. Last time he faced the Drive, Vines allowed four runs in 5.2 innings and took the loss.
AUGUSTA GREENJACKETS (40-50 / LAST PLACE)
@ Carolina Mudcats (MIL)
Batter in need of a big week: With the influx of all the new 2021 picks by the Braves, the 2021 season is probably a lost cause for 23-year-old Cam Shepherd, and it’s quite the disappointment. Shepherd wasn’t necessarily supposed to be a big time prospect, but four solid years at the University of Georgia, featuring a .768 OPS, made it look as if he was on his way to becoming relevant in the Braves system. However, that has not been the case. The middle-infielder is hitting just .180 with nine XBH in 73 games this season, and his spot in the lineup has essentially been taken over by 2021 draftee Cal Conley. Maybe Shepherd has one last hoorah in him down the stretch.
Pitcher in need of a big week: Roddery Munoz began 2021 with plenty of attention, thanks to a wicked, high-90s MPH fastball and plenty of power-stuff. However, once opposing batters timed his heater, the ERA skyrocketed and eventually Munoz spent some time on the IL. Now apparently healthy, Augusta has been working him in short spurts out of the bullpen… and so far he has looked sharp. To give him some momentum heading into next season, I want to see Munoz make a few starts during these final 30-40 games, and pitch well.
FCL BRAVES (16-15)
Mon, Aug. 16: W, 6-1 vs. Pirates Black / L, 3-1 vs. Pirates Black
Tue, Aug. 17: vs. Orioles Orange
Wed, Aug. 18: OFF
Thu, Aug. 19: @ Orioles Orange
Fri, Aug. 20: vs. Rays
Sat, Aug. 21: @ Rays