Friday night was Opening Day for Double-A, High-A and Single-A, as affiliates across the country began the 2022 minor league regular season. The following is a recap of all four Braves farm clubs…
AAA – Gwinnett Stripers (2-2)
L, 4-3 vs. Memphis
- P, Allan Winans – 4 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
- LF, Ryan Gosselin – 2 for 3, 3B, R, BB
- RF, Travis Demeritte – 1 for 4, 3B, RBI, R
Former New York Met draftee Alan Wanan took the mound for the Stripers on Friday for the first time at the Triple-A level. The 25-year-old allowed a good bit of contact, but he was rather efficient, throwing 62 pitches in four innings of work. A two-run third by Memphis spoiled what was mostly a nice outing from Winan. After getting two quick outs in the inning, the righty walked Brendan Donovan, then allowed back to back hits by both Nolan Gorman (single) and Juan Yepez (two-run double) to make it a tied ballgame at two apiece. In the fourth, though, the Stripers Ryan Goins showed off his glove and arm with a nice play at short.
Gwinnett’s offense was pretty quiet last night, although the lineup did rally in the first when Phil Gosselin led off the game with a triple, and two batters later Travis Demeritte scored him with a three-bagger of his own. With Demeritte on third, John Negowski grounded out to short, but not before the Gwinnett outfielder advanced 90 feet to put the Stripers up 2-0.
Gwinnett didn’t score again until the fifth, thanks to a lead-off double by Chadwick Tromp, followed by, two batters later an RBI groundout by Justin Dean. Through five the Stripers were up 3-2. But in the seventh, with Nick Vincent on the mound, Memphis broke out for two more runs from a two-run homer by Ben DeLuzio, and Gwinnett never could recover.
Winan, who was a starter-turned-reliever in the Mets system, may be a guy to keep an eye on as it appears the Braves are currently looking at him as a starter again. The former 17th round pick had a really strong spring camp this past month, so perhaps he has figured some things out on the mound.
AA – Mississippi Braves (0-1)
L, 5-1 vs. Montgomery
- P, William Woods – (L), 3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, HR
- 1B, Drew Lugbauer – 1 for 4, HR, RBI, R
- CF, Michael Harris II – 1 for 4
On Friday, the M-Braves received its championship rings for winning the South last year, and over at Trustmark Park in Pearl the title banner went up.
But on the field, Mississippi played from behind for most of the game, as starter William Woods allowed a three-run inning in the second, surrendering a lead-off single to Montgomery’s Niko Hulsizer to begin the frame, followed by a one-out, RBI double two batters later to prospect Blake Hunt and a two-run home run off the bat of Brett Wisely, putting the M-Braves down by three in a hurry.
But fresh off a solid spring camp in Northport in which he hit .286 in nine games, the big-bodied Drew Lugbauer got the M-Braves within two when he slugged a monster solo-homer in the fourth. You can probably expect plenty of these this season from the 6-3, 220-pound Lugbauer.
However, following that Lugbauer homer, neither team could muster much offense during the fifth thru eighth innings, and for Mississippi, a lot of that was thanks to some strong relief work by lefty Hayden Deal, who struck out four Montgomery batters in 2 2/3 innings.
The two teams entered the final frame still locked at 3-1, but with former M-Braves starter Odalvi Javier on the mound to work the ninth, the Biscuits had one more rally in them, as Wisely opened the frame with a single, and then a batter later prospect Greg Jones walked. Montgomery quickly extended its two-run lead to four runs when Austin Shenton slapped a bases-clearing double, scoring both Wisely and Jones. Save for a base-hit by Hendrik Clementina, the Mississippi lineup went down quietly in the bottom-half of the ninth.
This was Woods first Double-A start of his career, and save for fall ball, just his sixth outing in three years, as the righty has dealt with a string of injuries. It wasn’t a great performance last night, but don’t forget that, at one point, Woods was one of the Braves highly-touted pitching prospects. He’ll bounce back next week.
A+ – Rome Braves (1-0)
W, 16-6 vs. Greensboro
- P, Dylan Dodd – 4 1/3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, HR
- LF, Landon Stephens – 3 for 4, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB
- SS, Vaughn Grissom – 2 for 5, 2B, 2 RBI, R, BB
All the buzz yesterday was about the young phenom Vaughn Grissom, who currently ranks 11th on my Braves Top 35. The talented shortstop didn’t disappoint either, as he helped lead Rome to a rout over Greensboro, in which the R-Braves offense scored at least one run in each of the first six innings.
There’s too much to recap in this one, and Grissom was a big part in all of that scoring. But the MVP last night must go to outfielder Landon Stephens, who finished with three RBI on Friday. Of course, the 24-year-old is plenty used to being a leader on offense. Last season, the former undrafted free agent led Single-A Augusta with 21 home runs and 68 RBI, rightfully earning a promotion in 2022.
Rome’s pitching was led by last year’s third-round pick, lefty Dylan Dodd. Coming off a rough start to his pro career in 2021 (in which he allowed four homers in three innings with Rome last season), Dodd kept the Grasshoppers bats at bay, tallying 76 pitches in 4 1/3 innings. He seemed to just run out of gas in the fifth, as Greensboro tagged him with a lead-off homer to start the frame, to go with a triple two batters later, chasing Dodd from the outing. Regardless, it was a nice start by a guy who should be getting plenty of attention in 2022.
A – Augusta GreenJackets (0-1)
L, 7-6 vs. Columbia
- P, Royber Salinas – 4 1/3 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 11 K
- C, Adam Zebrowski – 2 for 5, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R
- 3B, Geraldo Quintero – 1 for 2, HR, 2 RBI, R, 2 BB
Perhaps the performance of the night in the Braves farm system was from the 20-year-old Venezuelan, righty Royber Salinas, who punched out 11 Columbia batters on Friday. For Salinas, it was just his fourth career start in full-season ball, as he spent a little bit of time there in 2021. Talk about putting your name out there. The first six consecutive outs for Salanis featured a strikeout, as he struck out the side in the first, then worked around a single to punch out the other three batters he faced in the second. In fact, ten of his first 12 outs included a strikeout. Wild.
But Salinas seemed to tucker out in the fifth, as he allowed a lead-off triple to begin the frame, followed by a walk. After striking out the next batter, Augusta manager Michael Saunders went ahead and went to the bullpen, bringing in Estarlin Rodriguez. However, Rodriguez immediately allowed a sac-fly, cutting the GreenJackets lead to 6-2.
The Fireflies would go on to beat up on Augusta’s bullpen on Friday, scoring five runs in the final four innings to pull off the come-from-behind win. Rodriguez wound up allowing two runs from two hits in his 2 2/3 innings of work. And righty Peyton Williams took the loss and blown save when he surrendered three runs from four hits during the final 1 2/3 innings of the game. A tough loss for the GreenJackets last night.
The big night for catcher Adam Zebrowski was nice to see. If you recall, Zebrowski was a 13th round pick last year out of a small college (St. John Fisher College). As more of a glove-first type catcher, the two XBH on Friday is exciting.
All four affiliates will be back at it on Saturday. At the time of this writing, Jasseel De La Cruz will take the mound for Gwinnett this evening (3:05 PM), Darius Vines for the M-Braves (6:05 PM) and Andrew Hoffmann for Rome (5:30 PM). Augusta has yet to announce a starter for its game tonight (5:05 PM).
Be sure to check back on Sunday morning for a recap. And don’t forget about Monday’s weekly MiLB preview looking at the next week’s slate of games in the Braves farm system.