Thursday was just a rough day for the Braves organization all the way around. The big league Braves were walloped by the Padres 12-1, and then down the on farm, all four affiliates lost its respective games. Losing sucks, but it’s not the most important thing in the minors. Performances are. So let’s look at last night’s performances…
AAA – Gwinnett Stripers (4-5)
L, 5-4 vs. Nashville
(P) Jasseel De La Cruz – (L), IP, 4 H, 4 ER, K
(Bullpen) – 8 IP, 6 H, ER, BB, 8 K
(RF) Travis Demeritte – 1 for 5, HR, 2 RBI
(2B) Pat Valaika – 2 for 5, 2 R, SB
Jasseel De La Cruz’s prospect stock has fallen rather sharply over the last year or two, but perhaps Thursday night was the final straw. JDLC allowed all nine Nashville batters to come to the plate in the opening inning last night, putting Gwinnett down 4-0 before the Stripers bats even had a chance. Here’s how that horrid inning went for Cruz:
1st batter – HBP
2nd batter – single
3rd batter – RBI single (1-0, Nashville)
4th batter – lineout
5th batter – RBI double (2-0, Nashville)
6th batter – groundout
7th batter – wild pitch (3-0, Nashville
RBI single (4-0, Nashville)
8th batter – HBP
9th batter – strikeout
After struggling pretty bad last season, and now clearly not being able to hold his own in 2022, it may be time for the Braves to seriously consider a role change to the bullpen for JDLC.
Although, despite being down by four immediately, the Stripers lineup did its best to come back. Travis Demeritte slugged his 43rd career home run for Gwinnett in the first, cutting the deficit to just two.
After Cruz needed over 30 pitches to get through the first, Gwinnett’s bullpen pieced together the rest of the game, and they did a great job of keeping things where they were. Although the Sounds scored in the fifth, thanks to an RBI single off Connor Johnstone, making it 5-2. But the Stripers answered in its half of the inning. Following a lead-off single by Pat Valaika, then two quick outs, John Nogowski shot a line drive to center, scoring Valaika and making it a two-run game again. Gwinnett came within one in the last inning, as Ryan Casteel blasted his second homer of the season. Unfortunately that’s all the Stripers could manage, though.
Give credit to Johnstone, Seth Elledge, Dylan Lee and Michael Tonkin, as that quartet of relievers pitched really well on Thursday (shown by their final collective line above). Gwinnett’s bullpen had been shaky so far this season, but last night it was the ‘pen that kept this one from becoming a blowout.
AA – Mississippi Braves (1-5)
L, 8-1 vs. Biloxi
(P) AJ Puckett – (L), 3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 5 K, HR
(1B) Drew Lugbauer – 1 for 4, 2B, R
(3B) CJ Alexander – 2 for 4, 2B
(DH) Jalen Miller – 1 for 3, 2B, RBI, BB
It’s been a rough start for the defending champ Mississippi Braves, as the club lost its third consecutive game on Thursday. It was a slugfest for Biloxi, who finished the night with three home runs and three doubles, highlighted by the Brewers second-ranked prospect Joey Wiemer, who put the Shuckers up 2-0 in the first with his first long ball of 2022.
After two in the opening inning, Biloxi proceeded to score runs in each of the second and third, giving them four unanswered runs against M-Braves starter AJ Puckett. Finally, though, Mississippi’s lineup got something started in the fifth, when Drew Lugbauer began the frame with a lead-off double, who was then immediately brought home after a two-bagger by Jalen Miller two batters later.
The 4-1 deficit quickly turned into a 7-1 deficit, though, when in the sixth, the Shuckers ripped off three-straight hits off prospect William Woods (single, RBI double, two-run HR), and just like that, Biloxi was running away. The M-Braves allowed yet another long ball in the eighth, this time a Felix Valerio dinger off Mississippi’s Trey Riley, giving us the 8-1 final.
The M-Braves offense really didn’t do too bad last night, as all but three batters recorded hits in the game, including prospects Michael Harris II and Jesse Franklin V. However, Mississippi couldn’t keep up with Biloxi in the XBH department. The outing by Puckett wasn’t ideal, but it’s safe to assume he’ll settle down as he gets more work. Puckett pitched really well in 2021, tallying a 2.90 ERA in 80 2/3 combined innings with both Rome and Mississippi, to go with eight strikeouts per nine. Woods, on the other hand, has struggled so far this season. The prospect righty currently sports a 13.50 ERA in one start and one relief appearance, including two homers allowed in four innings. Hopefully he can turn it around.
A+ – Rome Braves (3-3)
L, 8-2 vs. Hudson Valley
(P) Dylan Dodd – (L), 4 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, HR
(1B) Landon Stephens – 1 for 4, HR, 2 RBI
(P) Justin Yeager – IP, H, 3 K
Last night Hudson Valley jumped out to a 6-0 lead early when it scored three runs in each of the second and third inning. However, Rome’s offense answered in the bottom-half of the latter inning, thanks to Landon Stephens’ third home run of 2022, cutting the deficit to 6-2.
Neither team could do much in innings four thru seven, and in the fifth Rome third baseman Beau Philip made perhaps the play of the year so far for the R-Braves when he laid out for a sharply-hit grounder and popped up to throw out the runner.
But in the eighth, with Rome’s Dylan Spain pitching, Hudson Valley pulled away. Spain walked the lead-off batter, then allowed a single, and two batters later the Renegades took a 7-2 lead when it slapped an RBI base-hit. A batter later a sac-fly by Hudson Valley made it 8-2. Unfortunately, the R-Braves offense went down rather quietly in the final two frames, as three of the seven batters that came to the plate went down on strikes.
Well, prospect pitcher Dylan Dodd has one strong start and one bad one. In his first outing of 2022, the lefty struck out seven in 4 1/3 innings and allowed two runs from four hits, however, on Thursday he didn’t have his best stuff. The 23-year-old got up to 81 pitches last night, and it looks like he wasn’t able to keep the ball on the ground as well as he was able to in last week’s affair (4 groundouts & 5 flyouts).
A – Augusta GreenJackets (3-3)
L, 3-2 vs. Myrtle Beach
(P) Royber Salinas – 5 IP, H, 13 K
(3B) Caleb Durbin – 1 for 3, HR, 2 RBI
(C) Adam Zebrowski – 1 for 3, 2B
The tweet above shows just how crazy-good Royber Salinas has been so far in 2022. The kid struck out 13 batters in five innings last night, including nine-straight to end his outing. By far the best pitching performance of the year for a Braves minor leaguer. It may be time to really start paying attention to Salinas, who, at just 21-years-old, is dominating the Single-A level.
Last night’s game ended in a loss, but it started off with an exciting home run from GreenJackets third baseman Caleb Durbin, as he led off the first AB of the game with a long ball to straight-away center. Augusta made it 2-0 in the fifth, again, thanks to Durbin, as he popped up a sac-fly to score Braulio Vasquez. However, in the sixth the Pelicans tied it when Augusta’s Peyton Williams hit a batter, then walked one, and then two batters later surrendered a two-run double.
Spoiling Salinas’ gem was disappointing, but perhaps not as bad as what happened in the ninth. With the game stilled locked at two, GreenJackets reliever Rob Griswold allowed a single to the first batter of the frame, but then bounced back to get the out when Myrtle Beach executed the sac-bunt to push the runner into scoring position. Well then Griswold proceeded to intentionally walk the next batter, then unintentionally walk the one after that, loading the bases before being replaced by Ben Thompson. Thompson did well to strikeout the first batter he faced to get two outs, but then a single to center walked it off for the Pelicans, and just like that Augusta had lost a game it had every right (and every chance) to win. Tough break.
The GreenJackets outhit Myrtle Beach by a tally of 6-4 last night, and with prospect Cal Conley’s 0 for 4 performance, he’s now hitless in his last eight tries, after starting 2022 with six hits in his first 19 AB (.315 AVG).
All four Braves affiliates will be back in action on Friday. Gwinnett will start Kyle Muller today, Mississippi will go with Darius Vines, Rome with Andrew Hoffmann and Augusta will start AJ Smith-Shawver.