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Week 3 Farm Preview: Ronald Acuna Jr. set to begin rehab assignment 

Week 3 Farm Preview: Ronald Acuna Jr. set to begin rehab assignment 

Two weeks are in the books down on the farm, as today begins Week 3 of the 2022 minor league season. Here’s a brief preview of what’s coming for the Braves four minor league affiliates this week.

AAA – Gwinnett Stripers 

@Jacksonville (MIA)

The Stripers will look to receive more consistency this week regarding its starting pitching, as Week 2 wound up being a rough one for the team’s starting staff. It looks like Touki Toussaint will take the bump on Tuesday for the series opener against the Jumbo Shrimp, which is an offense led by Marlins prospects JJ Bleday and Lewin Diaz, as well as former MLBer Willians Astudillo. 

Gwinnett’s lineup will be receiving a huge boost in Week 3. Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. is slated to start his rehab assignment with the Stripers on Tuesday. And it comes at a great time, considering Gwinnett will be facing Miami’s top prospect in Game 1, right-hander Max Meyer. The 23-year-old Meyer has already struck out 13 batters through two starts in 2022, and he’ll enter this week with a stingy 2.00 ERA. Today’s game could be a low-scoring affair, but regardless, getting a look at RAJ is great news for the organization. Still no word on prospect Drew Waters, although surely some news will come soon given the outfielder has yet to play in a game this season. 

AA – Mississippi Braves 

vs. Chattanooga (CIN)

Despite a rather historic outing by Jared Shuster this past weekend and another series filled with hitting by Michael Harris II (extending his hitting streak to nine games), the M-Braves still managed just one win in last week’s series. Mississippi will look to bounce back with what should be another tough matchup, this time versus a talent-filled Chattanooga team. The Lookouts feature several Reds prospects, including hitters Matt McClain (SS), Mike Siani (OF) and Mark Kolozsvary (C), as well as pitchers Brandon Williamson and Vin Timpanelli. Entering Tuesday, McClain and Siani are the two leaders within Chattanooga’s offense, each sporting a 1.275 OPS and 1.144 OPS, respectively. 

It appears Braves prospect Freddy Tarnok will get the series opening start today. The 23-year-old righty is coming off a strong outing last time out, in which he allowed just one hit in 4 ⅔ innings, while striking out four and walking three. Tuesday’s start will be Tarnok’s 11th overall at the Double-A level. 

Harris will see how far this current hot streak will take him. Thanks to eight consecutive games with a hit (which is every game so far this season), the prospect outfielder comes into Tuesday slashing .378/.410/.541 with two triples, two doubles and seven RBI – good for a 163 wRC+. As you can see at my Braves Farm homepage, that wRC+ ranks fifth among all Braves minor leaguers in 2022.

Like Waters above for Gwinnett, prospect pitcher Victor Vodnik has yet to get in a game in 2022. Vodnik is currently listed as active on the Mississippi roster, although he did deal with a couple of injuries last year. I haven’t seen any news regarding the kid’s status, which is weird. If you recall, Vodnik was sharp this spring, pitching in one game and striking out five in two innings down in Florida. Hopefully everything’s fine, because this season was supposed to be a significant one for the 22-year-old prospect.

A+ – Rome Braves

@ Bowling Green (TBR)

Rome enters Week 3 having won four of six against Hudson Valley (including three-straight), and right now the offense is hot, led by Cody Milligan, Vaughn Grissom, Tyler Tolve and Landon Stephens. The problem so far, though has been its pitching, for Tanner Gordon can’t do it all by himself (though he certainly tried this past Saturday when he struck out 14 batters in six innings). It’ll be interesting to see how this R-Braves lineup handles the Hot Rods pitching this week, as at some point it’ll no doubt have to face the Rays sixth-ranked prospect, righty Seth Johnson.

I mentioned pitching being a bit of weakness so far for Rome (though it did improve a bit in Week 2). But it definitely needs to have its act together in this series against Bowling Green (who enters Tuesday 8-1 overall). This team is absolutely loaded with future big league talent, rostering a whopping six players that are currently listed within the top 35 of Tampa Bay’s 2022 prospect list at FanGraphs.

  • 1B Heriberto Hernandez (#8)
  • 2B Osleivis Basabe (#25)
  • SS Alika Williams (#27)
  • 2B Tanner Murray (#29)
  • 1B Kyle Manzardo (#30)
  • OF Diego Infante (#35)

This should be a good series to see just what the Braves have with 2021 draftee Andrew Hoffmann, who pitched well last week but was BABIP’d to death in an outing in which he allowed a pair of runs, despite striking out six.

Can Rome’s non-prospect (and former UDFA) Stephens keep this up? The 24-year-old is on some kind of tear this season, slashing a video game-like .346/.452/.846 with four home runs and 10 RBI in seven games so far, enabling him to lead all Braves minor leaguers in wRC+ (220). The kid slugged 21 homers last year in Single-A, but he also struck out 35% of the time, so who knows. Although… Stephens is also currently striking out in 35% of his PA… so who knows again.

A – Augusta GreenJackets

vs. Fayetteville (HOU)

The GreenJackets may be playing below-.500 ball (4-5 record), but I’ve really been impressed with this club so far. The offense has flourished with guys like Adam Zebrowski, Caleb Durbin, Cal Conley (who all three were drafted in 2021) and Brandol Mezquita, and the pitching has been mostly consistent thanks to starters Royber Salinas and Tyler Owens, as well as bullpen arms J.J. Niekro, Estarlin Rodriguez and Kris Anglin. All in all, this is a fun team, which is a bit of surprise given some of the talent it lost from last season due to promotions. Owens will take the bump for tonight’s series opener, and so far the 21-year-old has only made one start in 2022, tossing a one-hitter over five innings that featured five strikeouts and just one walk.

Shown by its 2-7 record so far this season, the Woodpeckers aren’t exactly filled with household names. FG hasn’t published its Astros prospect list for this year yet, but looking back at 2021’s, only Alex Santos II shows up as a ranked prospect on the Fayetteville roster, as he ranked 15th on the most-recent list. And so far in 2022, Santos has made one start and appeared once out of the bullpen, combining to allow six runs from six hits in five innings (10.80 ERA), albeit to go with eight strikeouts (14.4 K/9). There’s also a kid named Logan Cerny – he’s a 22-year-old outfielder with Fayetteville this season. Cerny likes to strikeout, but so far this season he’s hitting .273 with already three homers and a team-lead 10 RBI, good for a 148 wRC+. He’s a guy to watch for this week.

Be sure to check back daily here at Braves Farm, as I’ll be recapping each game of this week’s series for all four Braves affiliates.

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