We’ve reached the second month of the 2022 regular season and the first series of May. Here’s a look at what’s on tap this week for the Braves four minor league affiliates…
AAA – Gwinnett Stripers (11-13)
vs. Charlotte Knights (CWS)
Tue’s probable – Touki Toussaint (2.04 ERA)
(GWN hitting leaders)
OF/1B Greyson Jenista – 121 wRC+, 4 HR
INF Pat Valaika – 115 wRC+, 7 2B
OF Preston Tucker – 116 wRC+, 6 2B
(GWN pitching leaders)
RHP Touki Toussaint – 23 K, 2.04 ERA
LHP Kyle Muller – 28 K, 3.66 ERA
RHP Nolan Kingham – 1.15 ERA
The Stripers are coming off a nice performance in Week 4, winning five of six against Norfolk, including its last three. Thankfully, the pitching has gotten much better for Gwinnett, as several guys out of the bullpen are throwing the ball well. Perhaps this week the Stripers bats can get going, for Charlotte has been one of the worst pitching teams in the International League so far this season, ranking dead last in AVG allowed (.270 AVG), not to mention the club has surrendered a league-worst 43 home runs.
Speaking of long balls, Greyson Jenista has been the only real power threat for Gwinnett’s offense in 2022, leading the way with just four homers. Hopefully someone can start joining the Braves prospect with some dingers this week, though that may be a lot to ask given the current absence of outfielder Travis Demeritte. Righty Touki Toussaint will take the bump for Sunday’s day game (Education Day). Touki is still a little wild at times, but so far he’s been one of the better Stripers starters this season. He picked up his first win of the year last week, though it certainly wasn’t his best outing (5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K). Fortunately for Gwinnett, prospect Bryce Elder was optioned to Triple-A back on Sunday, so that’s a real boost.
AA – Mississippi Braves (8-13)
vs. Pensacola Blue Wahoos (MIA)
Tue’s probable – Darius Vines (5.50 ERA)
(MIS hitting leaders)
OF Michael Harris lI – 161 wRC+, 4 HR, 6 2B
1B/DH Drew Lugbauer – 7 HR, 148 wRC+
INF Luke Waddell – 4 2B, 104 wRC+
(MIS pitching leaders)
LHP Jared Shuster – 1.88 ERA, 28 K
LHP Hayden Deal – 1.06 ERA, 18 K
RHP Odalvi Javier – 3.37 ERA, 15 K
Mississippi won four of six against Montgomery last week, and as usual so far this season, the series featured several exciting games. At their best, this M-Braves lineup can be one of the most potent in all of minor league baseball, and after scoring a combined 45 runs in Week 4 (7.5 runs per game), they definitely showed it. This is a pretty balanced Pensacola club, in which pitching is probably its strength, shown by its 3.46 ERA overall (ranking second in the Southern League). However, Marlins prospect outfielder Jerar Encarnacion is doing his best to keep the Blue Wahoos dangerous on offense, as he already has seven home runs in 2022, to go with a .341 AVG and 174 wRC+.
It’s not looking very likely that I’ll get to watch Michael Harris II in-person when Mississippi comes to my city (Madison, AL) during the first part of June this season (June 7-12). Hell, at this rate, the kid could be in Atlanta by that point. Harris just continues to amaze. And after hitting .370 with three homers and two doubles at the plate last week, he’s up to a .333 AVG and four long balls for the 2022 season. Oh, and by the way, Harris has also gone 9 for 11 in stolen bases as well. Ridiculous. Braves prospect Darius Vines will look to get on the right track in Tuesday’s opener, as it’s been a rough start so far. The 24-year-old has pitched to a 5.50 ERA in four outings so far, and last week he was knocked around to the tune of seven earned runs in just 3 ⅔ innings. Vines is much better than that.
A+ – Rome Braves (13-8)
@ Greenville Drive (BOS)
Tue’s probable – TBA
(ROM hitting leaders)
1B/DH Landon Stephens – 8 HR, 169 wRC+
2B Cody Milligan – 5 2B, 147 wRC+
OF Christian Robinson – 5 2B, 136 wRC+
(ROM pitching leaders)
RHP Tanner Gordon – 0 BB, 1.64 ERA
RHP Andrew Hoffmann – 27 K, 2.86 ERA
LHP Luis De Avila – 25 K, 3.93 ERA
Rome just keeps winning, as the R-Braves have yet to lose a series so far in 2022. The club won four of six last week against Greensboro, thanks to more strong pitching from its starters and a whopping 53 overall runs from its offense (8.8 runs per game). The Rome pitching group will need to keep the dominance up in Week 5 too, because this is a Greenville team that has done nothing but mash this season, leading the South Atlantic League in team home runs with 37 (compared to 19 for Rome). The Drive currently roster four players already with at least four long balls, led by former top 30 Red Sox prospect 1B/3B Nicholas Northcut, who’s up to eight dingers in ’22. Luckily for the R-Braves, Greenville is one of the worst in the league when it comes to run prevention (6.17 team ERA).
We know about all the prospects in Rome’s lineup – guys like shortstop Vaughn Grissom, outfielder Christian Robinson and third baseman Justyn-Henry Malloy. But I’m legit curious to see where Landon Stephens’ numbers end up by season’s end. It’s unbelievable what he has done so far, basically leading the entire Braves minor league system on offense. He’s the guy I’m paying close attention to this week. Rome hasn’t named a starter yet for Tuesday’s series opener, but I’m assuming righty Andrew Hoffmann is in line to take the mound, given his last start was on April 27. UPDATE: Rome has in face announced that Hoffmann is the probable starter for Tuesday.
A – Augusta GreenJackets (12-9)
@ Carolina Mudcats (MIL)
Tue’s probable – Luis Vargas (0.00 ERA)
(AUG hitting leaders)
INF Caleb Durbin – 7 2B, 162 wRC+
OF Brandol Mezquita – HR, 151 wRC+
C Adam Zebrowski – 5 2B, 114 wRC+
(AUG pitching leaders)
RHP Royber Salinas – 52 K, 1.52 ERA
RHP Landon Leach – 19 K, 2.75 ERA
RHP J.J. Niekro – 20 K, 1.47 ERA
The GreenJackets came away with five wins in last week’s series versus a weak Delmarva team, as Augusta now sits above .500 for the season. The pitching has really turned the corner, both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. Once again, in Week 5 the GreenJackets will face a rather lacking opponent. The Mudcats are neither strong at hitting nor pitching, ranking within the bottom-three in both team OPS (.654) and ERA (5.33). Although, Brewers outfield prospect Micah Bello is having a helluva start to 2022, as the 21-year-old is hitting .356 with eight XBH (2 HR) and leads Carolina with a 176 wRC+ so far.
Guys like Caleb Durbin (162 wRC+), Brandol Mezquita (151) and Adam Zebrowski (114) have all been above average contributors on offense for Augusta so far this year. But I’m anxious to see who else can step it up in the GreenJackets lineup. Prospect Cal Conley has had his moments, but the prospect second baseman has mostly struggled, currently sporting a 71 wRC+ in 85 PA – so has talented players like Mahki Backstrom and Kadon Morton. This Augusta offense, on paper, appeared to be a stacked group heading into in the season. And so far it has performed well. But I believe there’s even more potential.