Offseason Prospect Review: Cody Milligan

Friday, November 12, 2021

-Clint Manry

The offseason is here and it’s a perfect time to recap the 2021 season of each of the Braves top 30 prospects. In this series, I’ll discuss each player’s performance from this past year, as well as what’s needed for them to continue to rise in the organization. All rankings are derived from my most-recent 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List, which came out this past August. Following this series, a fresh top 30 will be constructed, primarily based on the notes I’ll provide in this column.

Previous reviews

  • Jefrey Ramos, OF (link)
  • Brandol Mezquita, OF (link)

#28. Cody Milligan, 2B

22-years-old

2021 stats:  96 G, .230 AVG, 17 XBH, 15 SB, 77 wRC+

Trend:  Down

A hot month of July put Milligan on the map this past season, as he hit .281 in 24 games with High-A Rome, which complimented his even-better May rather well (.323 AVG / 19 G), earning him a top 30 rank in my mid-season rankings. But the second baseman’s prospect title didn’t last too long. From Aug 1. to the end of the year (33 games), the 22-year-old hit a lowly .133, spoiling what was beginning to look like a career-best performance as a pro.

The problem for Milligan is his evident inability to hit same-handed pitching. As a lefty-batter, the kid hit just .143 with three XBH versus southpaws in 2021 (equaling a .427 OPS), compared to a .263 AVG and 13 XBH against righties (.698 OPS). A roughly 250-point difference in OPS is an issue he’ll certainly need to fix.  Fortunately, though, Milligan also provides speed, and as a second baseman, he won’t be required to post huge numbers on offense. In fact, his 2019 rookie-level campaign is a pretty solid threshold he should strive for. During that season, Milligan hit .252 with eight XBH and tallied a dozen stolen bases in 59 games with the GCL (now FCL) team – good for a respectable-for-his-position 104 wRC+.

2022 outlook

Milligan was a one-hit wonder in 2021, going unranked in my summer Top 30 but cracking the mid-season list due to the hot July mentioned above. His second-half decline will almost assuredly push him off the next set of rankings, though he’ll continue to remain as a relevant prospect given how thin the Braves system is when it comes to middle-infielders (especially true second baseman).

What’s really hurting Milligan right now is that come the end of December he’ll be a 23-year-old with not even 100 games of full-season ball under his belt, of which aren’t very inspiring to begin with. I don’t necessarily believe he’ll go down a step, but there’s no question that Milligan should probably spend at least another half-season in Rome, or at least a period of time long enough to show he can consistently hit lower-minors pitching.

But it’s not all bad for Milligan. Though his numbers this past season weren’t ideal, the kid appears to have a solid approach at the plate. He doesn’t strikeout a ton (23.7 K% in 2021) and for the second year in a row he posted a double-digit walk rate (11.5 BB%). It’s obvious that there’s not much power in his swing (2 career homers), but if he can perhaps develop some doubles-power, his speed (along with what seems to be at least average defense) could still make him a top 30ish prospect in the organization. The Braves don’t exactly have a surplus of second basemen hanging around in the minors right now, so Milligan doesn’t have much competition.

Offseason Prospect Review: Brandol Mezquita

Friday, November 12, 2021

-Clint Manry

The offseason is here and it’s a perfect time to recap the 2021 season of each of the Braves top 30 prospects. In this series, I’ll discuss each player’s performance from this past year, as well as what’s needed for them to continue to rise in the organization. All rankings are derived from my most-recent 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List, which came out this past August. Following this series, a fresh top 30 will be constructed, primarily based on the notes I’ll provide in this column.

#29. BRANDOL MEZQUITA, OF

20-years-old

2021 stats (Rk):  43 G, .308 AVG, 13 XBH, 15 SB, 132 wRC+

Trending:  Up

Starting 2021 as more of a top 50-type player in the organization, Mezquita made huge strides with the FCL team, winding up inside my Top 30 this past August and most likely headed for an even higher ranking once I redo the list this offseason. Still just 20-years-old, this will be yet another talented outfielder in Atlanta’s system.

Mezquita had already impressed during his first two pro seasons, posting right under a 100 wRC+ in 2018 and ’19 combined with both the DSL team and the FCL club (formerly the GCL). As a teenager, the kid tallied 12 XBH and stole 12 bases in 86 total games during those pair of seasons, and it looked like, if he could just make a bit more contact, he’d become the real deal.

Well, he did that in 2021. The Dominican outfielder hit over .300, and his eight doubles is a career best (to go along with his 15 stolen bases, which was fifth in the league). Another Cristian Pache… or Drew Waters? Who knows, but at this point, there’s very little doubt that Mezquita is the real deal.

2022 outlook

Even though it was only rookie ball, Mezquita’s strong 2021 numbers — and the fact that he met expectations as an all-around player – should allow him to move up within the Braves Top 30. With a career .255 AVG and .724 OPS so far, the kid hasn’t been other-worldly with the bat, but given his other tools (speed and defense), if he continues to develop, Mezquita could become an outfielder that moves rather quickly in the Braves system.

I’ve seen no official word, but I’d imagine that Mezquita starts 2022 in Single-A Augusta. With nearly 130 games under his belt within the rookie ranks, it’s time to see what he can do in full-season ball. And hey, if Mezquita can post strong numbers with the GreenJackets during the first-half of next year, a High-A Rome assignment could come with a lot more attention next summer. As of right now, Mezquita is on the cusp of becoming a top-tier prospect in the organization. We’ll know more by next July or August.

Offseason Prospect Review: Jefrey Ramos

Thursday, November, 11, 2021

-Clint Manry

The offseason is here and it’s a perfect time to recap the 2021 season of each of the Braves top 30 prospects. In this series, I’ll discuss each player’s performance from this past year, as well as what’s needed for them to continue to rise in the organization. All rankings are derived from my most-recent 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect List, which came out this past August. Following this series, a fresh top 30 will be constructed, primarily based on the notes I’ll provide in this column.

#30. Jefrey Ramos, OF

22-years-old

2021 stats (AA): 58 G, .183 AVG, 6 HR, 55 wRC+

Trend:  Down

It’s safe to say that Ramos had a down year in 2021. The outfielder began the summer ranked just inside my top 30 (#28) before falling to 30th in August as he continued to struggle with Double-A Mississippi. In his sixth season in the organization (counting the canceled 2020 campaign), 2021 was no doubt one of the worst for the Dominican.

In fact, Ramos was unable to hold on to his starting spot with the M-Braves, shown by his 58 games played. The 22-year-old’s strikeout rate soared (30%) and his power plummeted, causing him to post career-lows in just about every offensive category in 2021. And it’s a real shame, because for the last three years it appeared Ramos was on the upward trend.

Following a big year in rookie ball in 2017, featuring a .325 AVG and six homers in 30 games, the prospect outfielder broke out in Single-A in 2018, crushing 16 long balls to go with a 102 wRC+. He kept it going in 2019 as well, with High-A Florida, posting a respectable .241 AVG with nine homers and solid plate discipline numbers. I don’t think any of us ever looked at Ramos as an ultra-high-contact hitter, but his power potential made him someone that only needed to hover around a .250-260 AVG to remain a solid contributor at the plate.

2022 outlook

It’s doubtful Ramos remains inside the top 30 to start the 2022 campaign. With so many up-and-coming young players in the Braves system now, he’ll have to earn his way back on the list. However, I do still believe it’s too early to completely give up on the outfielder. One poor season shouldn’t ruin a player’s stock, and with another year in Double-A, Ramos may make the adjustments needed to turn his play around.

The big thing that Ramos will have to improve is his plate discipline. There’s no way he can become a viable major league player when he’s striking out 30% of the time AND providing very little power. The kid will need to shorten things up and focus more on putting the ball in play, and maybe hits will start falling. When the 2022 season begins, Ramos will still be only 23, so there’s still plenty of hope. But either way, next year will be an important one for him.

Gwinnett nearly no-hit in season finale; Tucker Davidson starts for the first time in months

Monday, October 4, 2021

-Clint Manry

Braves regular season baseball is officially over. A few hours before Atlanta played its final game versus the Mets on Sunday (in which they won 5-0), Triple-A Gwinnett also concluded its 2021 regular season campaign in a matchup against Jacksonville. Unfortunately, though, the Stripers didn’t end the year as well as the major league Braves.

The Jumbo Shrimp of Jacksonville (the Marlins Triple-A affiliate) went with lefty starter Daniel Castano yesterday, and let me tell you, Gwinnett had no answer for the former 19th-round pick. Castano was perfect for the first seven innings on Sunday as the 27-year-old southpaw flew through the Stripers lineup. Finally, to begin the eighth, recently-claimed catcher Chadwick Tromp provided Gwinnett with its first hit of the game when he singled to left. Ryan Casteel followed with a single as well, and Philip Ervin loaded the bases with a fielder’s choice. However, even then the Stripers offense still couldn’t muster up a run as they lost 4-0.

Sunday’s outcome certainly wasn’t the most significant storyline of the day, though. Everyone was way more focused on the fact that prospect Tucker Davidson was scheduled to take the mound. The 25-year-old Davidson – currently sixth on my Braves Top 30 list – started yesterday’s season finale, returning to the bump for the first time since leaving prematurely in an outing with the Braves back on June 15. Tuck hadn’t pitched for the Stripers since late May, but he was sharp in his Triple-A return. Coming back from a forearm injury, Davidson threw 40 pitches on Sunday, working three innings of three-hit ball, allowing one run and striking out five. His only real trouble was in the second inning, when Jacksonville got to him with back-to-back singles, which were followed up with a sac-fly. The talented prospect ended up missing a lot of time in 2021, but Davidson ends his campaign with four starts apiece at both the major and minor league level, posting a 3.60 ERA and 1.17 ERA, respectively. Too bad he can’t help out the Braves in its upcoming NLDS versus the Brewers.

At 71-58 overall, Gwinnett put together another solid season in 2021. Nearly all year long the Stripers were among the top teams in the Triple-A Southeast division, but a poor second-half really cost them in the final standings, leaving them in third-place and 14.5 games back from the top team (Durham). Now that the season has concluded, I’ll soon begin recapping each of the Braves five minor league affiliates.

Shea Langeliers doubles twice in Gwinnett’s win on Friday; Kyle Wright to start today’s game

Saturday, October 2, 2021

-Clint Manry

Triple-A Gwinnett got back in the win column on Friday as they beat Jacksonville 7-2.

With one out in the fourth inning, Travis Demeritte started the rally when he doubled to right. Two batters later, Demeritte scored when Maikel Franco reached on a throwing error by the Jumbo Shrimp. Franco advanced to second shortly after, thanks to a balk, which set up a perfect opportunity for catcher Shea Langeliers. With two outs, Langeliers barreled up the first pitch he saw for an RBI double, giving him both his first Triple-A RBI and XBH.

Two batters later… Yolmer Sanchez gave Gwinnett a 4-0 lead when he tripled home Langeliers and Ryan Goins.

Unfortunately, Stripers starter Kyle Muller never got to enjoy the big lead created by the offense. After throwing 71 pitches in three innings, his day was done. However, Muller still managed eight strikeouts in the outing, to go with just one earned run from four hits. The lefty prospect walked three.

The Stripers scored three more runs in the sixth, first starting with Johan Camargo’s solo-homer to lead off the frame.

The longball by Camargo was his 19th of the 2021 season as the infielder has been one of the better players in all of Triple-A this year. Following a walk by Franco and another double by Langeliers, Goins provided the sixth run of the game for Gwinnett when he popped up a sac-fly. The Stripers finished the game outhitting the Jumbo Shrimp 8-6, and was assisted by Jacksonville’s three errors.

The quartet of Chasen Bradford, Touki Toussaint, Jesse Biddle and Yoan López worked the final six innings of last night’s game. The Gwinnett bullpen was sharp as all four relievers combined to strike out seven and only allow one run from two hits. Neither of the Stripers bullpen arms walked a single batter on Friday.

Gwinnett is now down to its final two games of the 2021 season. Today the Stripers will once again take on the Jumbo Shrimp, with righty Kyle Wright earning the start. First pitch on Saturday is scheduled for 6:05 PM (ET).

Cristian Pache and Johan Camargo homer in Gwinnett loss, while Drew Waters makes incredible play on defense

Friday, October 1, 2021

-Clint Manry

As the Braves were busy securing its fourth-straight division title on Thursday night, Triple-A Gwinnett was taking on Jacksonville in what wound up as a near-epic comeback for the Stripers.

With the score still tied at zero, outfielder Drew Waters made perhaps the play of the season when he robbed a homer in the second.

However, the Jumbo Shrimp still managed to jump out to a big lead. In the third, the first two batters reached base and were picked up when Jacksonville’s Lorenzo Quintana went deep with a three-run homer.

Stripers starter Jose Rodriguez surrendered another long ball in the fifth, this time off the bat of Isan Diaz who made it a 5-0 deficit.

As you can see, it definitely wasn’t Rodriguez’s best night. The righty allowed five runs (four earned) from 10 hits, including a walk, to go with just two strikeouts in five innings. He’ll finish his 2021 season with a 5.29 ERA with Gwinnett.

The Stripers did at least attempt a comeback. In the sixth, Johan Camargo homered for the 18th time this year and Cristian Pache went deep in the ninth as part of a three-run final frame.

Unfortunately, though, Jacksonville’s two-run eighth spoiled any chance for a Gwinnett win, and the Stripers dropped its final game of September.

With just three games remaining this season, Gwinnett will wrap up its 2021 campaign this weekend. The Stripers and Jumbo Shrimp will play again tonight, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM (ET).

Shea Langeliers and Spencer Strider debut for Triple-A Gwinnett in final homestand

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

-Clint Manry

Gwinnett won its series opener versus Jacksonville on Wednesday by a score of 6-1, although all the attention was focused on two prospects who recently made their Triple-A debuts. Both Shea Langeliers and Spencer Strider got in on the action today for the first time, with the former starting at catcher and batting sixth and the latter coming in as a reliever.

Langeliers put the bat on the ball in his very first try, lining out softly to shortstop in the first inning. After striking out in each of the fourth and the sixth, the prospect catcher drew a walk in the eighth to finish his day 0 for 3. 

Following four innings of two-hit ball by starter Bryce Elder, and a hitless inning by Trevor Kelley in the fifth, Strider appeared in the sixth and was sharp from the get go. 

Strider struck out the first two batters of the frame, allowed a ground-ball single, and then ended the inning with another swinging strikeout. The prospect pitcher threw 12 of his 14 pitches for strikes as he looks plenty ready for the Triple-A level.

Overall, Gwinnett’s offense looked great. Prospect outfielder Cristian Pache finished the day 2 for 4 with three RBI, while Yolmer Sanchez, Johan Camargo and Maikel Franco all three contributed with two hits apiece as well. Travis Demeritte also homered for the 21st time this season, going deep off a breaking ball in the opening inning.

There was also a Touki Toussaint sighting as the righty worked both the seventh and eighth innings, allowing a hit, a walk and striking out two. 

The Stripers will finish out its final homestand with four more games against Jacksonville over the next four days. With all other Braves affiliates now done for the year, Gwinnett is the last minor league team left playing.

Shea Langeliers and Bryce Elder named Braves minor league players of the year; Langeliers added to Triple-A Gwinnett roster

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

-Clint Manry

I must’ve been on to something when I selected my own version of 2021’s minor league MVP and Cy Young for the Braves farm system. Both of my award winners have been named the best at their respective position groups for this season. Although, it’s not as if they were difficult choices. On Tuesday, the Braves announced its Players of the Year for the 2021 season, naming Shea Langeliers Batter of the Year and Bryce Elder Pitcher of the Year.

Oh… and Langeliers was also added to Triple-A Gwinnett’s active roster for the team’s final week of play.

In case for some reason you’ve missed the entire 2021 minor league season, both Langeliers and Elder have evolved into superstars this year, with the former at Double-A Mississippi and the latter… well… essentially everywhere.

Langeliers also took home the Hank Aaron award and Elder the Phil Neikro award, both accolades representing the top position-player and pitcher in the farm system.

If you’re interested in catching the Stripers before its 2021 season is over, today Gwinnett begins a five-game series with Jacksonville at home, with Elder taking the mound for what will most likely be his final outing of the year. So far, in six starts at the Triple-A level, the 22-year-old Elder has pitched to a 2.20 ERA, including 9.9 strikeouts per nine. The Braves prospect has been especially stingy lately. Over his last four starts, Elder has only allowed three earned runs in 21 innings – good for a 1.29 ERA.

Meanwhile, Langeliers will look to keep his impressive performance going this season. Spending all of 2021 with the M-Braves, the prospect catcher has managed to hit .258 with 22 homers and 52 RBI (128 wRC+), putting himself among some of the best hitters in all of Double-A. It’s not much of a sample-size, but hopefully a week-long look at the top level of the minors will at least give Langeliers an opportunity to get ready for 2022, where he’ll likely start his season. Both Elder and Langeliers are on track to potentially debut in the majors next year.

Spencer Strider promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett 

Monday, September 27, 2021

-Clint Manry

Go ahead and add another big Braves prospect promotion to the list for this season. According to Talking Chop’s Eric Cole on Monday morning, right-handed pitcher Spencer Strider is headed to Triple-A Gwinnett. 

The promotion comes with only five regular season games remaining for the Stripers, so it’s obviously less exciting than a midseason or even August assignment. However, Strider should have plenty of time to acquire some innings at the highest level of the minors. Per the report from Cole, Strider is expected to pitch out of Gwinnett’s bullpen.

Strider, taken in the fourth round by the Braves in the shortened 2020 MLB Draft, is a former Clemson star who, at the time of the draft last year, had recently undergone Tommy John surgery, causing many to question just how quickly he would progress as a pro. Although, the now-typical operation hasn’t appeared to slow him down.

Surging fast on my Braves Top 30 list this year, Strider currently ranks seventh on my latest ranking, just behind lefty Tucker Davidson. The 22-year-old Strider began 2021 with Single-A Augusta, but after averaging more than 18 strikeouts per nine and pitching to a 0.59 ERA in 15.1 innings, he was quickly moved up to High-A Rome. With the R-Braves, Strider’s stint was even shorter, thanks to 14.7 K/9 and a 2.45 ERA in 14.2 frames. His second promotion of the season, a late-June call-up to Double-A Mississippi, gave Strider his first taste of adversity, though he wound up becoming one of the top starters in the rotation. In 63 innings with the M-Braves, the talented prospect pitcher put together a 4.71 ERA despite allowing only a .211 AVG from opposing batters. 

Any time a player is on his third promotion in one year in the minors it means he’s doing something right. Along with his 2020 draft mate, Bryce Elder, Strider’s move to Triple-A sets him up nicely to possibly debut in the majors as soon as 2022. MLB debut or not, though, this kid is the real deal. 

M-Braves are Double-A South champs

Monday, September 27, 2021

-Clint Manry

With a tough catch in foul territory by third baseman CJ Alexander in the ninth, last night the Mississippi Braves defeated the Montgomery Biscuits to win the Double-A South League championship. Faced with a Game 5 on Sunday, the M-Braves put a perfect bow on what was an incredible 2021 season.

The scoring started in the second inning, after a scoreless first. Mississippi starter Alan Rangel – who wound up pitching the game of his life on Sunday – worked around a single and a walk in the opening frame, but ran into trouble the next inning, allowing a one-out single, a stolen base and then a sac-fly to give the Biscuits its first run of the game. However, that’s literally all the damage Rangel surrendered in this outing. Following a lead-off single in the third, the 24-year-old righty set down 12 consecutive batters before being replaced by reliever Brandon White to begin the seventh inning. Rangel’s final line was solid: 6 IP, 3 H, R, BB, 8 K.

The man who gave the M-Braves the last out was the one who put the offense on the board first. In the second, down 1-0, Alexander slapped an RBI double to right to make it a tied game.

Of course… Rangel just kept dealing…

Then, like so many times during the final few weeks of this campaign, Greyson Jenista came through with a huge hit in the fifth. Following back-to-back strikeouts by Drew Lugbauer and Luke Waddell, Jenista put a charge in one and drove a solo-homer out to center to put the M-Braves up 2-1.

The Mississippi bullpen was terrific. White tossed a scoreless seventh, striking out two, and then Jake Higginbotham and Nolan Kingham each worked scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively. From the fourth frame up to the eighth, the Biscuits didn’t record a single hit.

The win wasn’t in usual fashion for the M-Braves, whose lineup has been perhaps one of the best in the minors in 2021. Both Mississippi and Montgomery combined for just eight hits in the championship game on Sunday, and Alexander’s double to go with Jenista’s homer were the only two XBH.

With the M-Braves 2021 season now over, and Gwinnett down to its final five games (both Rome and Augusta’s seasons are done as well), soon I’ll start putting out some team-by-team season recaps (along with my team awards). As far as the Braves minor league system goes, though, this Mississippi club was by the far the most talented affiliate within the organization in 2021.