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).

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.

Braves 2021 Minor League Team Awards: MVP

Friday, September 24, 2021

-Clint Manry

Earlier this week I kicked off this year’s Braves MiLB Team Awards with the system’s Cy Young, naming righty Bryce Elder as the top pitcher for 2021. Today it’s time to name an MVP…

Braves 2021 Minor League Team Awards: MVP

Shea Langeliers 

We always knew the Braves top pick from 2019 was going to be a good one — nearly a .300 career AVG at a Power 5 college (Baylor) that featured three consecutive seasons of 10+ home runs. And, oh yeah… as a catcher, he provided perhaps some of the best glove work in the country. Leading up to the 2019 MLB Draft, Shea Langeliers definitely wasn’t sneaking under anyone’s radar. 

But even with such a prestigious track record as a collegiate player, and a title as one of the best catchers in the class, Langeliers was still considered primarily a defensive player. FanGraphs gave him poor marks when it came to both his Hit tool and Game Power, pegging him with 30 grades for each (out of 80). As Langeliers began his pro career, the then 21-year-old was considered a glove-first player whose stock was dependent on how well his bat would progress. 

… and progress… it very much did…

After showing flashes during his draft year and recovering nicely from a slow start to post a .255 AVG and .652 OPS with 15 XBH in 55 games at the Single-A level in 2019, Langeliers quickly blossomed into a superstar with Double-A Mississippi in 2021. Now at the tail-end of his first full professional season, the former top pick has been one of the Braves best minor league hitters, and has arguably been the organization’s most complete players this year.

It would be one thing if Langeliers’ outstanding performance this season was built only from offense. But if you’ve followed his 2021 season any, then I’m sure you know by now that that certainly hasn’t been the case. Don’t get me wrong, Langeliers has been a top 10 hitter in all of Double-A this year, ranking among the best in the South League in AVG, homers and wRC+ (through Thursday).

Langeliers on offense (2021)

92 G, .258 AVG, 128 wRC+, 22 HR

However, what makes Langeliers the Braves minor league MVP for 2021 is that he’s been able to post the numbers above at the plate while still managing to exceed expectations as a star behind the dish.

Langeliers on defense (2021)

  • 79 starts at catcher 
  • 679.1 innings 
  • 73 assists 
  • 4 errors (.995 Fld%)
  • 42 stolen bases
  • 30 caught-stealing (42 CS%)

Yes, this is Double-A. Not even Triple-A… and certainly not the majors. But a 42% caught-stealing rate is ridiculous, especially considering Langeliers’ rate stayed at roughly 50% for over half of the season this year. As of Friday, the average caught-stealing rate for a big league catcher is just 25%. And the Braves Travis d’Arnaud is currently hovering below 20%. 

So in a nutshell, Langeliers has done it all in 2021. He’s become even more dangerous as a defensive catcher, while drastically exceeding any and all expectations as a hitter. Add it all up… and you get the most valuable player in the Braves minor league system. 

William Contreras recalled to Atlanta as future looks bright behind the plate

Saturday, August 21, 2021

-Clint Manry

During a 28-game span (May 8 – June 2) this season, 23-year-old catcher William Contreras shined for the Braves and showed everyone why, for several years now, he’s consistently been one of the top prospects in the organization. In that stretch, Contreras hit .264 for Atlanta, adding six home runs, a pair of doubles and even a triple while tallying 20 RBI – good for a solid 123 wRC+. For roughly a month, it looked as if the rookie catcher was on his way to putting together one of the better rookie performances for the Braves. And despite the team’s overall struggles, watching the young catcher perform was a must-see.

However, as the month of June progressed, Contreras’ performance declined. Following nearly 30 games of the above-average play mentioned above, his next 16 games featured a 5 for 51 stretch (.098 AVG) and eventually a demotion. Just like that, Contreras was back in the minors, where his 2021 campaign begun. But instead of giving up, it appears Contreras used his setback this summer to work even harder.

From Day 1 with Triple-A Gwinnett, Contreras has just kept hitting. That month-long stint with the Stripers may’ve felt like forever for him, but it’s pretty impressive how quickly he was able to turn things around. After being lucky to pick up a hit in an entire week in the majors, Contreras belted seven long balls in a 10-game span with Gwinnett in mid-July. In terms of turn-arounds, what Contreras has done during his time in the minors is pretty damn amazing…

William Contreras’ monthly splits (2021)

June (MLB) – 70 PA, .200 AVG, 27.1 K%, 4 XBH, 52 wRC+

July (AAA) – 76 PA, .343 AVG, 17.1 K%, 13 XBH, 197 wRC+

August (AAA) – 49 PA, .267 AVG, 24.5 K%, 2 XBH, 77 wRC+

As you can see, so far this month Contreras has cooled a bit with the Stripers as he’s hitless in his last eight AB, including a .167 AVG over his last nine games in Triple-A. But his body of work during the month or so spent in the minors appears to have definitely paid off. Regardless, we’ll get to see real soon as the Braves announced on Saturday that not only is Contreras recalled to the majors, but he’ll also catch Touki Toussaint on Sunday for the Braves series finale versus the Orioles.

A future at catcher

Contreras being recalled comes just a day after the Braves extended starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud to another two-year, $16-million contract, which includes an $8-millon club-option for the 2024 season. The 32-year-old veteran has missed a good bit of time this year, but given his contributions in 2020 and how well he has meshed with this Braves pitching staff, keeping d’Arnaud for 2-3 more seasons seems like a no-brainer. Through Saturday, the former Met has posted a .288 AVG and slugged 13 home runs (122 wRC+) in 73 career games with Atlanta – good for 1.9 fWAR. d’Arnaud hasn’t really had a chance to get going in 2021, for that thumb injury spoiled his ability to put up big numbers; but when healthy, this is a solid big league catcher, and one that should provide the Braves lineup with an above-average bat for the foreseeable future, not to mention help guide the organization’s two prospect catchers.

Which brings us to the future. Right now the Braves organizational depth chart looks incredible. I’ve already mentioned the gains Contreras has accomplished, but then there’s also Atlanta’s former top pick from 2019, Shea Langeliers (ranked fourth on my 2021 Braves Midseason Prospect List).

Langeliers, still just 23-years-old, is on track to potentially start the 2022 season in Triple-A after he has literally demolished the Double-A level with Mississippi this year. Check out where the kid ranks within the Double-A South League in numerous key stats in 2021…

  • 74 hits (8th)
  • 19 HR (t-3rd)
  • 48 runs (t-5th)
  • 42 RBI (t-10th)
  • .268 AVG (7th)
  • 136 wRC+ (4th)
  • 24% line-drive rate (8th)
  • 47.4% fly-ball rate (5th)

Unfortunately it’s nearly impossible to find batted-ball metrics on minor leaguers, but it’s evident by just watching the kid that he’s hitting the ball much harder now into his second pro season. We thought we were just getting a defense-first catcher in Langeliers, but his hit tool is definitely more advanced than the 30-grade he received on draft day.

Oh, and just to confirm that none of his defensive skills have lacked during this offensive outburst, Langeliers has thrown out 43% of would-be base stealers so far this year. That’s well above the league average in the big leagues.

So all-in-all it’s an exciting time for the Braves regarding its trio of catchers. The seasoned presence that d’Arnaud will offer over these next couple of seasons behind the plate will no doubt aid in the development of Contreras, and in turn, eventually Langeliers as well. And even better, with the universal-DH an inevitability at this point, a need for an extra bat in the lineup will create even more options for the team, potentially opening up enough room for all three at some point. Either way, the Braves should be set at catcher… and that’s one less area GM Alex Anthopoulos needs to worry with heading into next winter.

Checking in on the Braves prospects for June: Top 10

Friday, July 9, 2021

-Clint Manry

It’s time to wrap this monthly series up, so today I’ll look at the top 10 prospects from my Summer Braves Top 30 and examine how each one performed during the month of June. Here are the links if you interested in getting caught up with the first two installments:

10. Bryce Elder, RHP ↑

AA — Mississippi

Elder’s stint so far in Double-A hasn’t been as dominant as say Spencer Strider’s (who struck out 11 on Tuesday), but following a rough first-start, the 22-year-old turned in a strong two-hitter back on Independence Day, striking out five in five innings. In fact, there really hasn’t been a whole lot of separation between Elder and Strider this season, which is a good thing considering both righties were drafted just last year. It’s so great to see these guys flourish right out of the gate, and I can’t wait to see where their numbers end up by season’s end. 

9. Jasseel De La Cruz, RHP ↓

AAA — Gwinnett

After trending as perhaps one of the next top prospect pitchers to come out of the Braves system, thanks to a 2019 campaign in which he posted a 3.25 ERA in 133 innings across Single-A, High-A and Double-A, JDLC has taken quite a step back in his first season at the Triple-A level. After a pretty decent month of May (3.65 ERA), Cruz has really struggled to get lefty-batters out and as a result his run-prevention took a massive hit in June (7.85 ERA). The 24-year-old has also been getting crushed with runners on base as seven of the 10 XBH Cruz has allowed this season have come when base runners were present. It’s all just a mess right now, and because of his ineffectiveness, Cruz hasn’t surpassed the fourth inning in a start since back on June 6, when he lasted 4.1 innings in an outing he allowed four runs in. I’ve always been a bit higher on Cruz as a potential big league starter, but he’ll have to turn this around before he receives any opportunities in the major league rotation. 

8. Braden Shewmake, SS ↑

AA — Mississippi

Just like we went on and on about how bad Shewmake was to start the 2021 season, all the buzz of late is about how great he’s been… and rightfully so. Shewmake has essentially done a complete 180 performance-wise.

First 22 games – 90 PA, .094 AVG, .309 OPS, 3 XBH, 5 BB, 25 K

*Last 23 games – 96 PA, .322 AVG, .931 OPS, 12 XBH, 6 BB, 16 K

*through Wednesday 

In practically the same amount of PA, Shewmake has raised his OPS by 622 points since the first week of June. That’s insane. I’m excited to see just how far he’ll go with this, because if he keeps it up he could be in line for a Triple-A assignment this season (which is crazy given just a month ago some of us were wondering if he needed to go to Rome and regroup). 

7. Kyle Muller, LHP ↑

AAA — Gwinnett

Muller began 2021 by allowing 13 runs in his first 15 ⅓ innings with Gwinnett, and I’ll admit… I was concerned. However, he quickly turned it around, and over his next three outings he allowed only three runs in a combined 16 innings, earning himself a call-up to the majors. That success transitioned beautifully with Atlanta, and following a relief appearance, Muller pitched well in three MLB starts, posting a 2.45 ERA as a starter, including 19 strikeouts in 14 ⅔ innings, thanks to a slider he used to generate a 47.8% whiff-rate. Unfortunately, the burly southpaw was optioned back to Gwinnett on Independence Day, so his stint in the majors is done for now. Muller is listed to start for the Stripers on Friday, and I expect him to continue his impressive run of strong pitching.

6. Michael Harris, OF ↑

A+ — Rome

As of Friday morning, Harris currently ranks within the top-five in just about every offensive category in High-A’s East League, including fourth in both AVG (.310) and hits (61). He’ll probably wind up in Double-A soon, but his performance so far has earned him not only a place among some of the hottest prospects in the system, but also a chance to play in Monday’s Futures Game at Coors Field (along with Drew Waters). This weekend is my first time seeing Harris play in-person, and I have to say, his athleticism is exactly as advertised. He’s looking like a lock to one day become an everyday contributor for the Braves. 

5. Shea Langeliers, C ↑

AA — Mississippi 

If I could give him two “up” symbols, or hell, three or four, I would. Langeliers has surpassed any kind of expectations we could’ve had following his first-round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft as he’s evolved into not only a beast at the plate but also a dangerous sniper behind it. Base runners can’t steal against Langeliers and pitchers can’t get him out. The Baylor product has thrown out 51% of would-be stealers, while sporting an .898 OPS with the bat, including a Double-A South leading 14 home runs. Go ahead and write it down… this IS the Braves next homegrown starting catcher. 

4. Tucker Davidson, LHP ↑

MLB — Atlanta (60-day IL)

I’m sure there were many in Braves Country that sort of lost some love for Davidson following his poor MLB debut versus Boston late last season, and even if that’s not necessarily the case, the lefty did a nice job to redeem himself during his four major league starts in 2021. In outings versus the Mets, Nationals and Phillies, Davidson pitched to a 1.53 ERA and struck out 14 in 17 ⅔ innings, allowing just one home run. However, in his final start, against the Red Sox on June 15, it was obvious something wasn’t right, and Tucker got roughed up to the tune of five earned runs in 2 ⅓ innings. A forearm injury during that Boston performance put him on the injured list, and in late June the Braves transferred him to the 60-day IL, meaning he’ll be out until at least mid-August. Regardless, a 0.90 ERA in 20 minor league innings, to go with a 3.60 ERA in 20 MLB frames, is enough to show that Davidson is trending in the right direction. 

3. William Contreras, C ⇔

AAA — Gwinnett

After spending over two months as the Braves primary starting catcher and playing in 44 big league games, Contreras was optioned to Gwinnett on July 7. On the one hand, it’s really difficult to critique too much of his play, given at just 23-years-old he was thrown into the fire after just 60 games of experience above the High-A level. However, on the other hand, Contreras struck out over 30% of the time with Atlanta, and though he slugged seven homers during that stint, he finished with just a .666 OPS in 158 PA. Contreras’ 36% caught-stealing rate as a major leaguer is strong, but he did make numerous mistakes in other aspects of his game on defense. We’ll see how he does in Triple-A, but right now I’m neither “up” or “down” on Contreras. 

2. Drew Waters, OF ↑

AAA — Gwinnett

Waters is still striking out roughly 30% of the time, but what’s critical is that he’s also walking at a higher clip than he ever has, at least in any of his full-seasons. So far in 2021, Waters started out hitting fairly well and even got hot for a short stretch, ending the month of May hitting .253 with seven XBH in 20 games. However, a badly-timed thumb injury in early June put him on the sidelines and zapped his momentum, and Waters scuffled once returning, going just 1 for 36 (.028 AVG) from June 20 to July 1 (10 games). But since then… the young outfielder has been on a tear. In his last seven games, Waters is hitting .357 with seven XBH, including a homer, a triple and a double during Thursday’s doubleheader. Waters will be with Michael Harris in Denver representing the Braves by playing in the Futures Game on Monday. 

1. Cristian Pache, OF ↓

AAA — Gwinnett

Although he has shown some signs of improvement over the last few days, this just hasn’t been Pache’s year so far. The 22-game stint in the majors didn’t go too well as he hit just .111 before going on the injured list with a hamstring injury, however, I felt like a stretch in Triple-A would actually benefit him. Since returning to play on June 1 with Gwinnett, Pache started hot by going 5 for 14 (.357 AVG) with three doubles at the plate during his first three games. But that was followed up with a .200 AVG for the rest of the month of June as Pache struck out at a 30% clip. So far July has been better, and during Thursday’s doubleheader Pache went 4 for 6 with a homer and three RBI — his first long ball since he hit two back on June 10. Hopefully he and Waters can get on a consistent run at the plate during the season’s final few months.