Spencer Strider added to the Braves roster

Friday, October 1, 2021

-Clint Manry

Spencer Strider has been a busy man this season. On Friday afternoon the righty was added to the Braves roster as part of several moves.

The other Braves moves included recalling lefty Dylan Lee, optioning Sean Newcomb to the minors and placing Edgar Santana on the 10-day injured list (strained intercostal muscle).

Strider, currently ranked seventh on my Braves Top 30, has had a helluva first pro season. The 22-year-old started the year all the way down in Single-A Augusta, but after dominating with the GreenJackets and High-A Rome, and pitching well with Double-A Mississippi, he was recently promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett. With the Stripers, Strider made just one appearance, working the sixth inning of a Gwinnett game earlier this week.

It seems pretty logical to go ahead and let the young righty get a taste of the majors, especially considering the upcoming series versus the Mets means absolutely nothing at this point. Just because Strider is added to the roster doesn’t mean he’ll receive any innings, but it would be cool to see the former fourth round pick make an appearance. So far this season, in 94 total innings spanning four minor league levels, Strider has posted a 3.64 ERA to go with a whopping 14.6 strikeouts per nine. This is a pretty surprising move, but one that I’m definitely excited about.

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.

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. 

MiLB preview: Spencer Strider and Luke Waddell headline another week of Braves minor league baseball

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

-Clint Manry

Down to the final day of August, it’s another week for the Braves five minor league affiliates. Hopefully the weather cooperates (as well as COVID), but below is a preview of each team’s schedule, as well as some players to keep an eye on.

Gwinnett Stripers (58-44 / 2nd place)

vs. Memphis Redbirds (STL)

The Stripers will face the Redbirds at home this week, with lefty Kyle Muller taking the mound for Game 1 on Tuesday. Since being optioned to Triple-A earlier this month, Muller has been especially good, tallying 12 scoreless innings in two outings so far. Today will be another opportunity for the 23-year-old to impress as he’s had some solid success against Memphis in 2021. In two starts so far versus the Cardinals’ Triple-A club, Muller has only allowed a pair of runs from four hits to go along with 14 strikeouts. With Ian Anderson now back in the fold and Touki Toussaint looking much better in his recent outings with Atlanta, the Braves are pretty well-stocked in the starting rotation department. However, it seems reasonable to believe that Muller will be part of the September major league roster.

Speaking of September rosters: will Johan Camargo make the cut? As we enter a new week of minor league baseball, Camargo sports the third-highest AVG (.304) in Triple-A’s East League, to go with a 135 wRC+ (ranks ninth). And those numbers haven’t just popped up of late, either, as the 27-year-old has been raking in the minors all season long. But given his 0 for 16 performance in the majors in 2021, would Atlanta consider bringing up Camargo for the final month of the major league season? I guess we’ll see.

Prospect Cristian Pache seems like a viable choice too, though the Braves outfield is pretty full at the moment (especially following all the additions at the trade deadline). Pache has hit a lot better with Gwinnett lately, but is there room for him on the big league roster? It’s likely only a handful of players will be recalled for the September playoff push, and most of those slots will be filled by pitchers. Can the Braves fit both Camargo and Pache on the roster… or will only one make the cut?

Mississippi Braves (58-39 / 1st place)

@ Biloxi (MIL)

Due to COVID-19, the M-Braves only played one game last week – a 1-0 defeat to Pensacola at Trustmark. However, this week the Double-A club will travel to Biloxi to take on the Shuckers with a scorching-hot Spencer Strider raring to go. Strider made Baseball America’s weekly Hot Sheet column for his performance last Tuesday against the Blue Wahoos, in which the prospect pitcher struck out 10 in five innings of dominant work. The 22-year-old righty took a tough loss that night, but the outing now gives him 16 punch outs over his last 10.2 frames – a two-start stretch that features a 3.37 ERA. Strider appears determined to finish strong in his first pro season.

It’s another week and another potential breakout for M-Braves catcher Shea Langeliers – leader of the team on offense and one of the seven-best hitters in the Double-A South League so far this season. His 131 wRC+ in 2021 has been much better than expected, and even more surprising has been Langeliers’ power (which has resulted in 19 home runs at this point). Can the former top pick hit no. 20 this week? Either way, this kid is on a path to become Atlanta’s next star behind the plate.

Rome Braves (46-55 / 4th place)

vs. Winston-Salem (CWS)

It’s been a bit of an up and down season for Rome, but the R-Braves are currently on a three-game win streak and will look for righty Tanner Gordon to keep the momentum going today versus Winston-Salem. Gordon has also experienced quite a roller coaster of a 2021 season, but so far during the month of August he’s been at his best, pitching to a 2.52 ERA with 10.8 strikeouts per nine in his last four outings.

The other Brave to make BA’s Hot List column for last week’s play was Rome’s Luke Waddell. The Braves selected Waddell in the fifth-round of the 2021 MLB Draft, and following a bit of a slow start, the young shortstop has taken High-A by storm. I already wrote about Waddell this week, and it’s doubtful he continues to hit this well, but I’m curious to see where his numbers end up by season’s end.

Augusta GreenJackets (42-60 / Last place)

@ Fayetteville (HOU)

The GreenJackets are one of the league’s worst teams this year in terms of record, but like every week, prospect Joey Estes is the guy everyone wants to see. Ranked 15th on my Midseason Top 30, the 19-year-old righty currently leads Single-A’s East League in essentially every pitching category, including strikeouts (126) and ERA (2.76). There are also a few 2021 draftees to pay attention to. Recently the trio of Ryan Cusick (first round), Dylan Dodd (third round) and Andrew Hoffmann (12th round) have made their pro debuts for Augusta.

Prospect infielder Vaughn Grissom has been on a tear lately and he’s had a solid month of August so far, hitting .315 with seven XBH and five stolen bases in 23 games. This year’s strides by him have been nice to see, and at this rate he’ll likely see a High-A assignment to begin 2022. Grissom’s plate discipline is incredible, and though he hasn’t yet displayed much power, his overall abilities as a middle-infielder make him a potential top-10 prospect in the Braves system in the near future. Cal Conley is another 2021 draftee that has impressed. The former fourth-round pick is hitting a solid .247 in his first 18 pro games so far, and I’ve seen him put together some really good at-bats in the few games I’ve watched.

FCL Braves (22-20)

Tue – in progress vs. Pirates Gold

Wed – OFF

Thu – @ Pirates Gold

Fri – vs. Rays

Sat – @ Rays

Sun – OFF

Outfielder Brandol Mezquita (now ranked 29th on my Midseason Top 30) has been one of the ten-best hitters in the FCL so far this season, currently sporting a 132 wRC+ (ninth) in 32 games with the Braves. His .312 AVG ranks third among all batters, and it appears – at just 19-years-old – that he’s every bit of what we thought he’d be when Atlanta signed him several years ago. The kid is raw at the plate, but he’s a line drive machine. I can’t wait to see him in full-season ball next season.

The Braves rookie club is pretty thin when it comes to pitchers but there are a few arms too keep an eye on. Atlanta’s seventh-round pick this year, 18-year-old righty AJ Smith-Shawver, just made his pro debut on Monday for the FCL team, striking out five batters in just two innings of work. He’ll likely get a 3-4 inning start at some point this week. Then there’s also 20-year-old Darling Florentino, who has maintained a 4.19 ERA in nine games this season. Florentino isn’t really a potential prospect, but he’s been around in the Braves system for a while. He’s also a former third baseman who this year has transitioned into a pitcher, so it’ll be interesting to see what he does on the mound from here on out.

Braves snubbed versus Yanks while Ian Anderson and Spencer Strider rack up strikeouts

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

-Clint Manry

I’m not even going to dive into the Braves 5-4 loss from last night, but once again Atlanta was the victim of some atrocious work by the umpires. Luckily, though, the division standings remain exactly the same for the three contenders on Wednesday as both the Phillies and Mets also lost, keeping the Braves’ NL East lead at 4.5 games.

I’ve been swamped with work AND I’m currently in Little Rock so my spare time for writing has been severely reduced. So as a result today’s report is pretty bare…

(68-58) ATLANTA BRAVES

L, 5-4 vs. Yankees

SP, C. Morton – (L), 5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 9 K, 2 HR

3B, A. Riley – 3 for 3, RBI, R

2B, O. Albies – 2 for 5, R

SS, D. Swanson – 1 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI

(56-41) GWINNETT STRIPERS

W, 3-1 vs. Nashville

SP, I. Anderson – 5 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 9 K

RP, D. Lee – (W), IP, H, K

RP, J. Webb – (S), IP, H, 3 K

CF, E. Rosario – 3 for 4, HR, 2 RBI

2B, J. Kipnis – 2 for 3, 2B

C, J. Morales – 1 for 3, 2B

Pache + Waters – 0 for 8, 3 K

(58-39) MISSISSIPPI BRAVES

L, 1-0 vs. Pensacola

SP, S. Strider – (L), 5 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 10 K, HR

RP, C. Clouse – 2 IP, 5 K

LF, J. Ramos – 1 for 3, 2B

RF, T. Harris – 1 for 3

(43-53) ROME BRAVES

W, 5-4 vs. Bowling Green

SP, J. McSteen – 4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, BB, 7 K

RP, M. Crouse – 1.1 IP, 2 H, ER, BB, 4 K

RP, J. Yeager – (W), 2 IP, H, BB, 3 K

SS, L. Waddell – 2 for 4, 2 HR, 2 RBI

CF, M. Harris – 3 for 4, HR, RBI

RF, D. Campbell – 2 for 4, 2B

C, R. Estrada – 2 for 3, HR, 2 RBI, BB

*Luke Waddell (5th round pick this year) hit go-ahead HR in the ninth

(41-56) AUGUSTA GREENJACKETS

W, 6-3 vs. Charleston

SP, R. Rodriguez – 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

3B, J-H. Malloy – 2 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI

2B, C. Conley – 3 for 5, 3B, 2 R

SS, V. Grissom – 2 for 3, 2 RBI, BB

RF, C. Robinson – 1 for 4, R

Tied at three apiece after six innings, Augusta scored three runs combined in the seventh and eighth to pull away with win.

(19-19) FCL BRAVES

L, 3-1 vs. FCL Red Sox

SP, R. Corona – (L), 4 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, HR

RF, B. Mezquita – 2 for 4, RBI, SB

1B, M. Backstrom – 1 for 3, BB

SS, C. Durbin – 1 for 3, SB

Spencer Strider named Braves surging prospect by MLB.com

Friday, August 13, 2021

-Clint Manry

For those that follow the Braves many prospects and minor league system, this time of the year can be a bit overwhelming. Midseason rankings have just been completed, and following the MLB Draft, a whole entire class of new players has recently joined the organization. Although sometimes you just have to keep things simple. Evaluating young players isn’t rocket science, and it’s obvious to anyone who has had the opportunity to see him, but righty Spencer Strider is one helluva prospect.

Ranked seventh on my Midseason Braves Top 30 (up a whopping 11 spots since my June list), Strider is on a run like no other in his first full-season as a pro. And on Thursday, MLB.com recognized 2020’s fourth-round pick by naming him the Braves surging prospect.

Across Augusta, Rome AND Mississippi this season, Strider has pitched to a 3.89 ERA in 69.1 innings, all while sporting a ridiculous average of 14.8 strikeouts per nine and 4 walks per nine. Each stop he’s made; the punch outs just continue. And so far in August he’s looking even stronger, now up to 16 strikeouts in 11.1 innings this month, to go along with just four earned runs (good for a 3.18 ERA).

Whether it’s a righty-batter or a lefty, Strider has been tough to hit in 2021. And even better, the 22-year-old pitcher becomes stingier when the situation becomes more critical. According to Baseball Reference, Strider’s overall OPS allowed this year goes from .602 in normal situations down to .526 in situations featuring runners on base. That ability to stay cool during stressful moments of the game is huge for a guy in just his first professional season still simply trying to get a feel for his stuff.

Strider just made his 16th start of the season on Thursday night (a game the M-Braves won via walk-off), getting hit around a bit against Biloxi to the tune of four earned runs (one HR) from four hits in five innings. By Game Score, it was one of his fourth-worst outings of the 2021 campaign. There’s no doubt that the Double-A level has been a bit more of a challenge for Strider, as it should be. But so far he’s handled it nicely and should continue to be a top-tier prospect in the Braves system.

Just how great has the Braves 2020 draftees performed this season?

Thursday, July 8, 2021

-Clint Manry

Unfortunately last season was shortened in many different ways. Not only was the MLB regular season condensed to just 60 games, but the 2020 MLB Draft was slashed to only five rounds, as opposed to the usual 40. And though the Braves most likely missed out on some valuable talent because of such a shortened draft (they also didn’t have a pick in the second round), the returns so far have to be pretty satisfying. Just over two months into the 2021 season, literally all four of Atlanta’s 2020 draftees are currently flourishing as professionals. 

Jared Shuster
Jared Shuster, LHP

RD 1 — Pick 25

Although Shuster was a big riser on draft boards coming out of Wake Forest, it was a bit surprising when the Braves picked the lefty 25th overall. Entering draft day, MLB Pipeline ranked Shuster as the no. 77 prospect in his class, and according to many experts, he wasn’t expected to be taken any earlier than the second round. But with hopes of signing Shuster to an under-slot deal (which they did by roughly $540K), the Braves felt they had a top-tier lefty-pitcher.

So far the pick has looked great. The 22-year-old Shuster enters Wednesday with a 3.38 ERA in his first 24 innings with High-A Rome, and his ability to rack up strikeouts from his days in college seem to have transitioned to the minor leagues nicely as his K rate sits at an above-average 11.6 K/9. Even more, opposing left-handed batters can hardly touch Shuster right now, having gone just 2 for 24 (.083 AVG) against him so far, and in his most-recent start, Shuster didn’t allow a single hit in five innings of work. 

I have Shuster ranked 12th on my Braves Top 30, but if he keeps this up, especially once he’s pitching in Double-A (if the Braves push him)… he’ll definitely be higher by season’s end. 

Jesse Franklin V
Jesse Franklin V, OF

RD 3 — Pick 97

Power, speed and athleticism were the main attributes regarding Franklin on draft day, with both his hit tool and arm strength as two possible weaknesses. Also, coming out of the University of Michigan, Franklin had recently broken his collarbone in a skiing accident, so there wasn’t any data to go off of from the 2020 season. However, the Braves felt good about his career numbers at Michigan (.287 AVG) as well as his small sample from summer ball in 2019 (.282 AVG), so Franklin was the pick in the third round. 

The early indications seemed to point to his pre-draft scouting report as Franklin mostly scuffled during his first month of the 2021 season with Rome. Primarily struggling versus lefties, the 22-year-old hit just .200 with no homers in May. But ever since the calendar turned to June, it’s as if a switch turned and everything has fallen into place. Since June 1 until this past Tuesday (a span of 27 games), Franklin has slashed .344/.415/.806 with 11 home runs, eight doubles and six stolen bases; plus, his struggles against southpaws seem to have disappeared, shown by an .896 OPS (two points higher than against righties). 

I think most of us underestimated Franklin’s ability to make contact, and another couple of months of this will definitely put him higher than where I originally ranked him, at no. 18.

Spencer Strider
Spencer Strider, RHP

RD 4 — Pick 126

Signed at just over $450,000 in last year’s draft, it’s perhaps Strider who’ll go down as the best 2020 selection by the Braves, despite him logging only 63 career innings at college player at Clemson. It may surprise you given how dominant he’s been in 2021, but Strider wasn’t even projected to be drafted last year as he was a candidate to return to school because of the small amount of innings mentioned above. At the time of Strider’s pick, many looked at him as a two-pitch pitcher (fastball/slider) that could potentially become a multi-inning weapon, though it was evident since the Braves took him so high that they hoped he could start.

Well Atlanta was certainly right. Strider hasn’t been able to stay in one spot this season, for the organization is worried he’ll get bored. The 22-year-old’s first assignment was Single-A Augusta but that only lasted three starts after Strider struck out 32 batters in his first 15.1 innings (18.8 K/9). Essentially the same thing happened in Rome, where he struck out 24 in 14.2 innings (14.7 K/9). Strider made his first Double-A start back on June 24, and though for him he maybe struggled, the kid still only allowed two runs from three hits and struck out eight in 4.2 innings. This past Tuesday was outing no. 3 with the M-Braves and Strider punched out 11 in 5.1 innings, giving him 24 strikeouts in 13.2 frames overall with Mississippi (15.8 K/9).

Just like the others listed here, perhaps we didn’t truly appreciate how talented Strider was coming into the season (I have him ranked 18th in my Top 30).

Bryce Elder
Bryce Elder, RHP

RD 5 — Pick 156

Elder was who the Braves wanted all along, and in fact, he’s the reason the organization gave under-slot deals to both first-rounder Jared Shuster and third-round pick Jesse Franklin. The Braves may have gotten Elder in the fifth round of the 2020 draft, but this kid was ranked as a top-40 pitcher in his class by many. In the end, Elder signed with the Braves for $850,000, or nearly $500K more than what was assigned to that particular slot. Coming out of the University of Texas with pretty strong numbers, especially coming from such a prestigious school, at the time I felt like this was the Braves best potential-starter from last year’s draft.

So far in 2021, Elder easily falls right in line with his draft-mates as he too has performed about as well as you could ask. The 22-year-old righty began his pro career with Rome, and following his season-opener (which included five earned runs in 4.2 innings), Elder settled down to become one of the better pitchers in the league. If you exclude that aforementioned first outing, the rest of Elder’s time in High-A featured a 1.79 ERA, 49 strikeouts and 16 walks in 40.1 innings (8 starts).

Elder has been with the M-Braves since June 29, where again, he was sort of roughed up a bit in his debut outing. However, start no. 2 came on Independence Day, and despite just five strikeouts (a low total for him), Elder tossed a two-hitter in five innings, allowing one run and two walks as he certainly looked much better on the mound. Elder might not be dominating like Strider is, but it’s truly amazing that either one of these guys is already at the Double-A level. Across both Rome and Mississippi, Elder currently sports a 3.00 ERA in 54 innings this season.

Because of Elder’s better track record as a college player, I admittedly was a little higher on him, which is why I have him tenth on my Top 30 (the highest of any 2020 draftee). Right now I would probably swap Elder with Strider (no. 19), but we’ll see where both pitchers are at later on in the year. Both are incredible talents.

Spencer Strider racks up strikeouts in M-Braves win, while both Rome and Augusta also feature strong pitching

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

-Clint Manry

As the big league team tries to avoid a sweep at the hands of one of the worst clubs in the sport, the action down on the farm continues to excite on a nightly basis. Tuesday had it all, including a absolute dominant performance by one of the system’s newest prospect pitchers, who, in his second outing at the Double-A level, compiled 11 strikeouts. Here’s a recap of last night’s games…

(23-31) Gwinnett Stripers
L, 8-0 vs. Nashville
  • SP, N. Kingham – (L), 4 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, HR
  • C, A. Jackson – 2 for 4
  • LF, J. Lucroy – 2 for 4

Gwinnett dropped its series opener on Tuesday versus Nashville, pushing its losing streak to five in a row. Righty starter Nolan Kingham just didn’t really have it in his second Triple-A outing and the Stripers were abused by Sounds’ second baseman Jamie Westbrook, who went deep twice in the game. Last night’s shutout was the fourth time this season Gwinnett has been blanked, and now seven days into the month, the Stripers still have yet to pick up its first win in July.

It really is unfortunate for the 24-year-old Kingham, who now has back-to-back poor starts with Gwinnett:

  • Start #1 – 3.1 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR
  • Start #2 – 4 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, HR
  • Total – 7.1 IP, 12 H, 10 ER, 6 BB, 6 K, 3 HR

I didn’t get to catch his outing, but at least from the play log it appears that Kingham had a decent first- and second-innings as he worked around a walk and a hit-by-pitch. However, everything seemed to have unraveled in the third. Hopefully he can get it going soon with Gwinnett, because he was tough as nails with the M-Braves this season.

Both Alex Jackson and Drew Waters doubled in this one… and that essentially wraps up the Stripers’ offense for the day, for those were the only XBH. As a team, Gwinnett tallied seven hits but finished 0 for 3 with RISP as Nashville lefty Ethan Small worked six scoreless innings. Former Brave, righty Patrick Weigel, appeared for the Sounds and worked a perfect seventh inning, so that was pretty cool. What else is pretty cool is that Waters is 7 for 16 (.438 AVG) in his last four games, including four XBH. This might be a hot month for the 22-year-old outfielder, and with Orlando Arcia now contributing in Atlanta, the Stripers need someone to step it up.

The trio of Ty Tice, Thomas Burrows and Conner Johnstone relieved Kingham and each allowed runs in their five combined innings. Johnstone, who’s usually used as the team’s opener on bullpen days, surrendered homer no. 2 from Westbrook (mentioned above), which didn’t really matter as Gwinnett was already down 6-0 at the time.

(33-22) Mississippi Braves
W, 8-1 vs. Pensacola
  • SP, S. Strider – (W), 5.1 IP, 3 H, ER, 3 BB, 11 K
  • 2B, J. Miller – 2 for 4, HR, 3 RBI
  • 1B, G. Jenista – 2 for 3, HR, RBI, BB

At least a couple of times a week, the M-Braves will put together a game such as Tuesday’s in which the team dominates in essentially every aspect: hitting, pitching, defense… you name it. With the win over Pensacola last night, Mississippi and the Blue Wahoos are currently tied for first-place in Double-A’s South division, as well as the lead in overall wins in the eight-team South League.

There’s so much to discuss in this one but I’ll stick to the notables here. First of all, of course, is the pitching performance of 22-year-old righty Spencer Strider, who last night struck out 11 in 5.1 innings. In just his second Double-A start of the year, Strider mowed down the Blue Wahoos by tallying multiple punch outs in four of his frames on Tuesday, including a first- and second-inning in which he struck out five of the six batters he faced. Now this isn’t no push-me-over Pensacola lineup either. In fact, five of the nine starters in the Blue Wahoos’ batting lineup last night were ranked Marlins prospects, according to FanGraphs. Those five were headlined by right fielder and no. 3 hitter JJ Bleday, who’s currently Miami’s fifth-ranked prospect and no. 73 in all of baseball. The fact that Strider dominated this offense… is quite the accomplishment.

The clip directly above is most likely the offensive play of the game… and it came from a player that needed a hit like this desperately. Entering the seventh, the M-Braves were up just 2-1, but by the time the frame ended they were leading 4-1 as both Jalen Miller and Greyson Jenista slugged home runs. Although Jenista’s long ball was more than just a homer, because the 6-foot-4, 210-pound lefty managed to clear the center-field batter’s eye with his blast, an accomplishment very few have ever managed to achieve at Trustmark. Last night’s dinger was Jenista’s seventh of the season, which isn’t too bad, though his two hits last night was just his fifth multi-hit performance of the year as he’s currently at a .195/.323/.406 slash-line.

Tuesday’s M-Braves win also featured another hit for prospect shortstop Braden Shewmake, which, shown by the tweet above, gives him ten consecutive games with a knock. I would love to see Shewmake’s batted-ball data over the last month or so and compare it to his work from May. But anyways, here’s the former first-rounder’s stats during his hitting streak…

41 PA, .400 AVG, 1.090 OPS, 7 XBH, 10 RBI

Drew Lugbauer, who deserves an article of his own by now for his breakout 2021 season, had a pair of hits, and so did lead-off hitter Justin Dean. The M-Braves compiled 11 hits altogether. And here’s a fun fact, provided by MiLB.com’s Chris Harris, Mississippi’s offense has now scored in the first inning in five-straight games after last night.

Oh, and don’t forget about the M-Braves bullpen, who should also be applauded for its dominance on Tuesday. Relievers Chris Nunn, Matt Withrow and Kurt Hoekstra combined for six strikeouts in 3.2 scoreless innings to finish the game. Both Withrow and Hoekstra still sport sub-3.00 ERAs this season.

(30-23) Rome Braves
W, 5-2 vs. Bowling Green
  • SP, A. Rangel – (W), 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 7 K, HR
  • 1B, B. Ball – 1 for 4, HR, RBI
  • DH, R. Delgado – 2 for 4, 2 RBI, R, SB

Led by starter Alan Rangel, who worked a solid six-inning outing for his second-straight win, Rome picked up another game on the division leader last night… who just so happens to be its opponent this week, Bowling Green.

The R-Braves offense got started on Tuesday when slugger Bryce Ball took a 2-0 pitch deep and over the left-center field wall in the fourth. The homer was just Ball’s sixth of the season and only his second hit in his last three games at that point. Hopefully this will get his bat going as he’s down to a .199 AVG in 2021. Ball is still striking out nearly 30% of the time this year.

Last night’s offensive MVP, DH Riley Delgado, provided Rome with another run in the fifth as he knocked in Shean Michel with a single. Delgado, in his third stint at the High-A level, is having a decent 2021, hitting .242 with four XBH in 38 games so far. The former ninth-round pick currently has nearly just as many walks as strikeouts (18 BB / 20 K).

Following that Delgado RBI in the fifth, prospect Michael Harris extended Rome’s lead with an RBI groundout. And then the R-Braves ran away with the game in the seventh by tacking on two more runs, thanks to another RBI by Delgado and a sac-fly by Kevin Josephina. 

Relievers Trey Riley and Kasey Kalich worked the final three frames of the game in scoreless fashion, allowing just one hit and striking out five batters combined. Kalich converted the three-out save for his fifth of 2021.

(25-29) Augusta GreenJackets
W, 3-1 vs. Myrtle Beach
  • SP, T. Gordon – (W), 7 IP, 3 H, ER, 6 K
  • RF, W. Carter – 2 for 3, HR, 2 RBI
  • CF, S. Paolini – 1 for 3, HR, RBI

Augusta continued its 12-game homestand at the beautiful PRC Park, and starter Tanner Gordon provided yet another gem on the mound to help lead the GreenJackets to a win. Gordon pitched around three singles in the first three innings combined, but then set down 12-straight to end his outing, including back-to-back-to-back strikeouts in the seventh. The impressive start gives the former sixth-round pick a 2.39 ERA for the season as he’s been nearly unhittable over his last three outings.

As usual during this 2021 campaign, it was outfielder Willie Carter who got the Augusta offense going last night as he belted his fifth home run of the season. The 24-year-old Carter, taken all the way back in the 34th round in 2019, has undoubtedly been the GreenJackets leader and his consistency at the plate is incredible. Carter is off to a bit of a slow start in July, but through the season’s first two months, you couldn’t ask for better play as he hit .329 in May and .310 in June.

Three batters after Carter’s second-inning blast, center fielder Stephen Paolini gave Augusta a 2-0 lead when he launched his second homer of the season. Paolini, a fifth-round selection in 2019, has had a down year in 2021, currently slashing just .164/.262/.251 in 52 games, but he’s coming around lately as he now has three hits in his last 12 at-bats. The lefty-hitter’s struggles have came primarily against right-handed pitchers this season, for Paolini is hitting .255 versus southpaws but just .121 against same-handed hurlers.

Miguel Pena followed Gordon on the mound and worked the final two frames. Pena allowed just one hit and needed only 24 pitches to get the final six outs to preserve the win. This homestand has been great for Augusta’s pitchers, who, according to MiLB.com, has posted a 2.27 ERA in its seven games at PRC Park. Also… second baseman Braulio Vasquez tallied his 28th stolen base for the GreenJackets last night, the second-most in the league.

(2-2) FCL Braves
PPD vs. Pirates Gold

As usually is the case when you attempt to play baseball in the middle of the day… in Florida, the FCL Braves game on Tuesday was postponed. I really don’t understand why these Florida Coast games have 10 AM and noon start times, given it rains basically everyday in the Sunshine State.

Spencer Strider not phased by Double-A batters; strikes out eight in debut

Friday, June 25, 2021

-Clint Manry

Because I’m actually traveling to Pearl, Miss. today to watch Friday and Saturday night’s M-Braves games, I didn’t have time to do a system-wide farm report this morning. But I can at least share last night’s impressive performance by righty Spencer Strider. 

If you recall, the 22-year-old Strider was just recently promoted from High-A Rome to Double-A Mississippi, and on Thursday he made his first start. 

Strider began by shutting down the Tennessee lineup in order in the opening frame, striking out the first two batters with six pitches. He worked around a single, a wild pitch and a sac-fly in the 2nd, but bounced back with his third punch out to maintain the damage to just one run. Then the 3rd and 4th featured three more strikeouts, with a lead-off walk in the latter frame. Strider worked on into the 5th, but three consecutive Smokies batters reached base to begin the inning, capped off by an RBI single. He struck out the fourth and fifth batters of the frame, but was then removed with two outs.

Strider’s line – 4 ⅔ IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K

The former fourth round pick by the Braves tallied 81 pitches in the outing, throwing 58 strikes, and four of his five batted-ball outs were flyouts.

Prospect guru David Lee liked what he saw… so I think it’s safe to say Strider will be just fine in Double-A.

The two runs allowed by Strider was solid, and fortunately the M-Braves bats sort of came back alive last night to give him some run support. Ninth-place hitter Wilmer Rijo slugged a pair of homers, while catcher Shea Langeliers continued his incredible 2021 season by belting his 11th long ball of the year and adding three RBI. Trey Harris and Braden Shewmake added two hits apiece as well. 

The Mississippi bullpen did well too as Kurt Hoekstra, Brooks Wilson and Brandon White combined for just two hits allowed in 3 ⅓ scoreless innings to end the game, to go with six strikeouts. 

I plan to write some extra content on the M-Braves this weekend since I’ll be there in person for their next two games. 

Spencer Strider makes Baseball America’s hottest prospects list; set to earn Double-A promotion

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

-Clint Manry

Anytime you’re part of a list that features the likes of super-prospect Wander Franco… you’re doing something right. On Monday, pitcher Spencer Strider was not only included on such a list, but he finished higher as Baseball America ranked the right-hander as the fifth-hottest prospect from the past week. Franco came in at no. 18 (though I’m sure he doesn’t mind his spot on the list given he’s set to make his much-anticipated MLB debut with the Rays this week).

If you recall, Strider was one of three pitchers the Braves drafted last year, with his call coming in the fourth round at pick no. 126 overall. And the 22-year-old Clemson product has enjoyed about as great of a pro debut as a player could ask for as he continues to absolutely dominate opposing batters.

Strider’s first assignment was with Single-A Augusta, but just four starts in it was clear he wasn’t being challenged. The 6-foot, 195-pound righty tallied 32 strikeouts in just his first 15 ⅓ innings during that four-outing span, a K rate of 18.8 strikeouts per nine, to go with a ridiculous 0.59 ERA. By the time the calander flipped to June, a promotion to High-A Rome was initiated. 

Moving up a level in the minors is usually met with some adversity, but for Strider… such a thing has yet to come. In his first 14 ⅔ innings with the R-Braves, opposing batters have managed just a .170 AVG; and once again Strider is racking up the punch outs, recording a career-high 12 strikeouts in his most-recent outing last Friday versus one of the better teams in the league, the Bowling Green Hot Rods. His ERA sits at 2.45 in High-A.

Now there’s talk that Strider is once again up for promotion, as Talking Chop‘s Eric Cole reported on Monday (in the tweet above). As Cole states, moving up two levels is quite the feat for a first-year player, especially considering it’s still June. Hell, at this point, the Braves are just simply trying to find Strider a worthy adversary.

The increased excitement regarding Strider comes on the same day that prospect Kyle Muller put together a respectable first-career-start for Atlanta, an outing in which the big lefty allowed just a single hit in four innings against New York (Mets) on Monday, featuring not only an efficient attack of the zone but also plenty of swing-and-miss with his slider. While Strider obviously still has a ways to go before he starts receiving big league looks like Muller, yesterday was still a nice representation of what this Braves system still has to offer pitching-wise. Indeed, from top to bottom there’s a ton of talent in this organization.

It will be interesting to see how Strider reacts to the upgrade in competition this week when he makes his first start for Mississippi, possibly on Thursday. For hitters and pitchers alike, it always seems as if the transition to the Double-A level is always the hardest. Although if Strider’s performance so far this season is any indication, I don’t believe there will be much of a learning curve for him. Mark your calendar for Thursday, folks.