Braves Minor League Report: Drew Waters and Bryce Elder Explode (and Game Thread)

Future Watch: <a class=David Lee, Clint shares a passion for the minor leagues and does a great job staying on top of all things Braves MILB related. Welcome, Clint, and thanks for letting us cross-post some of your work.

The 4th of July was a great day for Braves baseball as not only did the big league team win an impressive comeback versus the Marlins, but all four full-season affiliates also played during the holiday. Here’s a recap of all the action from Sunday…

(23-30) Gwinnett Stripers

L, 5-4 vs. Durham

For the second-straight night the Stripers lost in walk-off fashion, now giving them four consecutive losses to end the week. Against Gwinnett reliever Yoan López in the ninth inning, Durham led off with a double, intentional walk and then slapped an RBI single to win it. Durham Bulls Athletic Park was absolutely rocking with 10,360 fans in attendance last night. I thought this was a nice point of view for a walk-off clip (even if it’s not our team)…

There wasn’t much to celebrate regarding the Stripers. Prospect Drew Waters tallied three knocks and stole a couple of bags, while Ryan Goins went deep in the first with just his second home run of the season.

Johan Camargo also had a strong game at the plate, finishing 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run. Johan has enjoyed essentially every minute of his time in Triple-A. Despite his current 0 for 15 showing in the majors this season, the 27-year-old has hit .309 overall in the minors, including a current seven-game hitting streak in which he’s hitting .321 with a .902 OPS. Maybe one day it will all click for Camargo in The Show.

Waters will also end his week on a strong note, going 6 for his last 12 (.500 AVG) over the last three games. The 22-year-old prospect is at a double-digit walk-rate right now (10.9%), so there’s no complaints with his patience. However, Waters is also striking out at a 33.2% clip, and that could go down quite a bit. The thumb injury that knocked him out in mid-June just came at a horrible time as I feel like he was on the verge of really breaking out. Since Waters returned from that ailment, he’s slashing just .146/.268/.250 and has struck out 41% of the time.

Righty Jasseel De La Cruz started Sunday’s series finale, and for the second-straight time he threw less than 50 pitches in his outing as he got the hook even before completing the first inning. I haven’t been able to watch Cruz a whole lot this season, but his performance has taken a dramatic turn for the worse now that he’s a regular in Triple-A, which is really where he should be at age-24. Of his nine starts for Gwinnett in 2021, Cruz has made it to the fifth inning only twice, and last night’s short outing gives him an average of less than three innings per start over his last five games. That’s just not going to work. Regardless, Cruz heads into his next start with a 7.18 ERA in 31.1 innings for the season.

(32-22) Mississippi Braves

W, 6-2 vs. Montgomery

The M-Braves were also on the road for Independence Day, but their travels didn’t slow them down as they outhit the Biscuits 9-5 and tallied six XBH in the win, snapping a small two-game losing streak to conclude the week.

Sunday was righty Bryce Elder‘s second start in Double-A, and boy did he look sharp in his five-inning outing. The 22-year-old didn’t allow his first hit until the fifth, and for much of the start the Montgomery batters couldn’t time his fastball as he racked up five strikeouts overall. Elder’s command wasn’t spot-on, especially with his breaking ball, but a lot of times it didn’t seem to matter.

In fact, basically all the M-Braves pitching was solid yesterday. Following Elder, Mississippi sent a quartet of relievers to follow, featuring Brooks Wilson, Brandon White, Troy Bacon and Daysbel Hernández. White made one mistake by allowing a monster home run but other than that the bullpen was stingy, allowing just one run from three hits in four innings of work, to go with five strikeouts.

The M-Braves offense got started yesterday with a first-inning homer by Wendell Rijo, who is scorching hot so far this month and has been hitting well really since mid-June. The longball gives him seven for the 2021 season, and the 25-year-old has drastically improved his numbers from where they were back in May. Check out his monthly splits…

  • May –66 PA, .230 AVG, .583 OPS
  • June –84 PA, .217 AVG, .801 OPS
  • July –19 PA, .467 AVG, 1.512

Prospect Braden Shewmake just continues to completely turn his 2021 season around as he has now hit safely in nine-straight games and is slashing .389/.405/.694 with seven XBH in that span. And it’s not just the last nine games, either, for the first-round draft pick has been heating up dating back to the first part of June. Shewmake’s sitting at a .205 AVG entering Monday’s off day, so he’s still got a way to go to get his numbers where they need to be. However, looking at his last 7 day- and 14 day-splits, you can tell this kid is determined to end the year strong. Seemingly every batted-ball from him is barreled.

(29-23) Rome Braves

W, 9-4 vs. Wilmington

Rome had an unusual 1:05 PM first pitch on Sunday versus Wilmington for the series finale, winning easily with 16 hits as a team. The R-Braves have now won 9 of its last 12 and this week they outscored the Blue Rocks 26-14 in the final four games of the series, of which they won all but one.

I’ve been excited about this kid since Day 1, but again… outfielder Jesse Franklin put on a show yesterday. The 22-year-old homered for the third time in his last four games, and with a 3 for 5 finish on Independence Day, Franklin is now 7 for 15 (.466 AVG) so far in July. You may say… so… okay… it’s only been a few days, right? However, this comes after the 2020 draft pick also slashed .338/.412/.757 with 14 XBH (8 HR) in 22 games last month, a huge improvement compared to the dreadful May he had in which he hit just .200 and walked at only a 2.5% clip. Franklin has turned into a machine at the plate, which, with star prospect Michael Harris also in the mix, makes this Rome offense even more dangerous,

Speaking of Harris, it appears he had the day off yesterday. At least I desperately hope it’s just an off day, because I’ve already booked my trip to see him in Rome beginning this coming Thursday.

Starter Freddy Tarnok was mostly fine, save for the three home runs he allowed. Tarnok faced the minimum in the first, and was sharp in the second, following a lead-off long ball. The righty made quick work of Wilmington in the third, but the fourth inning is where the Blue Rocks actually did some damage by putting runners on, and after Tarnok walked a batter, he allowed his second homer of the game and his third earned run. He was nearly perfect in the fifth and final frame, except again… a solo-homer bit him. The 22-year-old Tarnok will enter his fourth start of the year next week carrying a 4.74 ERA in 19 innings, to go with 32 strikeouts and eight walks.

Relievers Zach Daniels and the Indigo Diaz pitched the final four innings of Sunday’s win, all in hitless fashion. The save yesterday gives Diaz five for the season, and the dominant righty hasn’t allowed a run in six relief appearances now, a scoreless stretch of 6.2 straight innings. The 22-year-old sports a 0.82 ERA in 22 total innings in 2021, while carrying a ridiculous K rate of 19.2 strikeouts per nine.

(24-29) Augusta GreenJackets

W, 3-1 vs. Columbia

This one was all lefty Jake McSteen as he held Columbia to just five hits in his six-inning start. In fact, McSteen has been a force ever since being moved back down from Single-A Rome. In his four starts with the GreenJackets so far, he’s 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA to go along with 22 strikeouts in 22.2 innings.

There wasn’t much offense from Augusta last night as they only tallied four hits as a team, compared to Columbia’s eight. Fortunately, the Fireflies were only 1 for 11 with RISP, so their failure to take advantage of numerous opportunities allowed the GreenJackets to come away with the win.

The home run by first baseman Landon Stephens in the third gives him five long balls this year as he’s having a strong season at the plate. Stephens is looking more like a platoon-bat given how his contact goes way down when facing right-handed pitchers. However, he has been one of the better hitters in this Augusta lineup so far. It appears shortstop/third baseman Vaughn Grissom is still inactive and on the 7-day IL. Hopefully the GreenJackets will get him back soon.

Augusta took four of six from Columbia in its series. As the only Braves affiliate to host a game on Independence Day, there were 5,306 fans in attendance at SRP Park on Sunday night.

(1-2) FCL Braves

Friday, July 2: L, 7-6 vs. Rays
Saturday, July 3: L, 11-4 vs. Rays

I’ve sort of fell a bit behind on the FCL Braves season as they don’t play everyday… and when they do it’s slap dab in the middle of the day. But the Braves have played two games since we last looked at them, both against the FCL Rays on both Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, Jorge Bautista got the start for the Braves but only faced nine batters (1.1 innings) before getting pulled. The Rays offense scored six unanswered runs and led 6-0 after five, but the Braves made a nice comeback. Although despite scoring two runs in the final frame, the Braves fell just short and lost by one. Outfielders Kadon Morton and Brandol Mezquita led the Braves offense as both combined to finish 3 for 7 on Friday, with the former tallying a pair of RBI to go with two stolen bases, and the latter hitting a double.

Saturday’s loss was a little less dramatic as the Rays scored three runs against Braves starter Reibyn Corona, and then another five runs in the fifth inning off reliever Cesari Moreno. The Braves tried to hang around, putting up a pair of runs in the second thanks to Mason Berne‘s two-run home run, but four earned runs from the Braves bullpen just didn’t give the offense much of a chance. Braves catcher Antonio Barranca was the only other batter in the lineup, besides Berne, that notched an XBH in Saturday’s loss. DH Mahki Backstrom finished the game 1 for 4 with a run scored.

The FCL team was off on July 4 but will be back in action today with two games against the Orioles (Black) team.

Braves News and Lineup

Last night, Orlando Arcia batted 7th, went 2-4 with a walk. Of note, he also didn’t strike out, which, warning…SSS, is consistent with what he was doing in Gwinnett. There was also this, which was also consistent with his time at Gwinnett:

Last night’s hero takes the mound tonight. To channel my inner Chip Caray, “How many times have ya seen it? A pitcher pinch hits in the bottom of the 9th, collects the walk-off RBI, and starts the next game?” .500 again? Maybe. Just maybe.

43 thoughts on “Braves Minor League Report: Drew Waters and Bryce Elder Explode (and Game Thread)”

  1. Clint, hello! Thanks so much for the MiLB update. Love it. We have some really interesting guys down there.

  2. Excellent write up Clint. Welcome to the blog. One of my biggest takeaways is that we have to be looking to trade Camargo in one of our deals. I still think the guy can play somewhere but Snitker can’t stand him. If Snit stays on as manager Camatgo will never got a decent shot. He’s got a little value in a trade. I can’t say the same for Inciarte.

  3. Do we really have to channel Chip? LOL, welcome Clint and thanks for the great writeup.

  4. There are a lot more games in which a pinch-hitting pitcher (defined as someone who pitched in more than 10 games in the season to eliminate the Francoeurs and the like) got a walkoff hit: 44 in fact, listed here:

    But this is the first time anyone did so in Braves franchise history (with the usual proviso that the Retrosheet event database is spotty before 1920) [though Zane Smith did it with Montreal]

  5. Haha Clint comes out swinging with a dig on Chip. You’ll fit in real well around here.

    Good to see Waters’ stick recovering. He had an abysmal June (.188/.307/.219), but he’s 6-16 with a homer in the 4 games in July. Hopefully that continues.

    I was not aware that Camargo specifically had gotten in Snit’s doghouse. Was that confirmed? I just thought he wasn’t in Atlanta because, well, he’s not been very good at playing baseball. But if he does rub Snit wrongly, it would make sense why I’ve always felt like something was a little off with Camargo’s approach to the game. I’ve long wondered why Camargo could never increase the foot speed required to become Marwin Gonzalez. To think that he had the upside of Gonzalez, was very close to it, and then could have completely faceplanted due to a lack of effort or arrogance is something to behold. Would have to think that’s the only why you can dry the ire of a manager like Snit.

  6. Going back to the conversation about pinch-running for Pablo from the last thread, if they had pinch-run with a pitcher, it would almost certainly have been Max Fried who did it, as he’s done it multiple times before. That would’ve left Ender on your bench, meaning it would’ve been Ender with the two-out AB in the 10th instead of Fried, which is honestly kind of a wash, so there’s that.

    I know you suggested pinch-running with a reliever, JF, but if Snitker had PRd with a pitcher, he definitely would’ve gone with Fried instead of a reliever.

  7. Welcome, Clint. Our regulars have set a high bar. Based on our small sample size, it appears you can hurdle it.

  8. Thanks, Clint, and welcome.
    I’m guessing (or at least hoping) the Braves will be trading for a big bat and a strong reliever in the next month. What’s the thinking on this blog about which Braves prospects have the most value right now in such a trade?

  9. @6 In the past, Fried would have been the PR choice but after hurting himself running the bases earlier, I think there may be a different school of thought now.

  10. Are we buying or selling? I’m going to try to not ask this too much, but often enough to see what it takes to change answers and confidence.

  11. Buyers buyers buyers. But buyers on a budget I suspect.

    I want someone better than Milone this year!

  12. @6 & @10, I generally don’t like having starters pinch-run because of the injury potential, but when I look at our roster (or Yahoo’s version of it, which shows 26 active players) there aren’t a lot of relievers who are under 30 and so presumably more likely to be fast and less likely to injure themselves – just Luke (29), Minter (27), and Santana (29). Our other relievers are 30, 31, 32, 35, 36, and 37, plus Dayton on the IL is 33. Luke and Minter are used often in medium-to-high-leverage situations, and Santana is 20-25 lbs lighter than them and not likely to have pitched in close games, so he’s the one I’d train as a pinch-runner.

  13. I kept on thinking that they must be mistaken about Arcia’s average just being. 200 since I knew he got 2 hits yesterday. I didn’t realize he played 2 games for the Brewers in April.

  14. Anyone want to trade Pache, Wright, and others for Bryan Reynolds? He’s a CF with enough control to be our long term answer.

  15. “Stallings hitting Room 222…”. Ok… I’m impressed. Way to reach back into your childhood, Chip, without explaining it to anyone. I like it.

  16. Actually, using the trade simulator, I’d think it might take something like Pache, Wright, Wilson, Shewmake for Reynolds.

  17. Dansby is such a rally killer. They have let this deJong guy completely off the hook after throwing nearly 40 pitches in the 1st inning.

  18. OK. Chip got a compliment out of me (and you are correct, Remy), but you knew it couldn’t last. “The best third baseman I remember in Pittsburgh is Aramis Ramirez…”
    Seriously, Chip? Cub bias showing much? Ramirez played third base in Pittsburgh for 7 years. OPS? .744. WAR? 1.0.

    Other 3rd baseman Chip should remember? Bobby Bonilla. Bill Madlock. Jay Bell. Josh Harrison. Every one of them better than Aramis Ramirez in Pittsburgh… by a lot.

  19. Definitely not sellers. Possibly stand-patters if things go to hell, but probably buyers.

  20. As we’re back to piling on Chip, earlier he said that Adam Frazier was “proof you don’t need to hit a lot of home runs to hit well over .300.” A masterful refutation of an argument no one is making (because it is really dumb).

  21. @18 It would take a LOT more than that for Reynolds. It would take 3 real prospects plus a throw-in. Look at guys like Pache, Waters, Harris, Muller, Strider, Schuster, Langeliers, Contreras, Tucker Davidson, Braden Shewmake. People wonder why AA won’t make trades for players like Reynolds. It’s because they cost more than you imagine.

  22. The trade I suggested was balanced based upon the current estimated value of each player according to the MLB trade simulator..

    The Braves have a crazy terrible offense. No one minds walking Albies and Riley because Dansby is such a black hole right now.

  23. Just when you think the team turned a corner they remind us all their they are mediocre in every sense

  24. Being above .500 is a kicked football and the Braves are Charlie Brown.

  25. @25 the MLB trade simulator is crazy. Kyle Wright has no trade value, Wilson has very little trade value thanks to being on the AAA shuttle bus. Shewmake is fine as the lesser part of the deal and Pache is fine as the top piece. The two middle pieces are what it takes to convince the Pirates GM to hand over their prized outfielder (who is cost controlled for 3 more years). At the deadline the Braves will pay a premium to outbid the other teams. So you have Pache, Langeliers, Schuster and Shewmake for Reynolds and a reliever. Both fan bases would be angry but it would be a fair deadline trade.

  26. This team is as frustrating as it gets. Our ace should not get beat up by the stinkin’ Pirates.

  27. I gave up baseball this year but cheat. I have listened to parts of two games, watched none; but I visit Braves Journal often each day. I feel like a kid again trying to reconstruct the game from its boxscore.

    That said, there is nothing major league on the left side of our team, our starters are injury riddled and our relievers overworked.

    It may have been Rob, AAR, Td or maybe even the Chief, maybe all of the above, who want to rearrange deck chairs. Short, third and left would be good starting points, as would the owners’ box.

  28. Josh Tomlin needs to be dfa’d. He is really terrible.

    WHY is he using MATZEK?? omg…..Snit is maddening. He may as well use a position player now.

  29. Wow this team can be really bad .. its all or nothing with them …no middle ground …

  30. @31

    Stuff like using Matzek when Tomlin should have taken it for the team is why I’m OK with shuffling some deck chairs.

  31. @34, Yeah, Matzek shouldn’t have come within a mile of that game. Let Tomlin finish the mess or use a position player. Snit does a lot of dumb things but he has used Matzek in at least 2 blowouts.

  32. @30

    Baseball is my only sport so I watch all 162 games, unless I am out of town. But it’s hard sometimes.

  33. Cindy, I feel your pain. I love the game. Always have. The Braves are my team. They stink. God bless Braves fans.

  34. The bigest issue with this team is that they play to the level of their competition. They play just as well against good teams as they do against bad teams. A real winning team can play .500 ball against the best teams but has to crush lesser opponents. That they have done some of their worst against teams like the Marlins, D’Backs, and Pirates is the worst strike against them.

  35. When Dansby Swanson is your 5 hole hitter, you aren’t going to score a lot of runs.

  36. @40 Exactly. He is a 6, 7 or 8 hitter and seems to have performed much better in those spots of the lineup. I think it would be far more productive to drop him to 7 and move up Arcia and Heredia and have Contrares or Smith (yuck) hit 8th behind him. I get it..his average is .230. I am guessing his average is much higher hitting 6th or 7th this year instead of 5th or his brief time hitting leadoff when RAJ was on the shelf.

  37. Snit and the coaching staff aren’t dummies, so I know they know that using a low leverage reliever like Chavez would have been better than Matzek. So I wonder why they used Matzek. Is he working on a new pitch? It certainly wasn’t because he needed work. He just pitched on Sunday.

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