Weekly Braves farm report and upcoming preview

Week 3 of the minor leagues puts us in the 15-20 games territory, where hitters are beginning to find their groove and pitchers are starting to get stretched out. For the Braves, Week 3 also featured a little over a dozen at-bats for its most prized superstar, Ronald Acuña Jr., who showed out during his first week of rehab down in Triple-A Gwinnett.

Just like every Monday, here is a recap of the previous week’s worth of action down on the Braves farm.

AAA – Gwinnett Stripers (6-12)

Ronald Acuña Jr.: 5 for 14 (.357 AVG), 2B, RBI, 4 R, 6 BB, 3 SB

Braden Shewmake: 6 for 20 (.300 AVG), 2 2B, RBI, R

Kyle Muller: ND, 4 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 8 K

Touki Toussaint: 4 IP, H, 4 K

Brad Brach: 1-0, 3 2/3 IP, 2 H, 3 K

William Woods: 2 ⅔ IP, 7 K

Dylan Lee: 1 ⅓ IP, 2 H, ER, BB, 3 K

It was a successful week’s worth of rehab games for Ronald Acuña Jr., as he looks ready to return to Atlanta. Per reports, it’s looking like May 6 is a realistic date for the outfielder’s big league return, which means potentially another 7-8 games with Gwinnett. This past week was basically The RAJ Show, for the star did it all with the Stripers.

While the positive news regarding Acuña should excite Braves Country, another series without Drew Waters is less reassuring. The prospect outfielder is currently on the 7-day injured list, retroactive to April 5, so at least we know for sure that it is in fact an injury keeping him off the field. Can you imagine how frustrated Waters must be? This was supposed to be his big year, especially now that former teammate Cristian Pache is no longer hogging the spotlight. All we can do at this point is hope that the 23-year-old recovers quickly; the rumor is that he’s dealing with a hamstring issue.

As far as the top performers for the Stripers in Week 3, the offense was led by Acuña and prospect Braden Shewmake. Regarding the latter, the former 21st-overall pick has now surpassed the .300 mark in terms of AVG (.302) for 2022, and the two doubles in this past series went down as his first of the season. Shewmake appears to be carrying over what he did during the second-half of 2021, when he followed a horrid start to the campaign by absolutely raking down in Double-A. Right now the Gwinnett shortstop is pulling fly balls at a higher rate than he ever has as a pro (47.2 Pull% / 40 FB%), which could be a great sign for his power potential.

Gwinnett’s pitching once again mostly struggled this past week, with Kyle Muller putting together really the only solid start of the series, and even he walked four batters in his one outing. The bullpen was hit or miss, but guys like Brad Brach and William Woods were consistent arms for Gwinnett, and Touki Toussaint also pitched a lengthy appearance out of the ‘pen. At times, Muller has been dominant, but it’s evident he hasn’t found his groove yet. Regardless, though, his current average of 12.8 strikeouts per nine is a career-best, so I suspect the ace-like pitching lines will start coming soon.

AA – Mississippi Braves (4-11)

Michael Harris II: 5 for 23 (.217 AVG), HR, 2 2B, 6 RBI, 5 R, 3 SB

Drew Lugbauer: 6 for 18 (.333 AVG), HR, 2 2B, 4 RBI, 6 R, 8 BB

Jesse Franklin V: 6 for 21 (.285 AVG), 2 HR, 3B, 8 RBI, 4 R

Luke Waddell: 7 for 18 (.388 AVG), 3 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R, SB

Darius Vines: 1-0, 6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 5 K

Jared Shuster: 0-1, 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 4 K, HR

Indigo Diaz: 3 IP, 2 BB, 4 K

Mississippi suffered perhaps the craziest loss in some time back on Saturday, when the M-Braves came back from being down by 10 runs… only to lose when Chattanooga scored eight in the final inning for an 18-11 win. I’m sure the loss stung, but as a team Mississippi tallied 14 hits, featuring a 3 for 4 performance for Jesse Franklin V (including 4 RBI), a 4 for 5 night for Luke Waddell and multi-hit finishes for Michael Harris II, Drew Lugbauer and CJ Alexander.

And speaking of Harris. As you can see, he only managed five hits last week, but my goodness he made them count, slugging his first home run at the Double-A level to go with a pair of doubles and two singles. For the season, the 21-year-old outfielder is slashing .317/.379/.500 with seven XBH, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down any, after starting off the campaign with a 10-game hitting streak. Look out, Harris will likely be in Gwinnett soon – maybe as early as mid-season. It’s also nice to see Franklin coming around, as the 23-year-old raised his season AVG by 30 points in Week 3, from .206 to .236. With his whiffs, it’s probably not fair to expect him to hit .300 like Harris, but a .250ish AVG is a solid mark for him, given he wields plenty of power with the bat.

The M-Braves got a few solid outings from its starters, including a decent one from Freddy Tarnok in Tuesday’s series opener, in which the prospect righty struck out six in 4 2/3 innings while allowing two runs from four hits. Tarnok got hit around in the finale on Sunday, but I don’t expect that 4.76 ERA will remain that high very long. Also, both Darius Vines and Jared Shuster kept up the good work in Week 3, as the former was the first Mississippi starter this season to get through six innings in Thursday’s win, before the latter surpassed that mark with a career-high seven innings on Friday. Vines will enter next week with a 2.51 ERA for 2022, while Shuster sports an even better 1.59 (the best ERA for a minor league starter in the Braves system right now).

After a rough start to the season, it appears dominant bullpen arm Indigo Diaz has began to come around. Diaz worked a pair of appearances last week – both in hitless fashion.

A+ – Rome Braves (9-6)

Justyn-Henry Malloy 7 for 23 (.304 AVG), HR, 2B, 4 RBI, 4 R

Beau Philip7 for 18 (.388 AVG), HR, 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R, SB

Christian Robinson6 for 17 (.352 AVG), HR, 3 2B, 5 RBI, R

Tyler Tolve4 for 12 (.333 AVG), HR, 2B, 3B, 4 RBI, R, SB

Andrew Hoffmann1-0, 6 IP, 3 H, ER, 11 K, HR

Dylan Dodd1-0, 5 1/3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 6 K

Tanner Gordon1-0, 6 IP, 5 H, ER, 6 K

Luis De AvilaND, 6 IP, 2 H, 5 K

Rome split its series against Bowling Green, but once again the team played well as a whole. As you can see from the rather long list of players above, several R-Braves finished Week 3 with strong performances.

A pair of 2021 draftees got the starting pitching on track for Rome last week, when Dylan Dodd tossed a solid outing on Wednesday and Andrew Hoffmann pitched a gem on Thursday. For the former, the strong performance was needed as he struggled his last time out. For the latter, well, it appears he could be the staff’s ace, as that’s now 22 strikeouts in his first 15 innings this season, to go with a 3.00 ERA. Hoffmann’s six innings in this series was a season-high for him as well. The great work on the mound continued throughout the week for Rome. Both Tanner Gordon and Luis De Avila combined to allow just one run from seven hits in their starts on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Unfortunately for De Avila, his six shutout innings of pitching was spoiled when the R-Braves bullpen allowed five runs in the eighth to suffer the loss.

The talent from the 2021 class was on full display in regards to the Rome offense as well. Last week, Justyn-Henry Malloy (6th RD pick), Christian Robinson (15th RD) and Tyler Tolve (17th RD) all hit over .300, as the young core continues to thrive in High-A. That goes especially for Tolve, who as a 21-year-old catcher, is slashing .310/.355/.586 with five XBH so far this season. He’s not much of steal-preventer (12 SB / 3 CS in ’22), but the lefty-hitting Tolve appears to be a well above average guy on offense.

A – Augusta GreenJackets (7-8)

Caleb Durbin6 for 18 (.333 AVG), 3 2B, 6 RBI, 4 R, 3 SB

Brandol Mezquita6 for 17 (.352 AVG), 3 RBI, 5 R, 5 BB

Landon LeachND, 6 IP, H, BB, 8 K

Royber Salinas0-1, 5 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 7 K

Benjamin Dum3 IP, 2 H, 4 K

J.J. Niekro3 1/3 IP, H, BB, 5 K

The GreenJackets offense cooled off rather drastically in Week 3, and as a result, the team had to settle for a series split against Fayetteville. However, the series finale on Sunday – a 6-5 loss – wasn’t all bad, as infielder Caleb Durbin continues to rake, finishing the day 3 for 5 with two doubles, three RBI and two runs scored. The final game versus the Woodpeckers pushes last year’s 14th-round pick up to a .333 AVG so far this season, as the 22-year-old Durbin already has five XBH and nine RBI in 12 games in 2022. Pretty impressive for a latter-round draft pick out of a small college in Missouri (Washington-St. Louis).

Outfielder Brandol Mezquita also keeps on hitting down in Single-A. The 20-year-old is hitting even better than Durbin, slashing .347/.452/.367 in 13 games so far. The athletic Mezquita hasn’t hit for hardly any power yet (only one XBH), but it’s probably safe to assume that the SLG% will rise as the 2022 season progresses. You can also expect 15-20 stolen bases from this kid by season’s end.

Augusta had a bit of a scare last week when southpaw Adam Shoemaker left his start on Friday before ever getting an out. I don’t know any of the details, but fortunately, as of today Shoemaker hasn’t been placed on the injured list, so maybe he’s fine. However, after looking sharp in his season debut back on April 13 (5 IP, H, BB, 5 K), Tyler Owens turned in back to back poor outings in Week 3, allowing four runs in just two innings on Tuesday, before giving up three runs in only an inning on Sunday. The quick hooks have caused Owens’ ERA to grow to 7.88 so far this season, and we know he’s a better pitcher than that.

Even in a loss, Royber Salinas continued his strong pitching last week, and reliever J.J. Niekro kept his scoreless streak intact by tossing 3 1/3 innings on Thursday. Also, righty Landon Leach has sort of flew under the radar so far this season, heading into Week 4 with a 2.57 ERA in three starts. He pitched a gem on Saturday, allowing just one hit in six innings of work, to go with a season-high eight strikeouts. Leach was a second-round pick by the Twins out of high school back in 2017, and signed with the Braves this past February. At just 22-years-old, this could be a kid to watch for in 2022 as opposing batters are currently hitting just .140 versus the Augusta starter.

32 thoughts on “Weekly Braves farm report and upcoming preview”

  1. Maddux bobble tonight

    And here’s the lineup:

  2. Thanks Clint. I realize that Drew Lugbaeur isn’t recognized as a prospect anymore, but why he is repeating Double A after having a good season there in 2021?

  3. @Braves14

    I’ve wondered that myself. I’ve looked at Greyson Jenista and Lugbauer as two guys that sort of fit the same type of mold, though I believe the former is a bit more athletic and can play the outfield (which is why I believe Jenista earned the promotion). Idk if they’re wanting Lugbauer to cut down on the Ks or what. I mean, he’s always been a whiffer, so I don’t think that’s changing much anytime soon.

    I honestly don’t know why Lugbauer is back in Pearl. If I had to guess, though, I’d suspect he’s looking at a mid-season promotion if the numbers are there. And so far they are. I’m a big Lugbauer fan regardless

  4. The lack of plate discipline on this team probably doesn’t help our offense. They swing at everything.

  5. Having to “watch” the game through their trash app on my tablet. It’s terrible. Lags and is very choppy.

  6. The fact that Dickerson is in the starting lineup and hitting 6th should tell us all we need to know about the current offense. He fits more with the offensive juggernauts of the rebuild

  7. Calling Max Fried a guy “who started out as a reliever” is the sort of take you make when you have an agenda and you don’t want to let facts stand in the way. Even in his first year (2017) he made 4 starts with 5 relief appearances. The next year he started 5 games, with 9 in relief. This is not so much an apprenticeship as a tryout. Since then, he has appeared 3 times in relief with 73 starts. Indeed, the worst thing they ever did was to consider Max a relief pitcher in 2018 and 2019, where his talents were mostly wasted in the playoffs.

  8. 10 — Oh God, Snitker mismanaged that series. Chose to start Keuchel and Folty twice instead. And Soroka got pushed back to Game 3 and only got 1 start.

  9. The ball isn’t carrying this year like it did last year. Not sure if it’s that the weather isn’t hot yet, or if the ball is different.

  10. Nice to see a guy like Demerrite make something of an opportunity in the bigs after grinding in the minors for a while.

  11. @14 ball is different for sure; raised stitches and increased drag in the air. The humidors in all stadiums also reduce slugging by about 100 points too. The braves are getting royally screwed thanks to Manfreds tinkering with the ball.
    Yeah, sure everyone has the same conditions (supposedly), but I dare anyone to mention a team with more hard hit flyballs dying at the warning track than the braves.

  12. Unconventional double play; I think dansby grazed the runner on the back of the head.
    2 DP and 2 K’s for Suzuki, hopefully we keep it that way the rest of the series.

  13. Does anyone else regularly watch on the Bally app? Since YouTubeTV dropped Bally, I’ve been using my in-laws’ DirecTV login to watch on the Bally app, but the past couple games, I either just get an error message or a spinning wheel. Both on my Roku and my phone. I’m in TN, so too close to Atl for mlb.tv (without a VPN, though I may be heading that way). Not sure why in the year 2022 it’s not easier to watch your favorite baseball team…

  14. 20 — I followed along with the Bally app but the video streaming was awful.

    One would think after they had this problem last year that they would try to improve their app, but apparently not.

  15. Good game tonight and I love Demeritte taking advantage of his chance. I hope he can stick after May 2nd. We are currently at 12/16 hitters/pitchers. I assume Woods will go back down when Ronald comes up. That still means 2 players have to go out on May 2nd. Even with 14 pitchers, two players have to go. I’m guessing Strider will be one, but the only other guys with options are Demeritte or Elder. I’d rather see a guy like Thornburg go rather than Demeritte or Elder, but I think they’d rather not lose anyone than take only the best options. I think Dickerson is safe because he’s a lefty but he also seems to be the least useful guy on the team.

    I am still a big Demeritte supporter and (as he proved tonight) his defense could be elite. An outfield of Demeritte/Acuna/Duvall would be great defensively and Demeritte or Duvall could platoon with Rosario when he comes back. That and Ozuna at DH would really make Dickerson (or Heredia) excess. I still think Demeritte would make a good Util IF, too. Would be great at either 2nd or 3rd.

  16. Too many cooks.

    Last night we learned of an interesting phone call a few weeks back when AA called Will Smith to tell him, hey, I’m thinking I can sign Kenley Jensen, would that cause you any problems? Will said no, to his credit, the deal was done, and as a direct result Smith – our man with a fabulous end/post season closing record – now sits third in the closing order, after Jensen and Matzek. No sluggards they but that’s not the point. How many top flight closers do you need?

    Too much of a good thing – indulgent, ultra defensive. Our needs elsewhere are glaring. We are thin, thin where it counts/hurts – you can enumerate them better than me. We’ve all seen it in play this April. Embarrassing more often than not.

    Smith was the single most valuable Brave when it came to righting the ship (San Diego anyone?) and getting us to the post season where, ironically, Maztex had the more glamorous role, well earned as it turned out. Fair enough.

    But two not three!!!

    PS I am embarrassed when Will Smith is sent out to pitch the seventh, you?

  17. I have no problem at all with Smith pitching the 7th and he seems to be good in the role. Smith did great at the end of the year last year, but through the course of the year, he was a below average closer.

    I’m also happy with the bullpen as constructed although I’m hoping for better results overall. Having a strong bullpen shouldn’t preclude us from upgrading in other areas.

  18. i think additional elite relievers are a pretty excellent addition to this team. as we showed in the playoffs, cutting the game short is a big deal, and the team is reasonably well-rounded otherwise, or at least it will be once Acuna is back.

  19. @26. I also like the bullpen construction and Smith was under a ton of fire the majority of the year. The bullpen usage against Miami the other day was curious because we started innings with McHugh and, due to ineffectiveness, we had to go to Minter. Then we start an inning with Strider, and due to ineffectiveness had to go to Smith. I kind of feel that if we start the innings with Minter and Smith (or Chavez) we win that game 7-3.

  20. @27 Last night was a great example. Six great innings from your starter and then lock down innings 7-9.

  21. @28 That usage is right in line with trying to figure out who should stay and who should go. Makes sense at this time of year with extra pitchers that need to be evaluated. When rosters ultimately get back to 26/13/13 at the end of May, that kind of behavior will be reduced.

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