Well, it's been a few weeks since these games and the Gwinnett Braves are out of the playoffs and the Minor League season as a whole is more or less over, but nobody ever seems to mind seeing some pictures, so here are some from the three game series in Norfolk.
A look at the G-Braves rotation was all you needed to know the team wasn't going to go deep into the playoffs. Here are the starters for the three games I saw; Johnny Venters, John Halama, and Bobby Brownlie:
Johnny is one of my favorite guys in the organization; he's really just a down to earth, good guy. He took the loss in the first game of the series, allowing 8 runs in just 4.2 innings. He was going along pretty well until a few bad calls did him in and finally, by the time he was pulled, he pretty much had no clue where the ball was going. He had a rough time with Gwinnett and was fairly inconsistent, but he showed flashes of ability and, more important than anything, he had a full healthy season. It'll be interesting to see what he can do next year.
In contrast to Venters, I personally can't stand John Halama. He's a miserable person and I've really never see him be nice to anyone. But, he's consistent, he's always been a miserable person. He picked up a loss in the second game of the series, though poor run support was more the culprit than poor pitching, as he allowed 3 runs in 5.1 innings. He was decent for Gwinnett, but really was nothing more than a roster filler.
Bobby Brownlie pitched very well in the series finale, beating Orioles prospect Jake Arrieta by allowing just 2 runs over 6 innings. He's been nothing but a bust since being a high draft pick by the Cubs, but he pitched pretty well for the G-Braves, so maybe he'll get a chance to come back next year.
While September 1st means callups to the Major League team, it also means some movement with the Minor League teams. Gwinnett gained some reinenforcements in the form of Deunte Heath, Craig Kimbrel, and Matt Young:
Heath, another one of my personal favorites, pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in the first game of the series, his best of his 7 AAA appearances this season. I've always thought Tay would be better as a reliever and he started to show that this season. He pitched well enough with Mississippi this season that he should be ready to joing Gwinnett's bullpen full time next year.
In that same game Kimbrel made his AAA debut, throwing a scoreless inning. The diminutive righty pitched at four different levels this year, though if he hadn't been so bad at Myrtle Beach to start out, he probably wouldn't have gotten that honor. He had a bit of minor, preventative surgery on his arm in the offseason, and I believe that's what led to the rust at the start of the year. He's as talented as any of the relief prospects in the system and his low arm angle creates a ton of deception. He should thrust himself into Atlanta's bullpen at some point next season, and it looks like he's on a path to becoming Atlanta's closer.
Why Matt Young wasn't with Gwinnett for the whole season is beyond me, but the little guy can't seem to get a brake. They list him at 5'8" and I'm telling you, that's very generous. He dominated Mississippi for two seasons, setting their single season stolen base record this year, before finally getting a shot at AAA. He was 3 for 12 in this series with a double, 3 runs scored, and a stolen base. Who knows what kind of future Matt will have with the organization; he can definitely hit, but he doesn't have any power, he's fast, but really not good enough to play center field. But, like Matt Diaz, you gotta love a guy who hustles like this.
Barton hit .284 in August and September to really pull his average up. He also managed to lead the team in stolen bases with 17. Still, it wasn't a great year for him, and he ended up being taken off the 40 man roster. He'll be a Minor League free agent in the off season, and it seems unlikely that the Braves will bring him back.
Jones, who surprisingly wasn't even recalled to Atlanta in September, started out horribly, not even homering until July, but he ended up having a season that was actually better than his 2008. His 2009 average was .021 points higher than last year and his OPS was .031 points higher. Despite the slight improvement, he seems to have fallen out of favor with the organization, and there's reason to wonder if he'll be back next year as well.
I just really like this picture of Alvin Colina:
Of course, it's worth noting that Colina is exactly what every AAA team needs. He's a consistent, team player. If you look at this year with Gwinnett and compare it to last year with Louisville, it's nearly identical. He's been around for a while and he's a good influence on the younger players. I particularly noticed Diory Hernandez taking cues from Colina. Sure, Colina's not the kind of guy anyone is ever going to get excited about, and he might not even be with the organization next year, but he's the kind of guy every team needs.
And finally, one of the more underappreciated players in the system, Wes Timmons:
In addition to being one of the best defensive third basemen in the game today (seriously, you have to see this guy play the hot corner) Timmons is versatile enough to play all the infield positions; check out the first base mitt in the picture on the left. 2009 was Wes' 4th full season with Altanta's AAA team and he's been a constant and consistent performer in all of them. He was drafted in the 12th round in 2002 and is a testament to the Braves scouting department. Most guys drafted that late don't last long, much less spend 8 seasons in the organization. He was even a free agent before this season and came back to the team, knowing full well that he had next to no chance of advancing to the Major Leagues. In fact, Timmons has gone on record as saying that he fully believes he will never play in a Major League game, but he goes out every day and works harder than each and every one of his teammates because he just loves playing the game. This guy is what baseball is all about, and hopefully one day he'll get a shot at the highest level.
Hope you guys enjoyed the pics. I've got some from a Mississippi game a few days after this and there should be a ton more pics for that one.