clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Talking Chop’s 2016 Braves Minor League All Stars

New, 33 comments

The Minor League crew gathered together, to hash out a team of the best of the best-those that rose above and led their teams in every facet of play. From that, we have gifted unto you the All Stars that be Brave.

2016 All Star Selections Dansby Swanson and Dustin Peterson
2016 All Star Selections Dansby Swanson and Dustin Peterson
Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

With the ending of the minor league season, I made sure to grab the 4 best Braves minor league writers out there, as well as myself, and had us cast our ballots for out 2016 Minor League All Star. Apparently, SBNation Hivemind is an aggressive disease, as even our newcomer Jeff agreed with Matt, Gaurav, Eric, and I about nearly every single player. It was an even more deep class of players than last season, but there were plenty of outstanding performances that deserved recognition above the rest. This list disregards prospect status, but we still ended up with almost exclusively prospects at each position, and I think that reflects well on the front office’s philosophy that our prospects are leading the system in performance rather than a bunch of organization depth guys. So, let us dive in to the wonderful world of Braves baseball with our All Star #SQUAD.

Starting Pitchers

Mike Soroka

With the best of the best, it’s no surprise there was a lot of agreement amongst who deserved to make this list. In fact, the entire rotation of starters were unanimous amongst our voters. First in the group is Mike Soroka, who was the leader for Rome’s staff from the outset and worked his way into most Top 100 prospect lists. Soroka’s first month was nothing short of spectacular, with him posting a 1.33 ERA and 29K/3BB over 27 innings through April. It took him more than 2 months this season to allow the first home run of his entire career, and though concerns began to introduce themselves about fatigue he was able to finish the year strong and put those aside.

Stat of the season: Soroka had just one game on the season with more walks than strikeouts, while he had 7 without allowing a single walk.

Patrick Weigel

Perhaps no pitcher did more for his stock this season than Weigel, who combined with Soroka for one of the best 1-2 punches in the Minor Leagues. Weigel’s ERA never drifted above 3.42, and by the time he was promoted out of Rome he had an ERA of 2.51. That number was good for 4th in the league, and he also finished 4th in the Sally in strikeouts despite spending his final 3 starts with Mississippi. Most notably, Weigel steadily improved his control over the season seemingly putting behind the problems that plagued him at Houston.

Stat of the season: 5 of Weigel’s 22 games with Rome went 6+ innings with no runs allowed. The remainder of the team had just 6 such games in 117 games.

Rob Whalen

Rob Whalen came into 2016 a completely under the radar player, still recovering from offseason knee surgery, but quickly burst on the scene with a phenomenal performance in 2016. Whalen got off to a slow start with a 4.05 ERA in April, but went on an incredible run in which he seemed to improve every game he pitched. May saw him lead the stout Mississippi staff with a 2.43 ERA, followed by a phenomenal 1.41 ERA in June. After his promotion to Gwinnett, he quickly got right back in the saddle with a 1.93 ERA in 3 AAA starts before ultimately being chosen to pitch on the Major League roster. Whalen led all starters in the system with his 2.40 ERA, and more than earned his promotion to the major leagues.

Stat of the Season: For one 5 start stretch from May 28-June 19, Whalen allowed just a single earned run over 32 innings, lowering his ERA more than a full run.

Rob Whalen Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

Kolby Allard

Of the pitchers on the list, Allard is undoubtedly the most highly-touted. The first rounder did not disappoint with a 2.98 ERA over 2 levels, with 95 Ks to 25 walks in 87.2 IP. Allard allowed 11 runs in his first 2 starts of the season, but from that point forward posted a 2.01 ERA and in 1 span of 9 starts allowed 0 earned runs in 5 of them. Allard was even more fantastic in the postseason, allowed 0 runs over two 6 innings starts. That brought him up to 1 out short of 100 innings on the season with a 2.62 ERA. By all accounts, the Braves appear to have found a gem in Allard.

Stat of the Season: Allard lead all 2015 1st rounders in K/9 IP, and was the only one minimum 50 IP with more strikeouts than innings pitched.

Relief Pitchers

AJ Minter

Another unanimous selection, and one of the easiest cases to make, AJ Minter showed more than any reliever in the system did. His off the charts stuff was unhittable for anyone in the lower minor leagues, and for his first 2 months of play at Carolina and Rome he gave up exactly 0 runs. His OPS against in that span was .296. He pitched 1 game in Mississippi before allowing his first run of his professional career, and then immediately knocked off another 12 game scoreless stretch. Minter had one 4 run hiccup game, but outside of that allowed just 1 run earned or otherwise in 34 innings. At this point, I don’t even think I need a “Stat of the Season”, just look at his Baseball-Reference page.

Corbin Clouse

Corbin was a 27th round pick this season, but in just 2 and a half months did as much as anyone in the system. With a minimum of 30 IP, Clouse led the system in ERA (1.19), and K/9 (15.73), and advanced between Danville and Rome. Clouse started his career off with 12 consecutive scoreless innings, and had another streak of 13 innings without a run allowed. In just over 30 innings, Clouse managed to clear 50 strikeouts. Clouse also closed out the final inning of Rome’s Championship clinching game, and only allowed 1 run in 4 games in the postseason.

Stat of the Season: Clouse was so fantastic at Danville that his FIP broke the scales at -0.24.

Taylor Lewis

The sidearming Taylor Lewis got off to a tough start in 2016, holding a 4.66 ERA through 13 games with Rome on May 20. The Braves promoted him to Carolina anyways, and, well, RIP hitters of all shapes and sizes. Lewis responded quite well to the challenge, in fact he didn’t allow another earned run until nearly 2 months later on July 17 after 25.2 IP scoreless. Of the players to pitch more than 40 innings, Lewis led all in ERA at 2.05 and after his stint in Rome had a 0.96 ERA between Carolina and Mississippi.

Stat of the Season: Lewis’s walk rate improved at each stop this season, dropping from 2.79 /9 IP to 1.6/9 IP to finally 1.38/9 IP between A, A+, and AA.

Also Receiving Votes:

Evan Phillips (1)

Caleb Dirks (1)

Devan Watts (1)

Catcher

Jonathan Morales

In the most contested battle for an all star spot, Jonathan Morales narrowly but deservedly came out as the winner of the honors at the catcher position in 2016. Coming off of a great professional debut in 2015, there were scattered high hopes that Morales could fill the catching void in the system. On defense he showed off one of the best catching arms in the minor leagues, throwing out 53 of 106 attempted base stealers this season-an even 50%. Offensively he helped drive Rome’s offense, finishing 3rd on the team in RBIs and hitting around .300 for much of the year outside of 1 particularly poor month.

Stat of the Season: Morales was one of the main driving forces in Rome’s postseason run, going 8-26 with 3 doubles.

Jonathan Morales Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

Also Receiving Votes:

Joseph Odom (2)

First Baseman

Carlos Castro

Coming into the season Carlos Castro was a bit of a write off as a player-a catcher who couldn’t stay at the position, lacked the power for a corner infield spot, and didn’t do much particularly well expect hit for average. Castro came into the season with 6 home runs in 613 at bats, but he quickly flipped that script by hitting 6 home runs in his first 79 plate appearances. He continued his power surge hitting 17 home runs in just over 322 plate appearance, showing off impressive raw power that saw him put multiple baseballs over Rome’s tall center field wall. His .809 OPS led Braves minor league first baseman, and down the stretch he helped fill a major void in the middle of Rome’s lineup.

Stat of the season: Of his first 23 hits on the Castro’s season, 10 were home runs, with 6 other extra base hits.

Also Receiving Votes:

Joey Meneses

Second Baseman

Ozzie Albies

There was no question who would make up the rest of the infield, a group that would make a formidable Top 3 in the order led by the 19 year old wunderkind Ozzie Albies. At such a tender age, for Albies to be as dominant as he was against AA competition, hitting .321/.391/.467, is nothing short of incredible. In addition, he showed a bit of a surprising power surge hitting 6 of his 7 career home runs and hitting 49 extra base hits. Albies managed to lead all Braves minor leaguers in hits despite being 5 and 7.5 years younger than league average age at AA and AAA. Throw in great defense (voted best Southern League defensive 2B) and 30 stolen bases, and you have quite the baseball player.

Stat of the Season: From June 21 to the end of the season Albies hit .302/.376/.435 between AA and AAA and stole 22 of 26 bases.

Third Baseman

Austin Riley

2 people in the Braves organization reached 20 home runs this season-Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley. Riley had to work hard for that number too, after a disappointing start that had many questioning his future. The first half of Riley’s season ended with a disappointing 0-4 that capped off a half with a .671 OPS and a 32.6% K rate. His return after the break got off to a bang, and he slugged home runs in each of his first two games. That set off a magical run for Riley in the second half that saw him hit .289/.348/.581 with 17 home runs, 21 doubles, 54 RBIs, and bring his K rate down to 21.9%. He then had 2 home runs and 4 RBIs in the South Atlantic League Championship series to help Rome bring home the crown.

Stat of the Season: Austin Riley ended the 2016 regular season on a 19 game hitting streak during which he hit .361/.410/.708 with 6 home runs and 20 RBIs.

Shortstop

Dansby Swanson

The pre-show hype surrounding Dansby Swanson may be unmatched by any player in Braves history (Editor’s note: Jason Heyward and Andruw Jones would like a word about thar. -Eric). He was a constant show on the road, bringing fans in to every park he played. He delivered quickly in 2016 with a dominant stint at Carolina that saw him post a .967 OPS before a quick promotion to Mississippi. While his numbers tailed off in the “graveyard” (as he put it) that is Trustmark Park, he still maintained a respectable .745 OPS and showed out on the defensive side of the ball regularly. All of that culminated in a star’s debut that saw him hit .302 in the major leagues and dazzle with the glove, leaving him as a Rookie of the Year favorite for 2017

Stat of the Season: Dansby Swanson had a .799 OPS away from Trustmark Park, .126 higher than his home OPS-very indicative of how hard that park was for him to hit in.

Dansby Swanson
Dansby waits for his chance to Shine
Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

Left Field

Dustin Peterson

Dustin Peterson was the Braves Minor League Player of the Year this season for a reason, as he lit up the Southern League at age 21. His OPS of .774 ranked 5th in the league, even after his struggled in the last 2 weeks of the season dropped it about 25 points, and he led the league in doubles. His ranked among the Braves minor league leaders in several offensive categories, including average (5th), hits (2nd), doubles (2nd), runs (6th), slugging (3rd), home runs (t 3rd), and OPS (5th), while leading the minor leaguers with 88 RBIs. It was a breakout season for Peterson, who will go into 2017 riding a wave of momentum.

Stat of the Season: Peterson was the exact opposite of Swanson, hitting 9 of his 12 home runs at home and putting his OPS .138 points higher at Trustmark than on the road.

Center Field

Ray-Patrick Didder

One of the most remarkable players from the 2016 season had to be Ray-Patrick. He busted out in evert aspect, posting career highs in hits, stolen bases, average, OBP, slugging, OPS, RBIs, and runs. He hit his first career home run, and then proceeded to hit 6 more of them. He was the table setter down the stretch for Rome, leading the minor leagues with 95 runs scored, and played phenomenal defense in center field. He had 20 outfield assists, more double plays as a center fielder (7) than errors (6), and led the way in the postseason with 6 runs scored. Yet even with all of this, we still haven’t covered the most incredible part of Didder’s season. Didder was hit by a pitch 39 times in Rome’s regular season. That number would be tied for 5th most all time in major league history. He even added on 5 more in 6 games in the postseason. Teddy “Beanbag” Bagwell would be proud.

Stat of the season: As if the hit by pitched weren’t amazing enough, Didder had 5 games with multiple HBP, including 1 with 3. During one 11 game stretch he was hit by 11 pitches.

Right Field

Mel Rojas Jr.

When the Braves bought Mel Rojas Jr. from the Pirates in May, it seemed pretty obvious he was just organizational filler. The 26 year old had no previous track record of success, and the Braves assigned him to help fill a hole at AA with the injuries to Sean Godfrey and Connor Lien. Rojas Jr. played great defensively for the MBraves, but was far from an offensive threat with a .651 OPS. Rojas Jr. was then brought up to AAA to fill a gap again, and something very magical happened. He posted an .840 OPS for the GBraves, but even more incredibly for the month of July hit .333/.421/.634 with 7 home runs, 5 stolen bases, and 19 RBIs in 26 games.

Stat of the Season: Rojas Jr. played 12 games in the leadoff spot in Gwinnett and hit .367/.415/.816 with 6 home runs to 6 strikeouts.

Also Receiving Votes:

Cristian Pache (1)

Ronnier Mustelier (1)

(neither really qualify at this position but it was a thin position so I’ll allow it)

DH

Rio Ruiz

It came ever so close here to a magical 5 way tie, but Ruiz was the only player able to get 2 votes. Really, Ruiz did deserve the vote here as he played a good season for Gwinnett. He led the GBraves in RBIs, hits, doubles, walks, and total bases, and finished tied for second in home runs. He also played well on the defensive end for most of the season, solidifying the left side of the field with the revolving door at shortstop. While he left a bitter taste in the mouth of some with his slumps, he played well for most of the season and ended on a strong note with a .880 OPS in August.

Stat of the Season: Rio Ruiz had exactly 9 plate appearances this season against a pitcher younger than he is.

Also Receiving Votes:

Travis Demeritte (1)

Carlos Castro (1)

Cristian Pache (1)

And so concludes out 2016 all stars. Argue it out in the comments, tell us where you think we went wrong, and make sure you yell frequently because I love drama.