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Atlanta Braves AFL Recap: Opening Week

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The Braves sent 8 players to the AFL this year, and 7 of those got to play with good results especially on the offensive end.

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The 2016 AFL season has kicked off, and the opening week has drawn to a close with 7 of the 8 Braves seeing action for the Rafters (Bradley Roney receives the DNP for the week). Also in action were the Venezuelan Professional League and the Mexican Pacific League which the Braves sent representatives to.

Travis Demeritte

Weekly Stats: 5-19 (.263), 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 1 SB, 4 R, 7 K, 1 3B

2016 AFL Stats: .263/.333/.526, 1 HR, 1 SB, 2 RBI

The strongest prospect the Braves sent to a Winter League, Demeritte also had the greatest success amongst the prospects in his debut week with the Rafters. Demeritte had at least one hit in each of the 4 games he played, with a multi hit game on the 14th that featured his first home run this fall. Demeritte continued to struggled with strikeouts, with 7 in 21 PA, but his power output remains high and has overshadowed some of those struggles. Early reports on his defense at second base have been overwhelming positive as well, lending more to a strong opening week for Demeritte.

Dylan Moore

Weekly Stats: 4-8 (.500), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB, 1 R, 1 K, 1 2B

2016 AFL Stats: .500/.556/.625, 0 HR, 1 SB, 1 RBI

Dylan Moore wasn’t able to get much playing time in the opening week, but if he continues to play as he did in the small sample of 2 games he did play he could begin to earn more playing time. He opened his season with a hit in his first game and stole a base, but was caught stealing to have both of those wiped out. He played extremely well in his second game recording 3 hits, a double, a walk, an RBI, and a run. Moore is continuing to build on a good season, and could be gaining a lot of momentum going into next season.

Dustin Peterson

Weekly Stats: 2-8 (.250), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB, 1 R, 2 K, 1 3B

2016 AFL Stats: .250/.333/.500, 0 HR, 1 SB, 0 RBI

Coming off of the best season of his career, Dustin Peterson now faces a tall task at the end of a long season that saw him show signs of fatigue toward the end. Peterson earned the start in the first two of Salt River’s games this season and went 1-4 in each. Peterson also stole a base and walked in game one, but did strike out twice. In game 2 he logged his first extra base hit of the fall with a triple after just 2 of those in the regular season. This will be Peterson’s best opportunity to show off against a high level of competition in a league that isn’t a hitter’s nightmare, so if he can sustain some success he could position himself nicely for a mid season call up in 2017 if player’s are injured, traded, or underperform.

Kade Scivicque

Weekly Stats: 1-4 (.250), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 0 SB, 1 R, 0 K

2016 AFL Stats: .250/.250/.250, 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 RBI

Scivique doesn’t stand to get too much playing time this fall, but did get a hit in his single game this week. Every Braves hitter had at least one hit in every game he played this week, a total of nine days for the group. That’s a solid start especially in relation to last year’s AFL disaster. Scivique called pitches for the Rafters, and the pitchers were able to hold the Javelinas to just 2 runs, so he did some good work behind the plate as well.

Chris Ellis

Weekly Stats: 1 G, 1 W, 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 K

2016 AFL Stats: 1 G, 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 3 IP, 3 K, 2 BB

Chris Ellis got the start for the Rafters on Saturday and worked 3 unspectacular but effective innings to help them to victory. All of Ellis’s trouble was in the first inning, when he walked the first man and allowed him to steal second base. The third batter of the inning doubled him in, but no harm was done beyond that and the Rafters had already opened with a 4 run first of their own. From there Ellis was quite effective, allowing only a 2 out single in the second and a 2 out walk in the third while striking out 2 batters.

Akeel Morris

Weekly Stats: 2 G, 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K

2016 AFL Stats: 2 G, 0-0, 0 SV, 0.00 ERA, 1 IP, 1 K, 0 BB

Morris and his changeup have apparently been named Salt Rivers lefty specialists this fall (interesting because the righty has normal splits in 3 of his 4 seasons), with 3 of the 4 batters he faced in the opening week being left handed. In the opening game of the season, he was brought in to start the 10th inning of Salt Rivers’ eventual 7-7 tie (I wish this wasn’t a thing), and faced the 7-8-9 hitters in a L-R-L configuration. He allowed a hit to the leadoff man, but struck out the next batter and forced a ground out before being pulled. Two days later he was brought in against a lefty to clean up a mess with 2 runners on, and stranded both after just 2 pitches.

Evan Phillips

Weekly Stats: 1 G, 1 L, 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 1 K

2016 AFL Stats: 1 G, 0-1, 0 SV, 10.80 ERA, 1.2 IP, 1 K, 4 BB

In his first full professional season Phillips had begun to show signs of fatigue towards the end of the season, notable in his stiff rise in walks towards the last 2 months, and that seems to have unfortunately continued itself into the AFL. Phillips started out his one game on a nice note, forcing ground balls from the first 2 batters, but quickly saw it unravel from there. In a tie game at the time, he allowed a single, a wild pitch, walked a guy, hit one with a pitch, and then walked another to allow a run to score before working out of it. In the 9th he walked 2 of the first 3 batters and then allowed another run to score with 2 outs on a base hit before being pulled for the aforementioned Akeel Morris. Phillips will likely get some short of shot in AAA and potentionally Atlanta in 2017, but right now he is struggling to find the zone consistently.

Notable Players in Other Winter Leagues

Willians Astudillo

Weekly Stats: 1-6 (.167), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 0 SB, 1 R, 0 K

2016 LVBP Stats: .167/.444/.167, 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 RBI

Astudillo played in 3 games for the Caribes to start off his season, and shockingly walked in all 3 of them. That comes within 2 of matching his walk total for the entire 2016 regular season-a total of 89 games. Astudillo had 1 hit in the 3 game of this now his 3rd season in the Venezuelan Winter League. In his previous 40 games in the league, he had totaled 3 walks.

Joey Meneses

Weekly Stats: 7-14 (.500), 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 BB, 0 SB, 1 R, 3 K, 1 2B

2016 AFL Stats: .500/.500/.786, 1 HR, 0 SB, 6 RBI

The 24 year old Joey Meneses is in his 4th season now with his hometown team of Culiacan, and has himself poised again to be one of the offensive leaders for the team. He opened up his and Culiacan’s season with a grand slam in the 3rd inning, though at that point Culiacan was already down 9-0 and went on to lose 18-9. Flash forward a few days and Meneses knocked in 2 more runs for Culiacan, and leads the team with 6 RBIs tied for 3rd in the league. Meneses hit safely in all 4 games he played with multi hit games in each of the last 3.

Mallex Smith

Weekly Stats: 1-16 (.063), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 0 SB, 2 R, 4 K, 1 3B

2016 AFL Stats: .063/.111/.188, 0 HR, 0 SB, 1 RBI

Mallex Smith is the leadoff man for the first place and undefeated Naranjeros de Hermosillo, but unfortunately hasn’t been much of a contributor to that fast start. He plays in the same outfield as Eric Young Jr., and although possibly just a coincidence it seems he is a guy the Braves want Smith learning from given the amount of times they’ve ended up on the same team. Smith had only one hit on the week-a triple-and was also caught stealing once and struck out 4 times in 18 plate appearances. A forgettable start to what will hopefully be his springboard to a starting role in 2017.

Carlos Salazar

Weekly Stats: 1 G, 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K

2016 AFL Stats: 1 G, 0-0, 0 SV, 0.00 ERA, 1 IP, 0 K, 1 BB

Salazar pitched an inning in the Charros opener (the one they beat Meneses and Ronnier Mustelier’s Culiacan team 18-9), and was scoreless in the frame. Salazar walked the first batter he faced, but got a double play from the next one and a ground out to end his only inning this winter. Those walks need to be monitored for Salazar as he has a lot of potential given his high strikeout rates but hasn’t been able to find the control necessary to advance for the Braves.