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Atlanta Braves Minor League Recap 6/10: System Sweep and Pitchers Shine

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All 6 teams (including the big club) took home a win in the first 6 team system sweep of the season. Every starting pitcher had a good outing, with Max Fried having the best of the group. Ozzie Albies had a huge hit in the game, and Mississippi walked off in 14 innings.

Lucas Sims
Lucas Sims delivers a pitch for the Gwinnett Braves
Garrett Spain

(28-34) Gwinnett Braves 4, (21-41) Norfolk Tides 2

Box Score

Erick Aybar, SS: 1-4, .200/.259/.240

Rio Ruiz, 3B: 1-4, .253/.348/.365

Ozzie Albies, 2B: 1-3, 3B, BB, .250/.346/.359

Lucas Sims, SP: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 6.80 ERA

The Braves put up a solid 3rd inning to give them enough to get the win, scoring 3 runs including 2 on Ozzie Albies 2 run triple. Albies reached base twice in the game, also drawing a walk. Erick Aybar had a hard hit shot late in the game to get a hit. Rio Ruiz had a base hit in this game, worked the count well and had a couple of other solidly hit balls that couldn’t find holes. The big blow of the game was Matt Tuiasosopo’s system-leading 8th home run, a no doubter to left center field to stretch the lead to 4-2.

Lucas Sims pitched very well for the Braves, despite some inconsistencies especially early in the game. He struggled with his command again, and showed a lot of difficulty repeating his mechanics. This is not to say he had a bad start, because when things went wrong He bore down and pitched a great game leading Gwinnett to a win. He was followed up by a rough inning from Dale Thayer, who allowed a run. Jose Ramirez pitched 2 wild but scoreless innings before giving way to Bradley Roney for the save. Roney pitched a fantastic inning, and had hitters way off balance with his breaking balls. I counted at least 5 awkward swings that professional hitters should never make.

Back to Sims, his stuff is really fantastic. At his best, he locates all three pitches very well, gets huge armside run on his fastball, and flashes that tight curveball that is almost impossible to hit. Unfortunately, he just isn’t all there mechanically. He struggled to find any rhythm in his delivery, wildly varied his arm slot and landing point, and generally didn’t use his lower body well at all out of the wind up. From the stretch he was much better, and he pitched his best ball with runners on base. Everything seemed out of sync from the wind up, and it was choppy and robotic to the point that it isn’t even recognizable to the guy from Rome a few years back. When his arm angle dragged he also couldn’t get on top of that curveball, and threw some very loose, sweeping breakers that got hit hard. There were definitely red flags for him.

I’m no pitching expert, but I’ve been around the game and studied guys and pitched enough myself to know when a guy is overthinking things. At times he would either drastically slow down or rush his delivery, trying to find an arm slot and focus too hard on throwing strikes. He battled when he got runners on, but it almost seemed like he was going through the motions from the wind up. Right now it seems more mental than anything for Sims, like he no longer trusts that he can just throw strikes. Once a guy gets in his own head it is hard to get him out, and though I have faith in Sims as a competitor and worker it is concerning to see the way he seemed to just be off. I will embed tweets with video that I took, showing the main concern I saw with Sims, which was him completely stopping his follow through and not finishing pitches. When he did so, he had no control of the ball and either got hit hard or missed the glove completely. These were not warm up tosses, this was him in live game action.

I also dislike that step over hitch he has from the windup. It’s very methodical and arrhythmic, and seems to throw a lot of his momentum and lower body drive off. It’s also very difficult, and will throw off his timing and consistency. It can also lead to issues with asynchronization between the halves of his body. If it works for him, keep it, but it doesn’t look like it does.

Here is another sequence

There were times though, this from the stretch, that he did finish pitches and was very successful when doing so.

While this pitch happened to be a bit of an overthrow to try to get the strike, you can see a completely different usage of his body. Everything was moving at the same time and in the right direction and he seemed more determined with his lower body. He was rewarded with a well located fastball to get the strikeout. The arm is also a tick ahead of where it is when he throws from the windup. Timing, timing, timing, that's the biggest thing to pitching. There is one positive, he is learning to deal with failure. If there is one thing I know about Lucas, he is a strong-minded, tough, competitive individual. If it’s mental he will beat it. That is the kind of personality he has.

Next Game: 6/11 at (21-41) Norfolk Tides @ 7:05 PM ET

Probable Starters

GWN: Lucas Harrell (2-1, 3.71)

NOR: David Hale (0-3, 5.65 ERA)

(29-31) Mississippi Braves 6, (39-22) Tennessee Smokies 5 F/14

Box Score

Dansby Swanson, SS: 0-6, BB, .250/.337/.396

Dustin Peterson, LF: 2-5, RBI, 2 BB, .268/.336/.408

Johan Camargo, 2B: 3-6, RBI, .247/.298/.333

Andrew Thurman, SP: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 5.50 ERA

Don’t look now, but the MBraves are the hottest team in the system, with a 7-2 record in June. They had to fight for this one, taking the Generals to 14 innings before finally winning. They took an early 4-0 lead after 4, but some struggled from Madison Younginer tied the game up in the 8th. The teams traded runs in the 11th, with Mel Rojas Jr. coming through with a game tying RBI double. The MBraves threatened in the 13th, but came up empty when Carlos Franco struck out with the bases loaded and 2 outs on a pitch that, quite frankly, was not a strike. The win finally came to fruition in the 14th. Jordy Lara got the rally started with a 1 out single, and then a 2 outs base hit for Camargo got Lara to third for Matt Lipka. Lipka battled at the plate, and then lifted a 2 strike pitch high into the air in shallow right field. Fortunately for the Braves and my sleep patterns, the ball drifted into no-man’s land and fell just inches away from the outstretched dive of Generals right fielder Tyler O’Neill. Lara scored easily, and the celebration was on.

Starter Andrew Thurman pitched one of his best games this season, but unfortunately had that wiped out by the bullpen. It is great to see him pitch 6 shutout innings, and he did so relatively stress free with only 3 hits and 2 walks allowed. Jason hursh allowed 0 runs in his 2 innings of work before turning it over to Younginer. Younginer got hit hard and allowed 4 runs on 2 his while recording just 2 outs. Steve Kent cleaned up the inning, and then pitched 2 more allowing just the earned run in the 11th. Akeel Morris pitched as well, and showed that changeup off nicely in his 1.2 scoreless. He did get in trouble though, and was relieved by Jed Bradley. Bradley stranded Morris’s runners and pitched another clean inning to earn the win.

Next Game: 6/11 vs (39-22) Jackson Generals @ 7:00 PM ET

Probable Starters

MIS: Victor Mateo (0-1, 4.66 ERA)

TNS: Andrew Moore (2-0, 3.78 ERA

(24-34) Carolina Mudcats 3, (25-36) Winston-Salem Dash 1

Box Score

Joseph Odom, C: 1-4, .280/.333/.466

Braxton Davidson, RF: 1-3, HR, 2 RBI, BB, .219/.310/.322

Enderson Franco, SP: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 4.64 ERA

AJ Minter, RP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA

The Mudcats offense didn’t get a lot done, but got a huge blast from Braxton Davidson to lead the team to a win. Prior to that swing, Davidson had not homered since May 16. That home run scored Joseph Odom, who knocked a base hit to extend his hitting streak to 7 games. Stephen Gaylor had the only multi hit game by a Mudcat, with 2 singles at the top of the order.

Enderson Franco got off to a bad start with the Braves in what was, literally, the worst start of the entire season for any Braves pitcher. Since then, Franco has actually been quite solid out of rotation with a 3.48 ERA and nearly 6 innings per start. He pitched well again today to give the Mudcats a good chance to win, and then turned it over to the bullpen. The 3 pitchers used (Minter, Evan Phillips, and Taylor Lewis) came in with a combined ERA of 0.60, so I think you can imagine how that went for the Dash.

Next Game: 6/11 at (25-36) Winston-Salem Dash 6:00 PM ET

Probable Starters

CAR: Raymar Navarro (3-1, 4.67 ERA)

WS: Spencer Adams (6-3, 3.41 ERA)

(25-35) Rome Braves 6, (31-30) Greensboro Grasshoppers 2

Box Score

Luke Dykstra, 2B: 1-5, RBI, .325/.361/.387

Austin Riley, 3B: 2-3, RBI, BB, .250/.301/.365

Bradley Keller, LF: 1-3, HR, BB, .165/.194/.316

Max Fried, SP: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 4.25 ERA

As an offense prone to big innings with long stretches of poor play, it’s only expected that Rome’s 6 runs were scored in 2 of the innings. The big swing was in the 3rd, when Rome scored 4 runs courtesy in part to a fielding error and an ensuing Justin Ellison double. They added on in the 7th, with Bradley Keller knocking a home run and some Alejandro Salazar small ball to score the other. Luke Dykstra has hit in 11 consecutive games, and has 20 hits in that time (3 doubles).

Max Fried pitched a simply phenomenal game for the Braves, with 6 stellar innings to earn the win. His 9 strikeouts were a career high, and he left with 84 pitches so were he at a higher level and not coming off of surgery you could see another inning plus. Importantly, he also commanded the ball well. In his last 5 starts, Fried has pitched 27 innings, has an ERA of 2.33, has walked 18, and struck out 29. I see Fried as a potential beneficiary of Rome’s current 6 game rotation allowing him extra rest. Dalton Geekie allowed 1 run in his 2 innings of work, and Adam McCreery pitched a scoreless 9th inning.

Next Game: 6/11 at (31-30) Greensboro Grasshoppers 7:00 PM ET

Probable Starters

ROM: Ricardo Sanchez (3-4, 5.23 ERA)

GBO: Chuck Weaver (4-4, 1.99 ERA)