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Braves minor league preview: Hot prospects and a look ahead at Week 9

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The Atlanta Braves farm system went a combined 10-14 last week. Let’s look back at some stars who shined and what’s in store for this week in Minor League Baseball.

Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

It wasn’t the best week for the young Atlanta Braves. The four teams combined to go 10-14, but not all was bad. Mississippi and Rome had 4-2 weeks, while some prospects continued to trend in the right direction.

Before we break down what to watch in the week ahead, let’s take a look at a few standout performances on the Braves farm last week.

Augusta:

  • Tanner Gordon, SP: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K
  • Jared Johnson, SP: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K
  • Bryson Horne, 1B/DH: 6-for-17, 3 HR, 5 R, 5 RBI

Rome:

  • Bryce Elder, SP: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K
  • Freddy Tarnok, SP: 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K
  • Michael Harris II, CF: 7-for-28, 2 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 2 SB

Mississippi:

  • Nolan Kingham, SP: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K
  • Spencer Strider, SP: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R,2 BB, 8 K
  • Trey Harris, RF: 7-for-17, 2 R

Gwinnett:

  • Touki Toussaint, SP: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K
  • Orlando Arcia, SS: 7-for-21

Looking ahead, the Braves hope to bring some fireworks this weekend and celebrate Independence Day in style. Here’s a look at what is ahead in Week 9 of the minor-league season.

Update (12:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 29) — It appears two prospects we touched on are on the move. Nolan Kingham is heading to Gwinnett while Bryce Elder is Mississippi bound:

Augusta GreenJackets (20-27) v. Columbia FireFlies (25-19) — June 29-July 4

Last week: 1-5

Last week’s rotation: Joey Estes, Jake McSteen, Tanner Gordon, Jared Johnson and Malcom van Buren

Transactions: Brandon Parker placed on 7-day IL; Jose Bermudez activated from the 7-day IL; Chad Bryant place on temporary inactive list; Malcom van Buren assigned to Augusta — One thing to note, FanGraphs has Vaughn Grissom listed on the 7-day IL and he hasn’t played since Friday. He was having a nice little week up until that point, so it is certainly worth monitoring.

It was a rough week for the GreenJackets. Joey Estes had his first forgettable week of the season, allowing six runs in 8.1 innings across two starts. Estes had been on fire to start the season but has looked a little more human of late. He’s still very young and exciting to watch. James Acuna, out of DII Azusa Pacific, has been hot out of the bullpen the past few weeks. He had two more scoreless appearances last week and hasn’t allowed a run in his last seven innings.

Fellow DII baseball alum Bryson Horne seems to be getting comfortable. Last week, Horne had his first home run of the season, and this week, the left-handed-swinging first baseman added three more, including the first two-home run game of his young career. Willie Carter continues to be a bright spot in the lineup, recording three more multi-hit games last week. He now has a .320/.417/.422 slash line on the season.

Rome Braves (24-22) at Wilmington Blue Rocks (22-24) — June 29-July 4

Last week: 4-2

Last week’s rotation: Bryce Elder, Freddy Tarnok, Jared Shuster, Alan Rangel, Darius Vines and Mitch Stallings

Transactions: Activated Mitch Calandra from the IL; Darius Vines added to roster from Augusta

It was a solid week for the R-Braves. Bryce Ball only had four hits, but half of them left the yard. Jesse Franklin had a mini four-game run to end the week looking like he may, in fact, be human. However, he started the week with four hits, two of which were home runs, in his first two games. Michael Harris II also stayed hot. He did connect on a three-run home run, and although he struck out just four times last week, he still only drew one walk, and is walking just 3.5 percent of the time thus far.

Darius Vines did not have the welcome he would have liked. He let up five runs in five innings, walking three. Let’s not make much of his first High-A start, but it certainly was a bit different than his first nine strong starts in Augusta. Freddy Tarnok bounced back nicely. After walking three and allowing six runs in 1.1 innings last week, Tarnok allowed nary a run while striking out eight in his 3.2 innings this past week. The Braves 2020 first-round pick in the MLB draft, Jared Shuster, continues to be worked in slowly. This week he went just four innings, striking out five but allowing three runs. Bryce Elder rebounded from his worst start of the month, tossing five shutout innings and striking out seven. He is walking a bit too many batters right now but has certainly looked good so far.

Mississippi Braves (29-19) at Montgomery Biscuits (22-24) — June 29-July 4

Last week: 4-2

Last week’s rotation: AJ Puckett, Nolan Kingham, Spencer Strider, Hayden Deal and Odalvi Javier

Transactions: Placed Josh Graham on the 7-day IL; Carlos Martinez added from Gwinnett; activated Will Latcham; promoted Jose Rodriguez to Gwinnett; added Spencer Strider from Rome; placed Hendrik Clementina on the temporary inactive list

While Spencer Strider’s debut was the big ticket last week, can we talk about Nolan Kingham? He hasn’t allowed a run in his last three starts, spanning 22 innings. He’s also walked just two batters over that span. He’s turning into a real bulldog for the M-Braves. Now, Strider, he looked just fine. The fast-rising 2020 MLB draft pick struck out the first two batters he faced in Double-A, and looked solid in his M-Braves debut, striking out eight in 4.2 innings pitched.

So, is Odalvi Javier turning into a thing? He has had a modest career thus far, but there has been a glaring change now in his highest level of pro ball. He is striking out 11.1-per-nine which is well above his career average and simply doesn’t allow runs. This week he went another six shutout innings, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out eight. Hayden Deal also remained hot, going six innings, and allowing just one earned run for his second-straight start.

And don’t look now, but Trey Harris is coming alive. He has a seven-game hitting streak going and has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games. He’s seen his average rise from .206 to .276 over that span.

Gwinnett Stripers (22-25) at Durham Bulls (22-25) — June 9-July 4

Last week: 1-5

Last week’s rotation: Jose Rodriguez, Connor Johnstone, Jasseel de la Cruz, Bryse Wilson and Touki Toussaint

Transactions: Kyle Muller, Jesse Chavez recalled to Atlanta Braves; Tanner Roark sent to Gwinnett from Atlanta; added Jose Rodriguez from Mississippi; added Touki Toussaint on rehab assignment

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for Gwinnett. The bright spot was Kyle Muller’s start... but that was for the Atlanta Braves. Jose Rodriguez returned from Mississippi and was absolutely lit up in two starts, allowing 12 runs in 2.2 innings pitched. Bryse Wilson has been having a rough go off late. He allowed at least four runs in his second-straight start.

The struggles continue at the plate for the young Braves outfield duo as well. Cristian Pache and Drew Waters combined for two hits — one apiece — last week. Pache cut down on his strikeouts last week, going three games without one, but Waters struck out 10 times in six games.

On a positive, Touki Toussaint’s rehab continue to go well. He tossed two scoreless innings for Gwinnett. He’s now made one start each at Rome, Mississippi and Gwinnett and has allowed three earned runs, while walking five and striking out eight.

Florida Complex League (FCL)

The FCL — the new version of Rookie ball — got underway this week. The team will play Monday through Saturday. Kadon Morton had an RBI double before rains Florida-d the FCL Opening Day, ending the game after five innings. As a note, our own Garrett Spain and Matt Powers will be doing weekly FCL recaps where you can find news and notes on some of the hot prospects.