Last week was a good week for the Atlanta Braves minor league affiliates. The four teams combined for a 18-6 record. A 2-4 week by Augusta was the lone blemish, but Rome, Mississippi and Gwinnett are now all, at least, .500 ball clubs.
The big news is that 2020 MLB draft pick Spencer Strider made quick work of Low-A and is on his way up to Rome this week. He finished his first tour of duty as a pro baseball player with four strong starts in Augusta — two this past week — pitching to a 0.59 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and an absurd 32 strikeouts in 15.1 innings. He was hitting 96 easily and regularly in his last start on Sunday.
Spencer Strider has been promoted and is headed to @TheRomeBraves— Eric Cole (@leprekhan) May 31, 2021
Week 5 will be no walk through the park. All four Braves’ opponents have records well north of .500 and are battling for the top of their respective divisions. Let’s take a look at each series.
Augusta (10-14) vs. Charleston (15-9) — June 1-6
Last week: 2-4
Last week’s rotation: Spencer Strider, Joey Estes, Tanner Owens, Darius Vines and Alec Barger
Willie Carter continues to lead the way with the bat, now hitting .329 with a .933 OPS and three home runs on the season. Cade Bunnell had a big week as well with five hits, two home runs and six RBIs. But let’s talk about Vaughn Grissom.
Last night Vaughn Grissom (@GrissomVaughn) hit his first homer of the season. The 11th round draft pick was one of @TalkingChop's breakout picks for the 2021 season. He's hitting .263/.300/.421 over his last 5 games. pic.twitter.com/KX80gNffTt— Gaurav (@gvedak) May 31, 2021
Grissom had two multi-hit games early in the week and then launched a home run to close it out. The home run, as you can see above, was of the opposite-field variety, showing his ability to use all fields. He’s been playing both third and short and is far superior at short, looking pretty good at the position.
With Strider getting the promotion, Joey Estes becomes the resident ace. Estes had another solid start, going five innings and allowing two runs (one earned) with four more strikeouts to give him 21 in 17 innings to just five walks. Darius Vines continues to impress as well.
Rome (14-10) at Bowling Green (14-10) — June 1-6
Last week: 4-2
Last week’s rotation: Jared Shuster, Ricky DeVito, Alan Rangel, Bryce Elder, Mitch Stallings and Tanner Gordon
Don’t look now, but with the promotion of Strider, Rome has a potential rotation that had similar helium to a certain 2016 rotation that featured Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Max Fried, Touki Toussaint and Patrick Weigel. A Shuster, DeVito, Strider and Elder rotation is almost a polar opposite — experienced college arms opposed to a rotation of teenagers and high school arms — but the potential for higher ceilings is there.
Of course, there is also Michael Harris. The superstar in the making went 9-for 25 and continues to lead High-A East in hitting with a .360 average. Beau Philip is starting to look a little more comfortable at the plate as well. He only had four hits, but three were extra base hits. I was on hand Tuesday when he hit his first home run of the year. Prior to hitting the opposite-field home run, he scorched a foul ball that was just foul of an opposite-field home run itself. It would be great to see him get going.
Mississippi (12-12) vs. Pensacola (15-9) — June 1-6
Last week: 5-1
Last week’s rotation: Nolan Kingham, Hayden Deal, Victor Vodnik, Odalvi Javier, A.J. Puckett and Jose Rodriquez
This was a week of good news, but there was a dark cloud over the week. Talking Chop favorite and highly rated Braves pitching prospect Victor Vodnik left his start after three batters and was placed on the IR. But enough of the gloom, this team went 5-1, let’s talk about the high points.
Shea Langeliers is the Double-A South player of the week. He went 8-for-19 with a home run, but more importantly he is in the top 6 in the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS while being arguably the best defensive catcher in the league, throwing out 50 percent of his base runners with a league-best four double plays turned and .994 fielding percentage. Nolan Kingham and Hayden Deal continue to be Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, either having really solid performances or forgettable ones. This week were of the solid variety.
Gwinnett (14-10) vs. Jacksonville (14-10) — June 1-6
Last week: 5-1
Last week’s rotation: Kyle Wright, Jasseel De La Cruz, Kyle Muller, Bryse Wilson and Connor Johnstone
Kyle Wright had two good starts. Repeat, Kyle Wright had two good starts. Wright’s monster week saw him go 11 innings, walking three and striking out seven while allowing zero earned runs. His ERA lowered to 3.86 and most importantly his batting average against dropped .027 points, although still a frightening .301. To have a 5-1 week, pretty much everyone made good starts, including Kyle Muller, who made his best start of the year. With Connor Johnstone struggling, should the Stripers go a five-man rotation, they seem pretty set.
Drew Waters had a quiet week at the plate but closed with a two-hit performance. Alex Jackson seems to have found his power stroke blasting four home runs over a two-day span. It would be nice to see him keep it up, but power surges are nothing new from A-Jax at the Triple-A level. While we like to highlight prospects, it’s worth noting Jason Kipnis returned to action, posting four hits in his four games.