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Atlanta Braves Minor League Recap: Joey Estes, Kyle Muller, and Freddy Tarnok Dominate

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The pitching put on a show for the Braves affiliates as they won all six of their games

Freddy Tarnok Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

It was a fun night on the farm for Atlanta Braves affiliates, as they swept their way through the day going 6-0. Joey Estes turned in another masterpiece for Augusta and Kyle Muller was strong again for Gwinnett. Freddy Tarnok made his season debut with a dominant outing in relief for Rome. Four prospects hit home runs in games on Wednesday, with the most significant being that of 2019 first round pick Braden Shewmake.

(16-15 Gwinnett Stripers 5, (12-19) Memphis Redbirds 4 Game 1

Box Score

  • Cristian Pache, CF: 0-4, .278/.278/.444
  • Drew Waters, LF: 2-4, RBI, .272/.370/.417
  • Alex Jackson, C: 1-3, HR, 3 RBI, .242/.350/.788
  • Bryse Wilson, SP: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 5.00 ERA
  • Jacob Webb, RP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA

Gwinnett took a sweep of their double header on Wednesday with stunning pitching work after a big early inning in game one. Memphis jumped well out into the lead in the second inning by dropping a four spot, but Gwinnett wasn’t done on the day and had a comeback in the works. The offense struggled outside of a Drew Waters single to lead off the game, but in the fifth they quickly made their talent top to bottom known as seven hitter Travis Demeritte led off with a single. Sean Kazmar followed with an RBI double and then Waters brought Kazmar home on an infield single to cut the deficit to two. One inning later and the Stripers had it rolling again with two singles to lead off the inning, and Alex Jackson hit an absolutely monstrous go-ahead three-run home run. That home run was Jackson’s fifth in ten games this season and his 33rd home run in 95 Triple-A games since the start of 2019. All five this season have come in his five games against Memphis. Jackson got off to an 0-for-8 start with six strikeouts, but in the seven games since, has five home runs, five walks and is hitting .320/.419/1.040 in 31 plate appearances, The book isn’t closed on him being a major leaguer for a few years in some capacity, and actually making contact against Triple-A pitching is that big first step he needs to take towards finding a role for himself.

Bryse Wilson pitched to contact for the Gwinnett Stripers, and he pitched to a lot of it in a rough second inning. After three quick fly ball outs around his only walk of the game in the first inning Wilson got into major trouble with a one out triple in the second. A single from former Braves prospect Juan Yepez brought in the game’s first run, and then three hits with two outs broke the game open and made it 4-0. Wilson retired five batters in a row after that, then worked around the one out single that snapped the streak in the fourth to keep it at 4-0. A leadoff single had him a bit in the fire in the fifth, but he got a double play to get out of it and finish off five innings for his third win. Thomas Burrows had an effective sixth inning with a couple of strikeouts and a walk, putting together the shutdown inning for the Stripers to send it to the final frame with them in the lead. Jacob Webb closed it out with no stress and Gwinnett got back over .500 with a one run, comeback victory.

(17-15) Gwinnett Stripers 3, (12-20) Memphis Redbirds 1 F/8 Game 2

Box Score

  • Orlando Arcia, SS: 1-4, .297/.368/.539
  • Drew Waters, LF: 2-3, BB, RBI, .283/.382/.425
  • Jonathan Lucroy, C: 0-2, RBI, .222/.327/.333
  • Kyle Muller, SP: 6 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 4.60 ERA
  • Yoan Lopez, RP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2.25 ERA

Game two was a pitcher’s duel between Kyle Muller and the Redbirds starter, but Gwinnett came out on top in extra innings. The offense struggled for much of the game, but after a Yolmer Sanchez single led off the fifth inning they were finally ready to make noise. Drew Waters snuck a single through the right side of the infield to get Sanchez over to third and when Waters took second easily on a stolen base, Sanchez trotted home on the throw to tie the game. In extra innings Terrance Gore stole third base right out of the gate, and that became an important play as it brought the infield in and allowed Waters to drop a ball into shallow right field for the go ahead single. Waters came in to score the second run of the inning on a sacrifice fly and Gwinnett shut down an opportunity in the 8th to win. As for Waters, you might notice my descriptions of his hits as things like “snuck” and “dropped” and it’s pretty important. Drew has had some success over the past week and statistically is fine, but whether it’s a matter of his oblique injury lingering and limiting him, the level being too much, or some of other change he is simply not impacting the ball right now the way he has in the past. He’s hitting a bunch of ground balls, and he’s got a couple of major holes in his approach that are being exploited for easy swings and misses. The Braves can live with the strikeouts to an extent with Waters, but it’s a bit interesting to see the drop in contact quality as we’ve never seen him suffer an extended streak of poor contact as a professional.

On the flip side Kyle Muller kept up his best streak as a professional with a dominant outing, as he made his presence known early with the heat. As he’s come to do in his past few starts he came out guns blazing with his upper 90’s fastball in he first inning and he struck out two batters in a perfect first. He backed off of it a bit down to 94-95 in the second inning and tried to settle into a rhythm. That rhythm led to the first run as a walk and single led off the inning and a sacrifice fly brought a run home, but he kept it there with a strikeout and a fly out and cruised over the remaining four innings. A walk in the third inning was the only runner to reach after that single and he retired ten consecutive batters to end another brilliant start. He sits tied for third among Triple-A pitchers with 41 strikeouts on the season. Yoan Lopez kept the game tied with a scoreless seventh inning leading into an interesting eighth that somehow turned in Gwinnett’s favor. With Jesse Chavez on the mound the first batter hit a high hop over to Yolmer Sanchez at third base, and he tried to tag out the advancing runner but was unable too, putting runners on the corners with no outs. The next batter drew a walk and suddenly the bases were loaded and Gwinnett had still not recorded an out. Chavez got a huge strike out for the first out of the inning, and then forced a ground ball right at Orlando Arcia who started a double play that ended the game in Gwinnett’s favor.

Next Game: 6/10 @ (12-20) Memphis Redbirds @ 8:10 PM ET

Probable Starters


MEM: Connor Thomas (1-0, 4.63 ERA)

(17-15) Mississippi Braves 5, (12-20) Biloxi Shuckers 4

Box Score

  • Braden Shewmake, SS: 2-5, HR, 2 RBI, .122/.173/.214
  • Trey Harris, RF: 2-3, HR, BB, RBI, .219/.311/.286
  • Shea Langeliers, C: 0-3, BB, .259/.388/.588
  • Odalvi Javier, SP: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1.40 ERA
  • Brooks Wilson, RP: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1.84 ERA

Mississippi survived and the three home runs they hit in the game were huge as they accounted for all of the five runs they scored. The Braves found themselves trailing after one inning, but Jefrey Ramos made sure that was no longer true as he crushed his first home run of the season to bring in Trey Harris and give Mississippi a 2-1 lead. After going quietly following that home run it was Harris’s turn to get in on the action, as he hit a rocket over the wall in left field for his first home run of the season and a much needed boost to his early season power production. The next inning it was Braden Shewmake getting it done with a home run, his second of the season, and Mississippi had a commanding 5-1 lead going into the late innings. Shewmake’s work the last couple of games has been particularly notable, as he finally seems to be hitting his stride and making some solid contact at the plate. He’s in need of some confidence at the plate, and hopefully this three game hitting streak with a home run mixed in is the turning point in the season for him.

Odalvi Javier has been a top three pitcher in the league this season, as we all obviously expected, and he once again turned in a marvelous performance for Mississippi. It wasn’t his sharpest work early as a two out single and then a subsequent double brought home the first run of the game, but he was nearly untouchable following those hits and got through five innings with no more runs allowed. The only other blip was a one out single in the third inning that he quickly worked around, and he struck out four of the final eight batters he faced to cap the start. Brooks Wilson has been one of the more effective relief pitchers in the system this season, and he was at his best for Mississippi with two perfect innings and six strikeouts. Chris Nunn followed by striking out the side in the bottom of the eighth inning to send it to Troy Bacon to close it out. Bacon had his first real struggle of the season as he allowed a two out, three-run home run that brought the game within a run. He spared us a collapse by striking out the final batter of the inning and closing out a win.

Next Game: 6/10 @ (12-20) Biloxi Shuckers @ 7:35 PM ET

Probable Starters

MIS: AJ Puckett (0-1. 3.18 ERA)

BLX: Nick Bennett (1-1, 8.10 ERA)

(16-15) Rome Braves 8, (13-17) Asheville Tourists 4 Game 1

Box Score

  • Michael Harris, CF: 0-4, .339/.359/.482
  • Bryce Ball, 1B: 1-2, 2B, 2 BB, RBI, .217/.356/.398
  • Jesse Franklin, RF: 2-4, .232/.267/.379
  • Bryce Elder, SP: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. 2.65 ERA
  • Jared Shuster, RP: 3 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 4.09 ERA

Rome’s five runs yesterday were enough for them to hang on for the completion of the game today, and they finished out a double header sweep with the help of a return from Freddy Tarnok. Yesterday’s five run inning was an ugly affair as it mostly came self inflicted by the Tourists pitching staff. They loaded the bases with no outs and then allowed the first two runners to score on bases loaded walks. An infield single scored the third run and then an error and another bases loaded walk put Rome up 5-0. That score held until this fifth inning when Bryce Ball led off with a double and then came around to score on a ground out and a wild pitch. The Braves added two runs of insurance in the eighth inning in another display of pitching and defensive brilliance from the Tourists. Brown was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, then with two outs Asheville made consecutive errors to bring in a run. The pitcher gave up another run scoring wild pitch, and Rome had their eighth run most of which were self inflicted by a struggling Asheville....everything.

Bryce Elder has been untouchable since a rough first start to the season, and prior to the suspension of this game seemed well on his way to another gem. Elder carved up Asheville with his improved curveball, getting seven outs and three strikeouts before the rain shortened his start. Jared Shuster made the start today for Rome and was a bit up and down. He allowed a double on the second pitch he threw in the game, but then came right back with his best and got a pop out and strike out to finish the third inning. He retired six of the seven batters he faced after that, but it quickly went awry in the sixth inning for Shuster as he started to become more hittable. A home run led off the inning, then after a weak pop out he gave up three consecutive hits to bring home two more runs and end his day. Mitch Stallings had a boring 2 23 innings of relief work with a run allowed on a couple of hits, a walk, and no strike outs. Really nothing notable from this performance save for the fact he didn’t give up the lead. Kasey Kalich closed out the game and struggled doing so with only eight strikes on 18 pitches, but he managed to fight through it for a scoreless inning to drop his ERA to 1.72.

(17-15) Rome Braves 5, (13-18) Asheville Tourists 3 Game 2

Box Score

  • Shean Michel, CF: 2-3, .169/.236/.262
  • Bryce Ball, 1B 0-3, .209/.346/.384
  • Jesse Franklin, RF: 1-2, HR, BB, RBI, .237/.279/.412
  • Coleman Huntley, SP: 1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. 5.31 ERA
  • Freddy Tarnok, RP: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 0.00 ERA

Game two was the Freddy Tarnok show, but before Tarnok there was the Tourists being an A ball team with three unearned runs allowed as they once again bobbled a game away. Asheville took a 3-0 lead in the first inning but that didn’t stay there for long as they allowed two in the bottom of the inning. Two walks and a fielding error loaded the bases with one out, and a sacrifice fly brought home a run to cut into that lead. Then after another walk, the pitcher threw a wild pitch that scored the second run and got Rome back to within one. Asheville managed to avoid disaster for a couple of innings, but in the fourth they loaded the bases and something silly happened. Well, first a sacrifice fly from Riley Delgado scored a run, well and truly earned for the Rome offense as it took a couple of hits to get there. Then, the runner tried to steal second base, the shortstop was unable to make a catch on the throw down (I think the runner may have run into the glove as he was catching it) and Rome was well and truly gifted a lead. In the fifth they got one the good, old-fashioned way as Jesse Franklin just crunched a baseball over the wall in left field for a home run. Franklin has started to really turn his season around.

Freddy Tarnok was announced to start the game for Rome coming off of the Injured List, but that did not happen as Coleman Huntley made it instead. To make that one quick, he allowed three runs on four hits and a walk. Zach Daniels escaped in the second inning, as although he allowed a walk and a triple, he was able to get a double play just before the triple happened to keep the bases empty. He pitched a clean third inning before giving way to Tarnok. Tarnok didn’t start, but when he came in to relieve it was clear that the time off did him good as he was the sharpest he’s ever looked on the mound.

Tarnok flashed an electric fastball and a severe curveball, mixing in some changeups that were improved, located, and seem to be trending towards average. Tarnok was an unstoppable force on the mound, striking out the first two batters he faced before a walk gave Asheville the only glimpse of hope they would have the remainder of the game. A weak pop out followed and Tarnok retired the last ten batters he faced. The Tourists managed a routine fly out and a pop out to first base in the fifth inning, but the strike outs piled up quickly as Tarnok got one in the inning and then spun it in the sixth to strike out the side. The seventh was more of the same with two swinging strikeouts and a pop out in foul territory to the first baseman. In four innings, one ball left the infield and Tarnok got 13 swings and misses and a 56.5% whiff rate.

Next Game: 6/10 vs (13-18) Asheville Tourists @ 7:00 PM ET

Probable Starters

ROM: Tanner Gordon (0-2, 5.82 ERA)

ASH: Matt Ruppenthal (2-1, 7.04 ERA)

(14-17) Augusta GreenJackets 3, (15-15) Myrtle Beach Pelicans 1

Box Score

  • Braulio Vasquez, DH: 1-3, 2 RBI, 2 SB, .213/.383/.324
  • Willie Carter, RF: 1-3, .344/.450/.462
  • Vaughn Grissom, 3B: 2-4, .276/.366/.368
  • Joey Estes, SP: 5.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, 1.01 ERA
  • Alec Barger, RP: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 5.18 ERA

Braulio Vasquez delivered a big hit and his wonderful brand of blindly stealing every base possible to lead Augusta to a 3-1 win. Augusta and Myrtle Beach were locked in a battle between the starters for most of the game, but Augusta threatened throughout and got runners on base in each of the first four innings. In the fourth, Willie Carter singled and advanced to third on a wild pitch and error, but he was thrown out trying to score on a ground ball to second base. Augusta finally broke through against the bullpen in the sixth with Vaughn Grissom leading off with a single and then coming in to score on a go ahead double by Landon Stephens. Myrtle Beach hit back with a run in the eighth, and it was Augusta’s turn in a tie game to try to make something happen. In true A ball fashion, an error, hit batter, and walk loaded the bases and Braulio Vasquez brought in the eventual game winning runs with a two run single. Vasquez also stole two bases in the game, keeping him tied for the minor league lead with 23 in 25 games.

A note on Vaughn Grissom, who had two hits in the game. Grissom has looked good at the plate offensively with a 114 wRC+ and 14.7% strikeout rate, but there is one underlying problem in his profile that is limiting him right now. Grissom is very aggressive at the plate, seeing just 3.245 pitches per plate appearance on the season. While Grissom doesn’t struggle too much with zone recognition and takes his walks, he’s hyper aggressive in the zone and thus far it’s limited him in some ways. Typically, swinging at less than ideal strikes will lead to lower batted ball quality and we’ve seen some of that with a 48.6% ground ball rate and lower power production than we were expecting. This is a fairly easily fixed problem, and Grissom’s talent for putting the barrel on the ball regardless gives confidence that he will drive the ball more as he becomes more selective. He has a 26.4% line drive rate on the season, and has a fair bit of statistical similarity to current Braves star Ozzie Albies at the same level. Granted Albies was two years younger which is a significant difference, but they also have the same professional game experience of just one short season, which does somewhat reduce the differences there.

Grissom - 14.7% K, 8.8% BB, .092 ISO, 48.6% GB, 26.4% LD

Albies 2015- 12.8% K, 8.2% BB, .094 ISO, 55.7% GB, 24.2% LD

Now, onto the show of the day, Joey Estes was once again phenomenal for Augusta and has started to really put himself on the map with his performances and the stuff he has shown. Estes was immediately and obviously overpowering, with two strikeouts and only a week bloop hit in the first inning. The only hard contact came against him in the second inning on a hard hit ground ball right up the middle, but otherwise he struck out two batters in the inning to bring his total to five. The third featured only one strikeout but a couple of weak pop ups, and the fourth and fifth he struck out four batters with only two infield pop outs as contact against him. He retired 12 consecutive batters and six of those on strikes before a triple with two outs in the sixth ended his day. Alec Barger came in to relieve him, which is interesting as Barger has been a starter. Barger’s ability played up in relief and he struck out two batters over 1 13 innings of scoreless relief. Lisandro Santos allowed a run in his two innings, and also struck out three batters.

Next Game: 6/10 vs (15-15) Myrtle Beach Pelicans @ 7:05 PM ET

Probable Starters

AUG: Tyler Owens (0-3, 7.07 ERA)

MB: DJ Herz (0-0, 0.56 ERA)