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Braves MiLB preview: Standout prospects and a look ahead at Week 7

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The Atlanta Braves minor-league affiliates went 16-8 last week. Here’s which prospects stood out and a look at the week ahead.

Atlanta Braves MiLB prospects take BP in Rome. Wayne Cavadi

What a week for the Atlanta Braves minor-league affiliates. The four teams went a combined 16-8 and we saw some impressive, and exciting, debuts from pitching prospects Freddy Tarnok and Jared Johnson.

Obviously, with a combined record of 16-8 there was plenty of performances that stood out last week. Before we jump into next week’s slate — one in which the young Braves battle some of the top teams in their respective leagues — here are three prospects from each level that stood out.

Augusta:

  • Joey Estes, SP: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K
  • Vaughn Grissom, 3B/2B: 8-for-24
  • Jared Johnson, SP: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1BB, 4 K

Rome:

  • Jesse Franklin V: 7-for-16, 2 HR
  • Spencer Strider, SP: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K
  • Freddy Tarnok, P: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K

Mississippi

  • Nolan Kingham, SP: 8.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K
  • Justin Dean, CF: 7-for-22, 3 2B, 3 RBI
  • Shea Langeliers, C: 5-for-21, 2 HR

Gwinnett

  • Kyle Muller, SP: 6 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K
  • Cristian Pache, CF: 3-for-10, 2 HR
  • Drew Waters, OF: 5-for-12, 2 RBI

Augusta GreenJackets (17-19) at Columbia FireFlies (19-14) — June 15-20

Last week: 4-2

Last week’s rotation: Joey Estes, Roddery Munoz, Estarlin Rodriguez, Tanner Gordon, Jared Johnson and Darius Vines

Transactions: Tanner Gordon and Lisandro Santos joined from Rome; Placed Tyler Owens, Ricardo Rodriguez and Carter Linton on IL; Activated Chad Bryant from the IL

Vaughn Grissom is on fire. Thus far in June, he’s slashing .325/.460/.450. He’s searching for that power but does have three doubles this month. Last week, he hit in every game he played. The game power looks like it’s there, now that he looks comfortable, maybe he will begin to tap into it.

On the bump, Jared Johnson made his debut. The 20-year-old righty is going to have an adjustment period, but the 2019 MLB draft pick flashed a nice fastball and slider combo. Hopefully, each coming start goes a little longer and he settles in. Darius Vines, on the other hand, is settled in quite well. He tossed another six strong innings, striking out eight and walking two. Vines has posted a 1.59 ERA in June, to go with a 22-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .153 batting average allowed. Joey Estes is just getting stronger in each start. His secondaries, especially the change, have vastly improved and he looks to be way ahead of Low-A hitters at the moment. He may be the prospect that jumps the highest in our midseason rankings.

Rome Braves (19-17) vs. Bowling Green (24-12) — June 15-20

Last week: 4-2

Last week’s rotation: Bryce Elder, Coleman Huntley, Jake McSteen, Spencer Strider and Alan Rangel

Transactions: Rickey DeVito placed on the IL, Freddy Tarnok assigned to Rome,

This is a big series for Rome. Last time the Braves played Bowling Green to open June, they dropped five games in six tries. This time... IT’S TOUKI TIME. Flashbacks to that 2016 magical season will be awhirl in Rome on Tuesday night as Touki Toussaint makes his 2021 debut. That will make matters confusing for this rotation which already had an odd look last week due to rain outs — but don’t worry, the Rome goat Alan Rangel didn’t skip a turn. Bryce Elder started on Tuesday, but only went a couple of innings before rains pushed play to Wednesday. That was when Jared Shuster came in, so he didn’t have a true start this past week. Elder pitched again on Sunday. It was his worst performance since his debut, and he wasn’t all bad by any means. He went six innings and allowed three earned runs.

Welcome to June, Jesse Franklin V. Thus far, Franklin is slashing .375/.444/.906 for the month with five home runs and two doubles. He’s seeing the ball very well and as we’ve said plenty of times, it was a matter of getting comfortable. Franklin hadn’t played organized ball in over a year, and now he’s showing what made him a 2020 MLB draft pick. Michael Harris had a short week, playing just four games. He went 3-for-13 and is second in High-A East with a .339 batting average.

Mississippi Braves (20-16) vs. Birmingham Barons (22-13) — June 15-20

Last week: 5-1

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

Transactions: Kurt Hoekstra activated

Here’s another big series for the baby Braves. Mississippi is red-hot, winners of six of its last seven, and welcome the best team in all of Double-A South this week. The Barons have the best run differential in the league, but the M-Braves have the best run differential — +12 — in the South Division.

This pitching staff, although settling into a five-man rotation, is certainly an odd one. Nolan Kingham is the true prospect of the bunch, and he was lights out last week, going 8.2 shutout innings. It was a complete bulldog performance, as he landed 75 percent of his pitches for strikes. Javier continues his impressive, and surprising, start. This week he went five innings of one-run ball, walking none and striking out six. He now has a 1.40 ERA and has struck out 30 in 25.2 innings pitched.

Justin Dean ended the week with a nice four-hit performance and is starting to come alive in June. He’s slashing .289/.360/.444 thus far and continues to lead Double-A South in stolen bases and is among the league leaders in doubles. Shea Langeliers continues to pound the baseball, now second in Double-A South with nine home runs. He threw out more base runners last week and has now caught 15 of 26 attempted base thieves. With a pickoff at first as well, the question arises: why do you even take a lead on Langeliers?

Gwinnett Stripers (18-18) vs. Nashville Sounds (24-11) — June 15-20

Last week: 3-3

Last week’s rotation: Kyle Muller, Bryse Wilson, Connor Johnstone, Kyle Wright, Jasseel De La Cruz, Connor Johnstone

Transactions: Placed Travis Demeritte on the IL; Transferred Carlos Martinez to development list; Placed Travis Snyder on the inactive list

Cristian Pache is working his way back to form and had a big night on Thursday. He blasted his first and second home runs for Gwinnett this season as he continues to get ready to return to Atlanta. Drew Waters started the week red-hot, extending his hit streak to four games, but hasn’t played since June 10. Like last time, he hasn’t been placed on the IL and you have to assume the injury is lingering.

Kyle Muller seems to have turned the page. The big lefty has now had three very strong starts in a row, allowing just one run in each of those starts. He’s also kept the walks down and has a nice 1.64 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in June thus far. Jasseel De La Cruz had another JDLC start. This week, he went 3.2 innings, allowed four runs — his second start in a row allowing that many — and struck out three while walking four. Similar to his last start, De La Cruz was sharp the first time through the lineup, allowing just one of those runs across. He seems bullpen ready for the Atlanta Braves, but continues to be stretched out in Gwinnett.