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Braves Week 16 MiLB preview: Young pitching shines after an 18-5 week

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The young Atlanta Braves prospects had a monster week, with all four levels winning their series. Here’s what you need to know.

Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

What a week for the Atlanta Braves minor-league teams. Each level won its respective series as the four teams combined to go 18-5 in a monster week. Before we jump into what happened, let’s take a look at some of the bigger prospects that performed well for the Braves.

Augusta GreenJackets:

  • Joey Estes, SP: 9 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 14 K
  • Ryan Cusick, SP: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K
  • Vaughn Grissom, SS: 10-for-23, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI

Rome Braves:

  • Darius Vines, SP: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K
  • Michael Harris, II, CF: 5-for-13, 3 R, 3 RBI, 1 SB
  • Jesse Franklin V, OF: 6-for-16, 2 HR, 5 R, 4 RBI

Mississippi Braves:

  • Victor Vodnik, SP: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K
  • Shea Langeliers, C: 6-for-19, 2 HR, 6 R, 4 RBI
  • Bryce Elder, SP: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K

Gwinnett Stripers:

  • Cristian Pache, CF: 7-for-17, 1 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI
  • Drew Waters, OF: 3-for-12, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 SB
  • Kyle Wright, SP: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

Now, on to the week ahead. Here’s what to watch on the Braves’ farm this week.

Augusta (40-50) at Carolina Mudcats (53-37) — August 17-22

Last week: 6-0

Last week’s rotation: Tanner Gordon, Rainiery Rodriguez, Ryan Cusick, Andrew Hoffman, Joey Estes and Chad Bryant

Transactions: Assigned Ryan Cusick to roster; sent Jared Johnson to FCL; assigned Drew Campbell to rehab assignment in FCL

Kannapolis was the cure for Augusta, getting the GreenJackets back on track with a perfect week. Augusta will hope to carry that momentum over as it travels to the first place Carolina Mudcats.

It was another solid week for MLB draftees. Andrew Hoffman strung together his second-straight strong outing, tossing three innings while allowing one run and striking out six. But Ryan Cusick stole the show in his debut, striking out seven over three scoreless innings. He was lighting up the radar gun, hitting 100 mph and regularly landing the fastball in the upper 90s.

Joey Estes’ transformation into top pitching prospect continued this week with a tremendous 14-strikeout performance. He is red-hot, pitching to a 2.29 ERA and 0.92 WHIP with 31 strikeouts in 19.2 innings this month.

Vaughn Grissom led the way at the plate, recording five two-hit games in six chances. He closed the week on a four-game hitting streak and looks to stay hot against a Mudcats pitching staff with one of the highest batting-average-against in Low-A East. New Atlanta Braves farmhand Cal Conley, the fourth-round pick in the 2021 MLB draft, had six hits in a three-game span, including his first pro home run of his career that was absolutely smoked over the right-field wall. The former Columbus State Cougar Bryson Horne had yet another solid week, hitting in all four games he played and capping the week with a three-hit performance in which he launched his eighth home run of the season. He’s now slashing .268/.311/.724 on the season.

Rome (40-49) vs. Greenville Drive (47-21) — August 17-22

Last week: 3-2

Last week’s rotation: Jared Shuster, Jake McSteen, Darius Vines, Coleman Huntley and Mitch Stallings

Transactions: Riley Delgado, Carlos Martinez assigned to Rome from Mississippi; Tanner Gordon assigned to Rome from Augusta; placed Kevin Josephina on the 60-day IL

Rome and Hickory battled through a rain-soaked week, with multiple rainouts and attempts at double headers. Unfortunately, they couldn’t play a full week, but Rome came out on top with the series win as they get ready to host Greenville this week.

Jared Shuster wound up making two appearances this past week after quickly replacing Mitch Stallings on a rainy Sunday. The Braves are still limiting his innings, but he looked good once again totaling seven innings and allowing three runs and striking out nine while walking one. Darius Vines also kept rolling along with his breakout campaign. He’s somehow 1-4 in Rome despite posting a respectable 3.83 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and a 9.76 strikeout-per-nine rate.

At the plate Michael Harris II and Jesse Franklin V continue to be the main attraction. Harris has now hit in nine of 11 August games, slashing .300/.364/.475 for the month while Franklin had another two-home run game tying him for the High-A East lead with 21.

Mississippi (53-37) at Montgomery Biscuits (50-39) — August 17-22

Last week: 5-1

Last week’s rotation: Freddy Tarnok, Alan Rangel, Spencer Strider, Victor Vodnik and Bryce Elder

Transactions: Corbin Clouse assigned to roster from FCL; Matt Withrow added to Development List; Riley Unroe activated from the IL

After going 8-2 in their last 10, the M-Braves have opened a huge lead on the entire Double-A South. This week they battle the second-best team in the division while trying to maintain their stranglehold on first place.

This pitching staff is a large reason why. Freddy Tarnok made two more starts this week, one of which was good and the other easily his “worst” start since his promotion (and that word is used loosely). He went a combined 9.1 innings, allowing six runs while striking out 15. Alan Rangel continues to mystify opponents in his transition from fixture in the Rome rotation to a possibly legitimate Double-A arm. He tossed six innings of shutout ball, striking out 10 and walking just one. Bryce Elder seems to be getting better as we are seeing less and less walks each time out. So far in August, he has 25 strikeouts and two walks in 19 innings. In the ‘pen, Indigo Diaz still hasn’t allowed a run since his promotion (11 innings pitched) and has struck out 20 over the same span.

Shea Langeliers continues to get it done at the plate and behind it. When you look at the success of the M-Braves rotation, you can’t deny how much a factor having Langeliers behind the plate is. He’s also thrown out 26 of 58 attempted runners and is arguably the best defensive catcher in Minor League Baseball. Langeliers added a two-home run game this past week and is now tied for second in Double-A South with 19.

Gwinnett (50-40) at Louisville Bats (37-53)— August 17-22

Last week: 4-2

Last week’s rotation: Ian Anderson, Huascar Ynoa, Jose Rodriguez, Kyle Wright, Jasseel De La Cruz and Nolan Kingham

Transactions: Eddie Rosario sent on rehab assignment to Gwinnett; activated Jason Kipnis from the IL; Kyle Muller optioned to Gwinnett

Despite the starting pitching not putting up eye-popping numbers, the Stripers took a big series from Durham, which is one of the best teams in all the minors. Next up is a Louisville Bats team dead last in their division.

Kyle Muller is heading back to the Gwinnett rotation after some struggles with his fastball command in Atlanta. He instantly becomes the pitcher to watch as Ian Anderson and Huascar Ynoa’s days are likely numbered on their rehab stints. Neither performed particularly well this past week but it isn’t stats we’re concerned with — just healthy starts.

Cristian Pache swung a big bat this past week, homering in back-to-back games to get started. After hitting .411 on the week, he’s now slashing .258/.332/.449 in Gwinnett. Drew Waters had a quiet week but remains the must-see prospect with Pache in the lineup.