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Braves minor league Week 17 preview: Gwinnett, Mississippi look to stay hot

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The Atlanta Braves minor leagues combined for a 12-12 week, thanks to the red-hot Mississippi Braves and Gwinnett Stripers. Here’s what is coming up for the young Braves.

Minnesota Twins v Atlanta Braves Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves minor-league teams had yet another week of mixed results. While the lower minors continue to struggle in their quest for the win column, both Mississippi and Gwinnett tallied yet another series victory.

It doesn’t get any easier this week. The four teams facing the young Braves are all above .500, with two of the best teams in the minors playing against Augusta and Rome. Before we look at the week ahead, here is how some of the prospects stacked up last week.

Augusta GreenJackets:

  • Joey Estes, SP: 5 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
  • Bryson Horne, 1B/DH: 5-for-20, 2 R, 2 RBI
  • Justyn-Henry Malloy, 3B: 6-for-18, 1 HR, 4 R, 3 RBI

Rome Braves:

  • Darius Vines, SP: 7 IP (CG), 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
  • Jared Shuster, SP: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
  • Michael Harris II, CF: 5-for-16, 2 R

Mississippi Braves:

  • Spencer Strider, SP: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
  • Trey Harris, OF: 7-for-21, 1 2B, 4 R, 6 RBI
  • Shea Langeliers, C: 5-for-18, 1 2B, 3 R

Gwinnett Stripers:

  • Kyle Muller, SP: 6 IP, 1 H, 1 R (unearned), 3 BB, 4 K
  • Bryce Elder, SP: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K
  • Travis Demeritte, OF: 5-for-12, 1 HR, 5 R, 4 RBI

As we said, there is a tough road ahead for the Braves’ minor-league squads this week. Here’s what we’re watching.

Augusta (40-56) vs. Charleston RiverDogs (67-29) — August 24-29

Last week: 0-6

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

Transactions: Dylan Dodd, Dylan Spain assigned to Augusta from FCL

It was a rough week for the GreenJackets, and it doesn’t get any easier this week. Last week, Augusta dealt with one of the most advanced lineups in Low-A and now it hosts a RiverDogs team that has the best record in the entire division by a wide margin.

Despite facing a lineup that has several bats well deserving of a promotion, Joey Estes handled himself well. It wasn’t his best outing, but again, he was facing off against names like Alex Binelas and Freddy Zamora and limited them to just two runs. Dylan Dodd — the Braves third-round pick in the 2021 MLB draft out of Southeast Missouri State — made his Augusta debut on Sunday. He flashed some promising moments and has what appears to be a nice fastball-changeup combo, but the breaking ball leaves a little bit to be desired — which is also expected in one’s first full-season-ball start. Former two-time PacWest pitcher of the Week, Dylan Spain, also made his Augusta debut. He made two appearances and tossed three scoreless innings.

Justyn-Henry Malloy had a breakout week. He hit .333 with his first career home run. Vaughn Grissom continues to hit everything thrown his way, going 6-for-17 last week. Per our very own Garrett Spain, in 29 games since Grissom returned from the IL, he has slashed .370/.465/.565 with 13 extra base hits and is walking as much as he strikes out.

Rome (42-53) at Bowling Green (67-29) — August 24-29

Last week: 2-4

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

Transactions: Placed Logan Brown on the 60-day IL; Benjamin Dum assigned to roster from Augusta; placed Cesar Rodriguez on the Development List

Rome’s week was full of rain and now Bowling Green will bring the thunder. The Hot Rods have the most home runs (165) and highest OPS (.819) in High-A East facing a Rome pitching staff with the third-best ERA (3.99) in the league.

Darius Vines and Jared Shuster both had notable starts this past week. Shuster went the furthest he has since his debut, lasting six innings and landing 56 of 79 pitches for strikes while Vines tossed a complete game (albeit abbreviated due to doubleheader rules) and was in complete control, striking out seven and walking none.

At the plate, Michael Harris II continues to lead the way and had another decent week. He is hitting .298 with a .786 OPS on the season. His partner in crime, Jesse Franklin V, has cooled off in August, hitting just .231 for the month, but his bat is certainly worth watching as he is still tied for the High-A East home run lead with 21.

Mississippi (58-38) vs. Pensacola Blue Wahoos (49-47) — August 24-29

Last week: 5-1

Last week’s rotation: Alan Rangel, Spencer Strider, Nolan Kingham, Hayden Deal and Freddy Tarnok

Transactions: Placed Victor Vodnik, Riley Unroe on the 7-day IL; sent Jake Higginbotham to FCL on rehab assignment; Nolan Kingham assigned to roster from Gwinnett; activated Matt Withrow, Mitch Calandria

Another week, another series win for the best team in Double-A South. Next up is a Pensacola team that Mississippi went 4-2 against in a late-July series.

The M-Braves rotation has a league-best 3.56 ERA and an absurd 11 shutouts with the second-most strikeouts in the league. Spencer Strider held his own this past week, going another 5.2 innings, allowing three runs and striking out six. Freddy Tarnok was on the wrong side of a tough-luck loss, allowing no earned runs in his five innings while striking out three.

Shea Langeliers continues to make his pitch for best catching prospect in the minors. That’s in large part because other teams inexplicably continue to try and run on him:

He’s now thrown out 27 of 62 attempts on the base paths. He also has the fourth-most home runs (19) and third-highest OPS (.857) in the league. Langeliers makes Mississippi must-watch baseball every time he’s on the field.

Gwinnett (55-41) at Nashville Sounds (52-44) — August 24-29

Last week: 5-1

Last week’s rotation: Ian Anderson, Kyle Muller, Kyle Wright, Bryce Elder, Jose Rodriguez and Tanner Roark

Transactions: Assigned Bryce Elder to roster from Mississippi; promoted William Contreras to Atlanta

The Ian Anderson rehab tour chugged along this past week and he made his best start yet. Anderson tossed 4.1 innings of shutout ball, striking out six and walking one. He is obviously very close to re-joining the big-league rotation and may need one more tune-up before he heads south down I-85. Kyle Muller looked more comfortable in his first start back with Gwinnett but still did walk a few. It was good to see him back on the right track.

And Bryce Elder, he of the remarkable 2021 climb up the entire Braves MiLB ladder, continues to impress. Elder, who was better in Double A than he was at Rome where he started the season, looked just fine in his Triple-A debut. Now it wasn’t his best start, but to have been drafted in a pandemic, not throw a professional pitch until nearly a year later and not get lit up in his first Triple-A start is nothing short of impressive.

At the plate, Cristian Pache and Drew Waters were quiet this week. Travis Demeritte was Travis Demeritte once again, recording five more hits, another home run and keeping his OPS high at 1.040 — the highest mark among any player who has played at least 50 games in Triple-A East this season.