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Braves Week 18 minor-league preview: Luke Waddell looks to carry his hot streak into September

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The Atlanta Braves minor-league affiliates went 9-9 last week. Here’s a look at who performed well and what to expect in the week ahead.

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAR 01 Georgia at Georgia Tech Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was a .500 week for the Atlanta Braves minor-league system. Mississippi had its entire week knocked out due to COVID-19 protocols while the remaining three teams went 9-9. That is a positive considering every team the Braves MiLB clubs played last week was above .500 and some of the best competition in the minors.

This week, the schedule is more favorable. But more on that in a minute. Let’s first check in with some prospect’s performance from last week.

Augusta GreenJackets:

  • Joey Estes, SP: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
  • Vaughn Grissom, IF: 6-for-23, 1 3B, 7 RBI, 1 SB
  • Cal Conley, SS: 4-for-20, 1 3B, 4 R, 1 RBI

Rome Braves:

  • Luke Waddell, SS/DH: 9-for-22, 6 HR, 8 R, 10 RBI
  • Tanner Gordon, SP: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K
  • Darius Vines, SP: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

Mississippi Braves:

  • No games due to COVID-19

Gwinnett Stripers:

  • Kyle Muller, SP: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
  • Cristian Pache, CF: 6-for-20. 1 2B, 2 RBI
  • Kyle Wright, SP: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

One week after holding strong against teams with some of the best records in the minor leagues, the Braves farm system sees four teams with sub-.500 records this week. here’s a quick look at what and who we are watching.

Augusta (42-60) at Fayetteville Woodpeckers (46-56) — Aug. 31-Sep. 5

Last week: 2-4

Last week’s rotation: Rainiery Rodriguez, Ryan Cusick, Andrew Hoffmann, Joey Estes, Dylan Dodd and Gabriel Rodriguez

Transactions: Adam Zebrowski assigned to roster from FCL; Victor De Hoyos, Javier Valdes assigned to FCL; Ricardo Rodriguez added to Development List, Chad Bryant place on IL; Gabriel Rodriguez activated from IL

There was more work for the Braves 2021 MLB draft picks this past week. Dylan Dodd made his second start and was sharp. He landed 39 of 59 pitches for strikes, striking out seven over his 3.2 innings of work. Ryan Cusick was on the wrong side of a tough-luck loss, allowing two unearned runs in his three innings this past week. The fireballer struck out four more and now has 15 in eight innings of work. And how about Dylan Spain? The reliever selected in the 10th-round out of DII Hawaii-Hilo has yet to allow a run in Augusta, tossing another two scoreless and striking out two.

Joey Estes had another outstanding performance and is chasing the minor-league Triple Crown (note from the author: I am NOT counting wins for a Low-A starter — ERA, WHIP and strikeouts are what really matters). Estes leads Low-A East in ERA (2.76), WHIP (0.94) and strikeouts (126 or 11.84-per-nine).

With the draft bats having a quiet week, Vaughn Grissom remains the main attraction at the plate. He followed up a scorching-hot July with a very good August, slashing .315/.390/.427 with four doubles, three triples and 11 RBI. Should be an exciting final stretch for one of the Braves most promising prospects.

Rome (46-55) vs. Winston-Salem Dash (38-63) — Aug. 31-Sep. 5

Last week: 4-2

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

Transactions: Drew Campbell, Jake Higginbotham, William Woods assigned to Rome roster; Garrison Schwartz added to Development List; Matt Hartman, Gabriel Noguera released

Both Darius Vines and Jared Shuster pitched well last week, keeping the R-Braves in the game and allowing them to take the series from the best team in High-A East. Shuster went into the sixth inning for the second week in a row, going 5.2 innings while allowing three runs and one walk while striking out seven. Vines simply continues to impress in his breakout season and finishes August with a 2-1 record behind a 3.65 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and a 23-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ration in 24.2 innings pitched. William Woods made his Rome debut for 2021 and showed off that improved velocity we heard so much about, landing 98-mph fastball after 98-mph fastball. He was a bit wild so his second start this week will be one to watch.

Michael Harris II started the week with a bang, going 3-for-4 with his seventh home run of the season on Tuesday. He played sparingly for the remainder of the series. Luke Waddell may have locked up the High-A East player of the month in a five-day swing. He had two two-home run games, driving in and scoring seven over that span.

Mississippi (58-39) at Biloxi Shuckers (37-63) — Aug. 31-Sep. 5

Last week: PPD due to Covid-19

Last week’s rotation: None

Transactions: Indigo Diaz, Nolan Kingham, Sean McLaughlin and Jefrey Ramos placed on IL

The M-Braves were out of action last week due to contract tracing and positive tests for COVID-19. They travel to Biloxi this week for a favorable matchup if they can play after the effects of Hurricane Ida.

Gwinnett Stripers (58-44) vs. Memphis Redbirds (48-54) — Aug. 31-Sep. 5

Last week: 3-3

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

Transactions: Edgar Santana optioned to Gwinnett

Ian Anderson and Eddie Rosario looked good in their final tune-ups and are now back in Atlanta, so let’s focus on what is still in Gwinnett. The two Kyle’s had another strong week as they make a push to return for September help. Kyle Muller looks to be rounding back into form. He’s now pitched 12 innings in two starts since rejoining the Gwinnett rotation, allowing no earned runs and striking out eight. Kyle Wright’s August was simply remarkable by his standards. He posted a 2.43 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 35 strikeouts to just five walks in 29.2 innings pitched. He now leads Triple-A East with a 3.31 ERA.

Cristian Pache finished August on a high note and is another top prospect making a bid for some September time. For the month, he slashed .320/.386/.520 with six doubles and three home runs. William Contreras went 2-for-4 in his first game back in Gwinnett after a brief call-up to Atlanta but quieted down the rest of the week. He remains one to watch, especially with Shea Langeliers out of action the past week.