As the Hot Stove season continues, here’s an overview of Atlanta Braves’ transactions that could directly affect the Gwinnett Braves roster in 2015. Moves that pertain to the Major League club only are not included. All information has been obtained through the Braves.com Transaction Report and Baseball America Minor League Free Agent Tracker. Please note that the official Gwinnett Braves 2015 Roster will not be announced until early April, and all roster projections are my opinion only.
This post was last updated on December 17.
Acquired via trade:
- Arodys Vizcaino (RHP) – acquired from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Tommy La Stella on November 16. As mentioned in a previous post, the hard-throwing Vizcaino is back in the Braves’ organization after two-plus seasons with the Cubs. He rebounded from 2012 Tommy John surgery to go 1-1 with a 3.51 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 41.0 minor league innings last year, some of that time spent with Triple-A Iowa. The 24-year-old also pitched out of the Major League bullpen in September, going 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA in five relief appearances with the Cubs. Vizcaino is on the Braves’ 40-man roster and will compete for a bullpen spot this spring, but his limited MLB resume could land him in Gwinnett.
- Tyrell Jenkins (RHP) – acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals along with Shelby Miller for Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden on November 17. The Cardinals’ 50th pick in the first round of the 2010 June draft is now one of the top pitching prospects in the Braves’ organization. Jenkins, 22, put up solid numbers with Advanced-A Palm Beach in 2014, going 6-5 with a 3.28 ERA in 13 starts. He was also impressive in Arizona Fall League action, going 2-2 with a 2.22 ERA in six starts with the Peoria Javelinas. He’s slated to make his Double-A debut with Mississippi in 2015, but he could be a candidate for a late-season promotion to Triple-A.
- Aaron Kurcz (RHP) – acquired from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Anthony Varvaro and cash considerations on December 17. Kurcz, 24, was a teammate of both Chasen Shreve and Bryce Harper at the College of Southern Nevada when the Chicago Cubs selected him in the 10th round of the 2010 June draft. The Cubs then sent him to Boston in March 2012 as part of the compensation package for hiring Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations. Kurcz made his debut at Double-A Portland in 2012, going 3-4 with a 3.04 ERA, four saves and 72 strikeouts in 50.1 innings over 29 relief outings. Unfortunately, Tommy John surgery on his right elbow forced him to miss August and all of the 2013 campaign. He came back strong with Portland in 2014, going 3-2 with a 2.14 ERA, three saves and 54 strikeouts in 42.0 innings over 34 outings. Kurcz held opponents to a .204 batting average and didn’t allow a single home run last year. With plenty of late-inning experience at the Double-A level, he should fill a similar role with Gwinnett in 2015.
Acquired via Rule 5 Draft:
- Daniel Winkler (RHP) – selected from the Colorado Rockies in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft on December 11. Normally, a Major League Rule 5 selection must spend the entire season on his new club’s 25-man roster or be offered back to his old team, but Winkler is an interesting exception. He is coming off Tommy John surgery performed last June, meaning the Braves can keep him on the Major League disabled list while he rehabs. Atlanta will likely assign him to minor league rehab outings (potentially with Gwinnett) early in the season, but will have to call him up to the active roster for 90 days to retain him past 2015. Winkler went 13-7 with a 2.98 ERA and a MiLB-best 175 strikeouts in 2013, then went 5-2 with a 1.41 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 12 starts with Double-A Tulsa last year.
- Steve Rodriguez (C) – selected from the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Double-A roster in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft on December 11. Rodriguez, 24, was Arizona’s 15th round pick in the 2011 June draft out of UCLA. In four seasons in the D-Backs’ system, he batted .225 with 30 doubles, two triples, four home runs and 56 RBIs in 158 games. He made his Double-A debut with Mobile last year, batting .267 with nine doubles and 11 RBIs in 39 games. While he didn’t do much with the bat in 2014, he did throw out 50% (19-of-38) of attempting base-stealers in 38 errorless games with the BayBears. Rodriguez hopes to ride his defense to a Triple-A debut in 2015.
Re-Signed with Braves:
- Sean Kazmar (INF) – signed to a minor league contract on November 12. Kazmar, 30, has been a versatile defender and steady bat for the G-Braves for the past two seasons. After batting .228 in 95 games with Gwinnett in 2013, he posted the highest batting average of his career in 2014, a .297 mark in 67 games. His production was halted by a left hand fracture suffered in late May, but Kazmar returned in July and batted .299 in 27 games in August. He capped his season by earning the Gwinnett Braves “Most Competitive Player Award” for 2014. Expect to see Kazmar at Coolray Field once again in 2015, backing up at second base, third base and shortstop.
Minor League Free Agents:
- Pedro Ciriaco (2B) – signed to a minor league contract on October 13. Ciriaco, 29, is a well-traveled Major League infielder, having logged time with the Pittsburgh Pirates (2010-11), Boston Red Sox (2012-13), San Diego Padres (2013) and Kansas City Royals (2013-14). In 188 career big league games, he has batted .270 with 24 doubles, six triples, four home runs, 36 RBIs and 31 stolen bases. Despite that experience, Ciriaco played primarily with Triple-A Omaha in 2014, batting .302 and posting a .766 OPS in 62 games. He brings postseason success with him to Gwinnett after batting .342 in nine playoff games for the Triple-A National Champion Omaha Storm Chasers last year.
- Eli Whiteside (C) – signed to a minor league contract on November 1. Whiteside, 35, has reached the Majors in six different seasons with the Baltimore Orioles (2005), San Francisco Giants (2009-12) and Chicago Cubs (2014). He’s batted .210 with 10 home runs and 45 RBIs in 216 MLB games. Though he had a brief call-up with the Chicago Cubs in June, Whiteside spent most of 2014 with Triple-A Iowa, batting .214 with 13 doubles, six homers and 21 RBIs in 63 games. He could split catching duties with Jose Yepez in Gwinnett.
- Sugar Ray Marimon (RHP) – signed to a minor league contract on November 4. The Braves are just the second organization for Marimon, who spent his previous eight seasons in the minors with the Kansas City Royals. The 26-year-old made his long awaited Triple-A debut in 2014, going 5-4 with a 3.56 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 83.1 innings for Omaha. Like Ciriaco, he was an important September piece for the Triple-A National Champion Storm Chasers, going 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his two playoff starts. Marimon is just 27-46 with a 4.14 ERA in 137 career outings (121 starts) in the minors, but may benefit from a fresh start with the Braves. He should be a strong candidate for the Gwinnett rotation.
- Greg Smith (LHP) – signed to a minor league contract on November 4. The veteran southpaw has pitched for seven different organizations prior to joining the Braves, including Arizona (2005-07), Oakland (2008), Colorado (2009-10), New York Yankees (2011), Boston (2011), Los Angeles Angels (2012) and Philadelphia (2013-14). He has seen time on the Triple-A roster for all seven of those clubs. Smith’s standout year was 2008, when he made 32 Major League starts for Oakland and went 7-16 with a 4.16 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 190.1 innings. G-Braves fans will more likely remember him as a staple of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs’ rotation, where he went 9-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) a year ago. Consider Smith a challenger for a Gwinnett rotation spot.
- Francisco Rondon (LHP) – signed to a minor league contract on November 7. Rondon, 26, has spent all nine of his minor league seasons in the New York Yankees system, going 29-18 with a 3.61 ERA, seven saves and 431 strikeouts in 436.0 innings. After tastes of Triple-A in 2012 and 2013, he finally caught on with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a longer stretch in 2014, going 3-1 with a 3.32 ERA over 12 relief outings. The Santo Domingo, D.R. native could be a relief option in Gwinnett or Double-A Mississippi next year.
- Donnie Veal (LHP) – signed to a minor league contract and invited to Spring Training on November 10. As mentioned in a previous post, the 30-year-old Veal will compete for an Atlanta bullpen spot this spring, but could spend ample time with Gwinnett in 2015. In 100 Major League outings with the Pittsburgh Pirates (2009) and Chicago White Sox (2012-14), he’s 3-3 with a 4.87 ERA, one save and 70 strikeouts in 64.2 innings. He spent the majority of 2014 with Triple-A Charlotte, going 4-5 with a 5.94 ERA in 37 relief outings.
- Chien-Ming Wang (RHP) – signed to a minor league contract and invited to Spring Training on November 10. Also mentioned in a previous post, the 34-year-old Wang is the most notable addition to the Gwinnett pitching staff thus far. Seven years and several injuries removed from his consecutive 19-win seasons with the New York Yankees in 2006 and 2007, Wang is now considered a Triple-A workhorse. He led the International League with 28 starts in 2014, going 13-8 with a 4.12 ERA between the Louisville Bats and the Charlotte Knights. His strikeout ratio was low (73 SO in 172.2 IP), but his groundout/flyout ratio was an impressive 1.78. Wang should headline the Gwinnett rotation in 2015.
- Victor Mateo (RHP) – signed to a minor league contract on November 13. Mateo, 25, joins the Braves after spending his first eight minor league seasons in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. He hasn’t yet reached the Triple-A level, but is coming off back-to-back solid seasons as a starter for Double-A Montgomery. In 2013, he went 7-9 with a 3.93 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 153.1 innings for the Biscuits. Last season, he matched a career high with 12 wins, going 12-11 with a 3.90 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 166.0 innings. Mateo appears poised to advance to Triple-A for the first time in 2015, but a glut of experienced starters in Gwinnett could mean a trip to Mississippi.
- Corban Joseph (1B) – signed to a minor league contract on November 19. The New York Yankees’ fourth round selection in the 2008 June draft, Joseph spent seven seasons with the club before being released on August 27. He made his Triple-A debut in 2012 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, batting .266 with 25 doubles, 13 home runs, 56 RBIs and an .840 OPS. His 2013 season was highlighted by his Major League debut with the Yankees — a two-game stint as the 26th man during a doubleheader on May 13 — but also included a torn labrum injury in his right shoulder that required surgery in June. He returned to Triple-A in 2014 and hit .268 with four homers and 28 RBIs in 70 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Joseph, 26, could be a potent left-handed bat for the G-Braves as he seeks to play a full season for the first time since 2012.
- Jake Brigham (RHP) – signed to a minor league contract on November 20. Brigham, 26, has experienced a lot in eight minor league seasons prior to joining the Braves. Originally selected by the Texas Rangers in the sixth round in 2006, Brigham underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007 and missed all of 2008. He returned from the injury in 2009 and reached as high as Double-A Frisco in 2012, going 5-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 21 starts. The Rangers traded him to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for catcher Geovany Soto at the 2012 trade deadline, but got him back from the Cubs via trade the following November. Brigham made his Triple-A debut with Round Rock in 2013, going 5-5 with a 4.51 ERA in 26 games (18 starts). The Rangers didn’t re-sign him after 2013, and he moved on to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Last year at Triple-A Indianapolis, he went 3-5 with a 4.29 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 92.1 innings over 18 games (14 starts). Brigham profiles to be in Gwinnett, but a definite fit isn’t clear.
- Travis Mattair (1B) – signed to a minor league contract on November 20. The 25-year-old Mattair has yet to play above Double-A, but is an intriguing prospect that could be ready for the next level. Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the second round of the 2007 June draft, Mattair was selected during the Triple-A phase of the 2012 Rule 5 Draft by the Cincinnati Reds. In two seasons with the Reds’ Double-A affiliate in Pensacola, he combined to hit .240 with 42 doubles, 26 home runs and 126 RBIs in 263 games. He also struck out 239 times in that span, a rate he’ll have to cut down in order to proceed to Triple-A. Mattair could be headed for Gwinnett, but is more likely to be in Mississippi.
- Jairo Heredia (RHP) – signed to a minor league contract on November 20. Another former Pinstripes prospect, Heredia joins the Braves after seven seasons in the New York Yankees’ system. The 25-year-old Dominican Republic native was rated the Yankees’ No. 12 prospect by Baseball America back in 2009. He spent most of 2014 with Double-A Trenton, going 4-1 with a 3.53 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 71.1 innings over 26 games (10 starts). Heredia also pitched five times for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, going 1-0 with a 7.53 ERA and 16 strikeouts over 14.1 innings in five games (1 start). He likely starts out in Double-A Mississippi in 2015.
- K.D. Kang (OF) – signed to a minor league contract on November 21. Though born in South Korea, the 26-year-old Kang has ties to Gwinnett County. He attended Parkview High School in Lilburn, GA, the same school that produced former Braves outfielder and current Philadelphia Phillies farmhand Jeff Francoeur. The Tampa Bay Rays drafted Kang in the 15th round in 2006, and he spent seven seasons in their minor league system before signing with Baltimore for 2014. The left-handed hitter has batted .269 with 150 doubles, 38 triples, 68 home runs, 307 RBIs and 37 stolen bases in 726 minor league games, stats reflecting decent power and speed. He has yet to reach the Triple-A level, however, spending nearly all of his time with Double-A affiliates the past four seasons. Last year, Kang batted .282 with 22 doubles, three triples, 12 homers and 37 RBIs in 100 games with Bowie of the Orioles’ system. He looks poised to make his Triple-A debut in Gwinnett sometime in 2015.
- Michael Kohn (RHP) – signed to a minor league contract and invited to Spring Training on December 4. Like Veal, Kohn is a reliever with quality Major League experience that the Braves will take a long look at this spring. Over parts of four seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, he combined to go 5-6 with a 3.67 ERA, two saves and 107 strikeouts in 110.1 innings. In 2014, Kohn made 25 big league appearances, going 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA. He’s also a veteran of four Triple-A seasons with Salt Lake, where he went 5-6 with a 3.62 ERA in 110 relief outings. The Camden, SC native could end up a G-Brave, but certainly has the ability to pitch for Atlanta as needed.
Notable 2014 G-Braves that have gone elsewhere, or are currently free agents:
- Mitch Atkins (RHP) – currently a free agent.
- Pedro Beato (RHP) – currently a free agent.
- Brandon Boggs (OF) – currently a free agent.
- Ryan Buchter (LHP) – currently a free agent.
- Terry Doyle (RHP) – signed with the Baltimore Orioles.
- Tommy La Stella (2B) – traded to the Chicago Cubs.
- Steve Lerud (C) – currently a free agent.
- Ozzie Martinez (INF) – signed with the Baltimore Orioles.
- Donnie Murphy (INF) – currently a free agent.
- Gus Schlosser (RHP) – non-tendered on December 2, currently a free agent.
- Atahualpa Severino (LHP) – signed with the Los Angeles Angels.
- Zach Stewart (RHP) – currently a free agent.
Please check back for further updates as the offseason continues, and remember to follow @GBravesMedia for baseball-related G-Braves news.
The Atlanta Braves traded one former G-Brave for another yesterday, sending infielder Tommy La Stella and an international bonus pool slot (No. 4) to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for right-hander Arodys Vizcaino and three international bonus pool slots (No. 2, No. 3, No. 4).
Time for a G-Braves-centric look at the trade:
La Stella entered 2014 with plenty of hype, having earned the Braves’ “Best Hitter for Average” and “Best Strike Zone Discipline” distinctions from Baseball America. Though he didn’t display much power in his Triple-A debut, he was as-advertised for Gwinnett, batting .293 with a .384 on-base percentage in 47 games. He ranked among International League leaders in lowest TPA/SO ratio (2nd, 1 SO/14.21 TPA), walks (T-8th, 25) and on-base percentage (10th) as of May 28, and Atlanta rewarded him with his first Major League call-up.
A few more of La Stella’s Gwinnett highlights:
- He reached base safely in 21 consecutive games from April 10 to May 2, batting .325 (27-for-83) with one double and 14 RBIs. It was the longest on-base streak by a G-Brave in 2014.
- In 23 games at Coolray Field, he batted .346 (27-for-78) with two doubles and eight RBIs.
- In his final game with Gwinnett on May 27 at Pawtucket, he belted his first career Triple-A home run, a two-run shot off RHP Matt Barnes.
La Stella started hot in the Majors, batting .411 with nine multi-hit games over his first 16 contests. He leveled off, however, batting .251 with 16 doubles, one home run and 31 RBIs in 93 total games with the Braves. By season’s end, he saw decreased playing time with the emergence of fellow former G-Brave Phil Gosselin.
In sending La Stella to the Cubs, the Braves have helped clear up their second base log-jam. Gosselin is a good bet to be the Braves’ starting second baseman next April, but he may only be a placeholder for Jose Peraza. The Braves’ top prospect and 2014 Minor League Player of the Year, Peraza batted .339 with a .364 on-base percentage and 60 stolen bases between two levels last season, but hasn’t yet played above Double-A. He could follow the same path as La Stella, starting the year in a Gwinnett uniform before earning a Major League call-up during the season. Second base sets up to be an intriguing spot for the G-Braves in 2015, as Gosselin, Peraza or Tyler Pastornicky could see time at the position.
Yesterday’s trade also brings the hard-throwing Vizcaino back to the Braves organization. Before Tommy John surgery in 2012 and a trade to the Cubs that July, he was included with Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado as the next wave of prospect pitchers bound for Atlanta. The Coolray Field faithful saw him briefly during the pitching-rich 2011 season, when he went 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA, no walks and eight strikeouts in 7.0 innings with Gwinnett. Vizcaino made his Major League debut with Atlanta that same season, going 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA, nine walks and 17 strikeouts in 17 games, 17.1 innings.
Vizcaino had a comeback year in 2014, as he went 1-1 with a 3.51 ERA, 18 walks and 42 strikeouts over 41.0 innings in the Cubs’ minor league system. His September call-up to Chicago produced a 5.40 ERA in five outings, 5.0 innings.
Though Vizcaino logged most of his appearances at Triple-A Iowa, he was certainly acquired to compete for a bullpen spot with Atlanta this Spring. His addition also provides competition for another flame-throwing former G-Brave, right-hander Juan Jaime. Jaime and his upper-90’s fastball have been impressive in both Gwinnett and Atlanta, but he’ll have to improve his control and limit his walks (45 in 53.1 combined innings) to stick in the Majors.
This deal in the long run seems to be more about the international bonus pool slots and the minor league depth the Braves can build with them, but it also helps Atlanta bolster their pitching staff while clearing up the picture at second base.
Following a historic front office revamp in October, the Atlanta Braves are preparing for their most important Hot Stove season in recent franchise history. Here at the G-Blog, we’ll periodically take a look at some of the players that President of Baseball Operations John Hart and the new regime are bringing in, specifically those that will have an impact on the 2015 roster here in Gwinnett.
Yesterday marked Atlanta’s first foray into Major/Minor League free agency this offseason, as the club announced the signing of outfielder Zoilo Almonte to a one-year Major League deal and pitchers Chien-Ming Wang and Donnie Veal to Minor League deals. While these acquisitions aren’t the most notable the Braves will make this winter, they are proof that Hart and company are committed to building a deeper organization through the addition of established veterans.
Anyone who follows the Gwinnett Braves or the Triple-A International League closely will be familiar with all three players. Almonte, Wang and Veal all spent significant time in the IL last season, and each played against the G-Braves on more than one occasion.
Almonte, on Atlanta’s 40-man roster, will contend for a spot on the 25-man Major League roster this Spring. He’s the youngest of the three acquisitions at age 25, and he’s logged brief stints with the New York Yankees in each of the past two seasons. Almonte has never quite settled in at the plate in the big leagues, batting .211 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 47 career games, but he’s done plenty at the Triple-A level to make him an intriguing prospect. In 105 games with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders last year, he batted .261 with 18 doubles, 18 home runs and 69 RBIs. His banner performance of 2014 occurred against Gwinnett at Coolray Field from July 23-24, a game that took two days to complete due to rain. Almonte went 4-for-6 with three homers and seven RBIs in a 12-4 rout of the G-Braves, launching solo and three-run shots off Kanekoa Texeira and adding another three-run clout off Carlos Fisher.
Almonte is reportedly out of options and would have to clear waivers should the Braves ever want to send him to Gwinnett, so it’s unlikely that he’ll bring his homer show back to Coolray Field in 2015. That’s not to say his addition won’t have an effect on the G-Braves’ roster. IL veterans Todd Cunningham and Joey Terdoslavich, also competitors for the Atlanta bench, are now more likely to return to Gwinnett for their third and fourth seasons, respectively. Cunningham (.287, 8 HR, 58 RBI, 19 SB) and Terdoslavich (.256, 15 HR, 61 RBI) both had productive Triple-A seasons a year ago.
In contrast to Almonte, Wang appears to be specifically signed to help the Gwinnett roster. The Taiwanese right-hander posted back-to-back 19-win seasons with the New York Yankees in 2006 and 2007, but suffered a career-altering foot injury in 2008 and has since seen his profile transition to Triple-A workhorse. Since the start of 2011, the 34-year-old has made twice as many starts in the International League (50) as he has in the Major Leagues (22). Last year, Wang made an IL-best 28 starts with two organizations, going 13-8 with a 4.12 ERA with the Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds) and the Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox). He struck out just 73 batters over 172.2 innings, but kept the ball on the ground with a 1.78 groundout/flyout ratio and only six homers allowed.
Much like Almonte, Wang had success facing the G-Braves last year. He went 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts while with Louisville, then finished 3-0 with a 3.54 ERA in three starts with Charlotte. He worked at least 6.0 innings in four of his five meetings with Gwinnett, including 7.1 scoreless, nine-hit frames in a win with the Bats on June 14.
If he joins Gwinnett, Wang would be the elder statesman of a starting rotation that could include returnees Cody Martin (7-8, 3.52) and Aaron Northcraft (7-10, 4.70) and Double-A standouts Jason Hursh (11-7, 3.58) and Williams Perez (7-6, 2.91). Another season of 170-plus innings from Wang would also help keep the bullpen fresh in 2015.
Speaking of the Gwinnett bullpen, that’s where you might find the left-handed Veal come April. Veal, a second-round pick by the Chicago Cubs back in 2005, has had a taste of the Majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago White Sox. In 100 total games from 2009 through 2014, he went 3-3 with a 4.87 ERA and one save. His best year was 2011, when he went 0-0 with a 1.38 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 24 relief outings with the White Sox. Far more of his time has been spent at the Triple-A level, where he logged 25 games with the Indianapolis Indians from 2009-2011 and 89 games with the Charlotte Knights from 2012-2014.
After going 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 17 relief outings for Charlotte in 2013, Veal took a step back in 2014, going 4-5 with a 5.94 ERA in 37 appearances. Against Gwinnett, he went 0-0 with a 9.00 ERA in three meetings. Though his recent numbers don’t impress, the 30-year-old southpaw will get a look in Major League camp this Spring. Should he fail to make the Atlanta roster, he’ll be an asset for a Gwinnett bullpen in flux. Of last year’s G-Braves relief staff, right-hander Pedro Beato and left-handers Ryan Buchter and Atahualpa Severino are all Minor League free agents. That trio combined to make 131 appearances for the club last season.
Yesterday’s moves don’t represent a “big splash” at the Major League level, but they are the Atlanta Braves’ first steps toward building better organizational depth — and a better Triple-A club — in 2015.
Mon: Zach Stewart (5-3, 4.42) vs. LHP Chris Hernandez (4-7, 4.15)
Tue: Cody Martin (6-7, 3.84) vs. Steven Wright (5-2, 2.70)
Wed: Aaron Northcraft (0-6, 6.33) vs. Anthony Ranaudo (13-4, 2.58)
Thu: Kanekoa Texeira (3-3, 4.59) vs. Matt Barnes (5-8, 4.36)
The Gwinnett Braves and the Pawtucket Red Sox meet for the final time in the 2014 season starting on Monday, August 11 at 6:35 PM at Coolray Field. The two squads split the series in Rhode Island during the month of May. Since then, the teams are going in opposite directions as the G-Braves have fallen to last place in the South division, while the Red Sox are closing in a playoff berth for the second straight season.
Pitching: Gwinnett will go with four right-handers for their series against the Red Sox.
Stewart is the only one with experience against the Red Sox this season. On May 29, he tossed 7.1 innings, scattering six hits, allowing three runs with three strikeouts to pick up his third win of the season. Since, Stewart has spent some time on the DL and worked out of the bullpen in his last four appearances. He will make his first start since June 3.
Pawtucket, featuring the second-best staff in the International League with a 3.50 ERA, will look to tame the fourth best offense in the league.
Hurlers Steven Wright and Anthony Ranaudo will look to continue their dominance of IL opponents. Ranaudo has a league-best 13 wins, while his 2.58 ERA ranks third in the league. On May 26, he tossed 6.2 scoreless innings against the G-Braves to collect his fifth win of the season. Ranaudo made his MLB debut on August 1 against the New York Yankees.
Wright joined Pawtucket halfway through the season. In 12 starts for the Red sox, he is 5-2 with a 2.70 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 72.2 innings. He second on the team in ERA, fourth in starts and tied for third in wins. After posting a 4-1 record with a 2.04 ERA in eight starts prior to the All-Star break, Wright has gone 1-1 with a 4.18 ERA in four starts since the mid-summer classic.
Batting: Gwinnett enters the series 13th in homers (70) and 11th in runs scored (497), but fourth in batting average (.268). The Braves have struggled with runners on base, leaving a total of 878 runners behind.
Joe Leonard is on fire. He has hit in six straight games and is batting .526 (10-for-19) with two doubles, one homer and six RBIs during the month of August. The infielder clubbed his first career Triple on August 6 at Charlotte. It was his first homer in over 208 games.
Joining Leonard with a hot bat has been Ozzie Martinez. The middle infielder is hitting .429 (9-for-21) with one double and three RBI in six game during the month of August.
Pawtucket’s offense will be led by Mookie Betts. In 38 games with the Paw Sox, he is batting .325 (50-for-154) with eight doubles, two triples, five homers and 27 RBI. He has nine stolen bases in 13 attempts.
G-Bites: Chasen Shreve has been a great addition to the Gwinnett bullpen. Since being optioned to Gwinnett, the lefty is 0-0 with two saves in four appearances with the G-Braves. He has allowed three hits and has six strikeouts in 4.0 innings.
“Good things come to those who believe, better things come to those who are patient, and the best things come to those who dont give up.”
Tues: Kanekoa Texeira (1-3, 6.00) vs. LHP Nik Turley (1-2, 6.23)
Wed: Gus Schlosser (6-5, 3.58) vs. LHP Matt Tracy (1-3, 3.76)
Thu: LHP Daniel Rodriguez (6-11, 4.67) vs. Bruce Billings (4-5, 4.94)
Fri: Cody Martin (6-6, 3.45) vs. Bryan Mitchell (2-1, 2.70)
Gwinnett and SWB meet up for the second time in the last five days. In their latest matchup, the RailRiders swept a four game series from the G-Braves at Coolray Field. The G-Braves enter play with the worst record in the IL and are 10.5 games behind the Durham Bulls in the IL South, while the RailRiders are in fifth in the IL North and are 9.0 games behind the Syracuse Chiefs.
Pitching: The matchup feature boasts the No. 9 and No. 10 ranked pitching staffs in the IL. Gwinnett enters at No. 9 with a combined 4.22 ERA, while SWB ranks tenth with a 4.34 ERA.
Rodriguez has been on fire of late for the G-Braves. In his last two starts, he is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA (0 ER in 12.0 IP). Rodriguez has not allowed a run in over 12.0 innings.
Schlosser has been solid as well. In five appearances (three starts) during the month of July, the righty is 1-1 with a 2.03 ERA. He hasn’t allowed a run since July 13, spanning over 10.2 innings. He did not face the RailRiders last time around, as he was recalled by the Atlanta Braves.
SWB will counter with two lefties and two righties. Turley struggled against the G-Braves, while Tracy missed them at Coolray Field.
However, Billings and Mitchell were lights out for the RailRiders. Billings went 7.0 innings, scattering six hits and allowing one run in the no decision.
Mitchell was better, going 5.0 scoreless innings to record his first win of the season. The Reidsville, NC native was even sharper in his last start against the Pawtucket Red Sox on July 27, tossing 7.0 innings of scoreless baseball with a season-high six strikeouts. Mitchell hasn’t allowed a run since July 17.
Batting: Gwinnett lost their most consistent hitter on Saturday night as Phil Gosselin was recalled by the Atlanta Braves. The Braves will rely Todd Cunningham and Jose Constanza to lead the offense. Cunningham enters play with a .277 (99-for-357) batting average with 19 doubles, two triples, five homers and 44 RBI. He leads the squad in hits, doubles, triples, RBI and is four in homers and third in runs scored (41).
Constanza has missed parts of the season, but still leads the team in hitting with a .288 (93-for-323) batting average. He has 21 stolen bases and 27 RBI from the leadoff spot.
SWB is led by Jose Pirela since Zoilo Almonte has been called up by the New York Yankees. The slick-fielding infielder is batting .310 (126-for-407) with 15 doubles, five triples, eight homers and 42 RBI. He was selected to the IL All-Star game.
In the four game series against the G-Braves last week, the RailRiders outhit the home squad 44-to-28 and outscored the G-Braves 24-to-6.
G-Bites: Atlanta Braves’ right-hander Shea Simmons was placed on the DL on Tuesday afternoon. Right-hander Juan Jaime will take his place on the activate Atlanta roster.
Sun: LHP Aaron Laffey (10-4, 2.93) vs. LHP Daniel Rodriguez (4-10, 4.79)
Mon: Josh Roenicke (3-4, 5.09) vs. Yunesky Maya (3-2, 2.60)
Tue: Taylor Hill (9-2, 1.90) vs. Gus Schlosser (4-4, 4.33)
Wed: A.J. Cole (0-0, 2.53) vs. Aaron Northcraft (0-0, 6.10)
The Gwinnett Braves welcome the best team in the International League, the Syracuse Chiefs, for a four-game series starting on Sunday, July 6. Syracuse owns a 2.5 game lead on the Rochester Red Wings atop the IL North, while the G-Braves trail the Durham Bulls by 5.0 games in the IL South.
Pitching: Syracuse owns the second-best ERA in the IL with a 3.37. The staff has thrown a league-high 12 shutouts. Anchoring the staff is MLB veteran Aaron Laffey. The southpaw is 10-4 with a 2.93 ERA. He has won five straight games. In the month of June, he went 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA. He struck out 20 batters in 39.0 innings and he will face the G-Braves in game one of the series.
Laffey has been sharp of late, but Hill has dominated the IL all season. The righty leads the league in ERA and is second to Laffey in wins. He was elected to the All Star game on Wednesday and will likely start the mid-summer classic for the IL. He will pitch game three.
The G-Braves will counter with Rodriguez, Maya, Schlosser and Northcraft.
Wednesday’s game will feature two of the top prospects in the organization. Cole, who was recently called up from Double-A, will make his third start of the season. In 10.2 innings, he has fanned seven, while allowing three earned runs.
On the other hand, Northcraft will make his fourth start of the season. The right-hander had his best start of the season last time out. He went six innings, allowing two runs-one earned- on five hits on July 4 against the Durham Bulls.
Northcraft is No. 27 ranked prospect in the Braves system according to Baseball America, while Cole is the No.2 prospect in the Nationals organization.
Batting: All things start and end with Phil Gosselin. The infielder is having a banner season, hitting .317 with 21 doubles, three triples, four homers and 24 RBI. After hitting over .300 in his first three months of the season, IL All Star is off to a slow start in July. He is hitting .176 (3-for-17) with one double, one homer and three RBI.
Brandon Boggs enters the series with a ten-game hitting streak. He is batting .259 (38-for-147) with nine doubles, one triple, six homers and 18 RBI. In five July games, he is hitting .313 (5-for-16) with two RBI.
Syracuse will counter with two of the best hitters in the league, Steven Souza and Brandon Laird. Souza is leading the league in hitting with a .350 batting average. He has 13 homers and 51 RBI. He ranks among the league leaders in many offensive categories.
In addition to Souza, the Chiefs will have Laird in the middle of the lineup. The younger brother of Gerald Laird, is hitting .311 (85-for-273) with eight homers and 47 RBI. He is sixth in the league in hitting and ranks eighth in RBI.
Atlanta Braves’ reliever David Carpenter made the start for the G-Braves as he began his minor league rehab assignment. In his first start since the age of 16, the right-hander went one inning, facing four batters and striking out one. He threw 22 pitches, 16 for strikes. I checked in with carpenter after the game.
JD: How did you feel about your first game action since June 16?
DC: “I felt good. I was happy to be back out there. I was happy to go out there and compete. It seems like forever for me even though it was just a few days. I was just happy to be back out there and throw the ball.”
JD: How did your elbow/bicep feel?
DC: “Everything was feeling really good. I needed a few days off to work back into things. I was pretty pleased with how everything turned out”
JD: 22 pitches, 16 for strikes. You were sharp and had full command of the zone. How was that? Were you result oriented tonight?
DC: “It’s always a plus. The breaking ball felt really good today. I had good snap on it. The fastball felt really good. There was a lot of life behind it. I left a few up, but that was expected being out for a while.
JD: What was your repertoire tonight? Did you just throw sinker and sliders?
DC:“I went four-seamer and slider. I was trying to work both sides of the plate with the slider and get my fastball over. The last pitch of the day to Danks had a little sink-action, which wasn’t designed but it was nice to have.”
JD: What’s next?
DC: “I’ll come out here to do some long tossing tomorrow and get ready for another outing in Charlotte on Monday. Hopefully if everything goes well, I’ll be activated by Atlanta on Wednesday.”
“Look Good, Feel Good, Play Good” -JD
Tue: Aaron Northcraft (0-0, 0.00) vs. LHP Duane Below (6-1, 3.94)
Wed: Cody Martin (4-6, 3.17) vs. LHP Kyle Lobstein (4-7, 3.62)
Thu: LHP Daniel Rodriguez (4-8, 4.55) vs. Drew VarHagen (3-7, 4.07)
Fri: Yunesky Maya (3-1, 2.39) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (4-3, 3.08)
The Gwinnett Braves and the Toledo Mud Hens open a four game series on Tuesday, June 24 at 6:35 PM at Coolray Field. Both teams enter the series playing right at .500 baseball. Gwinnett is 4-6 in their last ten games, while Toledo is 5-5.
Pitching: Toledo will run three lefties against the Braves this week. Duane Below has the best record, winning a team-high six games and sporting a 3.94 ERA in 14 starts. He is on a three game winning streak, tossing three straight quality starts from June 8 through June 19. In the month of June, he is 3-0 with a 4.21 ERA.
Below has more wins, but Ray is the most promising lefty of the three. Ray was traded along with Steven Lombardozzi and Ian Krol for Doug Fister in the offseason. The lefty has enjoyed his time in the Detroit system, as he was called up on May 6 and made four appearances for the Tigers. He went 1-1 with a 4.70 ERA. With the Mud Hens, Ray is 4-3 with a 3.08 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 52.2 innings. Prior to the start of the season, Ray was ranked the 5th-best prospect in the Washington Nationals organization. He will take the ball in the finale.
The Braves will counter with three right-handers and one southpaw. Aaron Northcraft will make his Triple-A debut on Tuesday night. The right-hander went 7-3 with a 2.88 ERA (21 ER in 65.2 IP) over 13 appearances, 12 starts for the M-Braves. In five starts during the month of May, he went 4-1 with 1.98 ERA (6 ER in 27.1 IP). His success in the first half of the season earned him a Southern League All-Star Game roster spot.
While, Northcraft makes his debut on Tuesday, Maya will hope to continue his recent success on Friday night. Maya has turned six straight quality starts. In the month of June, he is 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA in five starts.
Batting: The G-Braves offense has sputtered during the month of June, batting a combined .254 with 64 runs scored in 22 games. The power has also been in short supply, clubbing seven total homers during the month. Ernesto Mejia, who left the team in early May, still leads the team with eight homers on the season.
With most of the position players around the diamond struggling, the catchers have held it together for the Braves. Christian Bethancourt enters playing batting .314 (22-for-70) with three doubles, one homer and seven RBIs for the Braves, while Steve Lerud is hitting .450 (9-for-20) with two doubles and one triple.
Toledo will counter with Ezequiel Carrera. The outfielder is hitting .305 (73-for-239) with 10 doubles, three triples, three home runs and 25 RBIs. He leads team in hitting, while his 32 stolen bases lead the IL.
Fri: Cody Martin (4-6, 3.42) vs. Brett Marshall (0-2, 16.20)
Sat: LHP Daniel Rodriguez (4-8, 4.83) vs. Chien Ming Wang (7-5, 3.57)
Sun: Gus Schlosser (3-3, 4.84) vs. LHP David Holmberg (0-4, 7.39)
Mon: Yunesky Maya (3-1, 2.22) vs. Josh Smith (8-1, 3.83)
Gwinnett and Louisville start a four-game series on Friday, June 20 at 7:05 PM at Coolray Field. This will be their second meeting of the season, as the Bats took three of four from the G-Braves last week. Both squads are going in opposite directions, as the G-Braves are 3-7 in their last ten, while the Bats are 7-3 in their last ten games. Louisville is two games up on Gwinnett in the Wild Card standings.
Pitching: Louisville enters the series with the worst ERA in the IL, sporting a 4.85 ERA in 74 contests. However, they have some reliable arms that they will turn to in the series. Chien Ming Wang will take the ball in game two of the series. The former New York Yankee hurler is having a great season with the Bats. He is second on the team in wins, starts and ERA, while leading the squad in innings pitched with 88.1. In his last start against the Gwinnett Braves on June 14, the right-hander tossed 7.1 scoreless en route to his seventh win of the season.
He wasn’t alone in twirling a gem against the G-Braves, as Josh Smith went 7.0 innings of two-run baseball to beat the Braves on June 12. Smith enters the series with the team lead in wins and strikeouts (69). He will pitch the finale.
The G-Braves will try to battle the starting rotation in hopes to avoid Jumbo Diaz in the backend of the bullpen. Standing 6-foot, 4-inches tall and weighing 315 pounds, the right-hander is a big load, but is also the most dependable arm in the pen. In 44 games with the Bats in 2013, he went 3-4 with a 1.66 ERA and 13 of 14 in save chances. He has continued his dominance in 2014, going 2-2 with 18 saves in 30 games.
Gwinnett will counter with Martin, Rodriguez, Schlosser and Maya. Maya has been the G-Braves best hurler this season. On June 17, Maya pitched 6.2 scoreless and allowing five hits to extend his active scoreless streak to 15.1 innings dating back to June 7. He walked two and struck out five in his win over Indianapolis. The right-hander leads the team in ERA and is third in wins.
Batting: Christian Bethancourt and Ozzie Martinez have been the G-Braves most productive hitters in the last ten games. Bethancourt is batting .379 (11-for-29) with one homer and four RBIs in his last seven games, while Martinez is batting .394 (13-for-33) with four runs scored and three RBIs in his last ten games.
While the Braves have scuffled offensively in the last ten games, the Bats offense is taking off. In their last ten games, the Bats have scored 49 runs and hit .297 as a team.
Ruben Gotay and Tucker Barnhart have paced the attack. Gotay is hitting .324 (12-for-37) with one homer and three RBIs over his last ten games, while Barnhart is batting .435 (10-for-23) with two RBIs in his last seven games. Barnhart is 8-for-11 in his last three games.
G-Bites: In the last two days, the Atlanta Braves have recalled Juan Jaime and Ryan Buchter, while the G-Braves added James Hoyt from Mississippi. Hoyt, 27, went 2-2 with a 1.21 ERA (4 ER in 29.2 IP) and six saves in 27 relief appearances for the Mississippi Braves this season. As of his promotion, he led the team in saves, appearances and ERA. Hoyt was signed by the Atlanta Braves organization on November 15, 2012 after spending part of two seasons with three different independent league teams. The Boise, ID native spent his college career at Centenary College (LA).
“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” – Bob Feller
Daniel Rodriguez is having a rough month of June. In three starts, he is 0-2 with a 12.41 ERA (17 ER/12.1 IP). He has allowed more runs in three June starts than he allowed in the entire month of May (16 ER/ 37.0 IP).
Things haven’t been all bad this season. On May 13, Rodriguez matched a season-high with 7.0 innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits en route to his fourth win of the season. With the victory, he lowered his ERA to 3.00, while adding to his team-leading fourth win of the year.
However, it has all gone downhill from there. The southpaw has been roughed up in his last six appearances. He is 0-5 with a 7.47 ERA (26 ER/ 31.1 IP). He has struck out 26 batters during that span, but 18 of those strikeouts came in his first two starts of the losing streak.
His struggles have not come from lack of command around the zone. Instead, he has been too good in the strike zone in 2014.
Last season, Rodriguez struggled with his command, walking 38 batters in 58.0 innings. This year, he has been fare better, walking 25 batters in 76.1 innings. Batters are beginning to take notice of his command around the plate, as they are hitting .289 (85-for-294) against him in 2014. The number is over 40 points higher than a season ago when he held hitters to a .246 batting average.
He will need to work off the zone some to keep batters honest. Last season after giving up a career-high nine runs in his second start of the season, Rodriguez turned in three of five quality starts in his next five turns. The G-Braves will need him to do so to get back on track this year.
“If you get, give. If you learn, teach.” -Maya Angelou-