After finishing 2013 with the worst record in the International League, the Gwinnett Braves will return to the diamond with a lot to prove in the 2014. They will be led by first year man Brian Snitker, who returns to bench after serving as the Atlanta Braves third base coach for the last three seasons.
Before we get into the Braves 2014 roster and potential players to look for, we will take a look at the rest of the league with an in-house feature on all the other 13 teams in the IL.
We will start the tour with the North Division and the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
Scranton finished the season fifth in the North Division with a 68-76 record. Right-hander Chris Bootcheck and outfielder Thomas Neal represented the RailRiders in the Triple-A All-Star Game.
This season, the RailRiders bolster an inexperienced Triple-A roster, but heavy with top tier prospects.
Pitchers: Right-hander Jose Ramirez and left-hander Nik Turley will anchor the staff. Last season, Ramirez was regarded as the best pitching prospect in the Yankees system. After missing the start of the season with fatigue, the hurler breezed through the Eastern League, going 1-3 with a 2.76 ERA in nine games. He was promoted to Triple-A Scranton in June and made eight starts for the RailRiders before being shut down with an oblique strain in July. He was roughed up in first stint at the Triple-A level, going 1-3 with a 4.88 ERA. However, he has the stuff to succeed at the Triple-A level, featuring an upper 90’s fastball and tough change-up. He will need to develop his slider to be an effective starter.
While, Ramirez works on his third pitch, southpaw Turley is exceeding expectations. The former 50th rounder (1,502 overall pick), third to last pick in the 2008 First Year Player Draft out of Harvard-Westlake High School in California, was placed on the 40-man roster in the offseason after a stellar season with Double-A Trenton. The 6-foot, 5-inch lefty went 11-8 with a 3.88 ERA and lead the Thunder to an Eastern League Championship. He features a low-90’s fastball, a filthy curveball and nice change-up, but has never pitched at the Triple-A level.
Infielders: The RailRiders’ experience will come from the diamond. The 2011 International League MVP, Russ Canzler will lead a talented group around the horn. Canzler has spent three seasons at the Triple-A level, posting a career .277 batting average with 52 homers and 224 RBI. During his MVP campaign in 2011 with the Durham Bulls, he hit a career-high .314 (149-for-474) with 18 homers and 83 RBI. He will likely be joined Zelous Wheeler, Addison Maruszak and Corban Joseph.
Outfielders: With an offseason overhaul by the New York Yankees, signing of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, the Scranton outfield will be loaded with top-tier talent. Top prospect Slade Heathcott will lead the group. The left-handed hitter batted .267 (104-for-399) with 22 doubles, seven triples, eight homers and 49 RBI in 103 games with the Trenton Thunder in 2013. Regarded as one of the most complete players in all of minor league baseball, Heathcott will have to stay on the field to showcase his talents, having missed parts of four straight seasons with lingering injuries. He is trending upward though as he played a career-high 103 games last year. Fellow outfielder Zoilo Almonte will lighten the load as he will take over one of the corner spots. Almonte returns for his second season with the RailRiders after hitting .297 with six homers and 36 RBI for Scranton. Filling out the outfield will be Ramon Flores or Ronnie Mustilier.
Schedule: The RailRiders and G-Braves will meet on July 21-24 at Coolray Field and July 29- August 1 at PNC Park. Last season, Scranton took 6 of 8 against the Braves.
Projected Depth Chart:
Much like David Hale, outfielder Todd Cunningham has seen quite a shift in his expectations this spring. A year ago, he entered Major League camp as the reigning Atlanta Braves Minor League Player of the Year, an award that earned him a spot as a non-roster invitee. He played in 22 Grapefruit League games before ultimately opening the season with Triple-A Gwinnett, where he went on to hit .265 with 60 runs scored an 20 stolen bases. This spring, Cunningham is a member of the 40-man roster with a taste of the Majors under his belt (he hit .250 in eight games for Atlanta last year), vying for a return trip to Turner Field. Gwinnett Braves Media Relations Manager Dave Lezotte caught up with him today at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
DL: Last year, you were a non-roster invitee to Braves Spring Training. This year, you’re on the 40-man roster. How does this spring compare to last year?
TC: Every year, you’re just trying to get ready for Spring Training. Wherever you settle in the lineup or whatever team you end up on, it kind of works itself out. It’s all about getting ready for the season and being ready to go for game one.
DL: You’re competing for a roster spot with Atlanta, going up against some former Gwinnett teammates like Jose Constanza and Joey Terdoslavich. What’s that competition like?
TC: We all get along so well, there’s no bad blood among us. It’s all about the competition. We go out and we play hard, all of us enjoy the game of baseball. We have that connection, that bond, regardless of what happens. It’s all about going out there and playing hard.
DL: Obviously you still root for those guys when they’re at the plate.
TC: Yeah, they’re your teammates. You’ve come up with them and played with them, so you want everyone to do well.
DL: Last year with Gwinnett, you hit two home runs all year. In your third game this spring, you homered. What was it like showing some power in a Major League Spring Training game?
TC: It feels good. Hopefully that works itself into my swing; it’s something that I’ve tried to incorporate a little bit. Hopefully that shows up throughout the whole season.
DL: As a G-Brave in 2013, you were the everyday centerfielder. This spring, you’ve been playing a lot of left field. Are you still working towards being in center, or is it left field now?
TC: The whole goal is to be able to play as many (positions) as possible. You start looking at the levels above you, the big league level and who they have, and there’s a lot of contracts out there. For me and my position, trying to find a way to get in there, you have to be able to play more than one. The more positions I can play, the better, but obviously the longer I can stay in the middle of the field, the better, too.
DL: Is there different preparation involved for playing the corner outfield spots as opposed to center?
TC: Balls just don’t stay true on the corners, you get all the slices and hooks and top-spin. It’s a lot about first-step reads.
DL: Last season with Gwinnett, you hit .265 and stole 20 bases. Is there an area of your game that you’re working on improving for this year?
TC: Just being able to drive the ball consistently. I’d kind of go through stretches last year where I’d get behind some balls. To be able to do it throughout the whole year, would obviously improve (my) game.
DL: Last year, you got the opportunity to make your Major League debut with the Braves. It was a limited stint, but certainly an eye-opening experience for you. How important is that experience for you heading into this season?
TC: It’s great. It put me in position to come in as a roster invitee. It was just a really cool experience, to kind of get (my) feet wet. Especially when we were on that 14-game winning streak, it was a lot of fun to be in that atmosphere.
DL: Brian Snitker is the manager in Gwinnett this year. You got a chance to work with him at the Major League level last season, what are your thoughts on Snit?
TC: I’m excited to have his experience transferred down to the Triple-A level. He’s been around the game for a long time, so I’m sure there are things that everyone can pick up from him.
DL: The Gwinnett roster obviously will take shape once the Atlanta roster works itself out, but there should be a veteran presence on the club this year. I know you guys aren’t thinking about Triple-A just yet, but what’s your early feeling about the Gwinnett club?
TC: The whole goal, like I said, is to get to the big leagues, but also be ready for game one. I think everyone is going to be on the same page there and be ready in case the opportunity presents itself to be in Atlanta. As far as how the Triple-A team is going to shape up, I think it’s going to be a lot of guys all with the same goal in mind, which is really cool when you get that many guys on the same page. It should be an exciting year, wherever I end up.
DL: If you do end up back in Gwinnett at some point this season, how do you handle that?
TC: Just the same as I’ve always handled it. It’s baseball, I’m trying to get better, I have things that I’m working on. Keep the big picture in mind, trying to get back to Atlanta, and just keep working.
Chris Roughgarden of the Gwinnett Braves Photography Staff was at Champion Stadium on Thursday night to shoot the Atlanta Braves/Washington Nationals night game. She got some great shots of several 2013 G-Braves, which can be viewed in the slideshow below. The Braves won the contest, 3-2.
This time last year, right-hander David Hale was working on adding a sinker to his repertoire and preparing for his first Triple-A season with Gwinnett. A year later, the Marietta, GA native finds himself competing for an Opening Day roster spot with the Atlanta Braves, having already made his Major League season and postseason debuts last fall. Gwinnett Braves Media Relations Manager Dave Lezotte caught up with Hale today at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
DL: Last year, you made your Triple-A debut, battled back from a right shoulder strain and made your Major League debut by season’s end. A lot of things happened to you in one season. What did you learn from those experiences?
DH: Just to stick with it, and to improve on the stuff that I have. I added another pitch last year, my sinker. It gave me a lot of confidence in pitching, and I could focus more on the art of pitching instead of just trying to overpower people. I could actually go at them with a pitch that I could come in on them and then go away on them. It’s more of an art to me now, to focus on pitching like that.
DL: September 13, 2013, you made your Major League debut for the Atlanta Braves. Being from Marietta, growing up a Braves fan and getting a chance to make a debut in front of your family and friends, what was that like?
DH: It was incredible, I had so many people there that I haven’t seen in years. To have all them come out and support me, it means a lot, it really does.
DL: You worked 5.0 scoreless, four-hit innings and struck out nine in that game. You didn’t have more than nine strikeouts in any Triple-A start all season. Did your performance surprise you that night?
DH: I think it did. It was good for me because it gave me some confidence; let me know that I can perform at that level. I couldn’t have asked for a better outing, just to do that in front of my family and friends, and like I said, to give myself some confidence.
DL: You got a win the next time out on September 26 vs. Philadelphia, and not long after, you were named to the Braves’ postseason roster. How shocking was that?
DH: You know, I really wasn’t expecting that. When it came down to it, I guess they were looking for a long relief kind of guy, and I was able to fill that spot. It was a blast; it’s something that I certainly won’t ever forget.
DL: You pitched in Game 3 of the NLDS at Los Angeles, a tough 13-6 loss for the Braves. Still, it was a huge personal moment for you at the end of that game. What was it like stepping on the mound in the playoffs, at Dodger Stadium of all places?
DH: It was pretty cool to be on the mound during the playoff atmosphere. Like you said, L.A., that place is enormous; I didn’t realize it was the largest stadium in the league. It was a little daunting, but we were down a little bit, so that took away (some) of the nerves because it was out of our hands. But still, my heart was racing and it was fun to be there.
DL: When we talked last season, one of the things we focused on was your use of video as preparation at the Triple-A level. You have access to even more of that at the Major League level, what is your preparation like here?
DH: I kind of do the same thing. We have a lot of the same video stuff in the big leagues as in Triple-A, so I always like watching that. I get a feel for the hitter before I ever see him, so it’s like I’ve faced him before. It’s being comfortable through knowledge, I guess.
DL: This year at Spring Training, you’re competing for a Major League roster spot. What is that competition process like?
DH: It’s pretty stiff. We have a lot of good starting pitching, so I’m just doing the best I can and hopefully putting the ball in the decision-makers’ courts.
DL: What are you working on the most this spring?
DH: Consistency, that’s something I’ll say for the rest of my career. Working on that sinker, just being consistent with it, as well as my off-speed pitches.
DL: Do you have a good feel for that sinker so far this year?
DH: Yeah, it actually is feeling really good right now. I’ve got to get that off-speed stuff going again, but it’s early obviously, and that’s why we have Spring Training. Just getting the feel back.
DL: You’ve been a starter and a reliever in your minor league career. Would you accept either role in the Majors?
DH: I’ll catch if they want me to. Whatever they want me to do to be on this roster, I’ll do it.
DL: This is a young pitching staff, both the rotation and the bullpen. Who do the young guys look up to on the staff?
DH: Like you said, it’s a pretty young staff. (Kris) Medlen has taken on a big leadership role. Then you have Freddy (Garcia), he’s been around forever, so we all look up to him.
DL: If you end up back in Gwinnett at some point this season, how do you handle that?
DH: Just stick with it and just keep getting better through practice. I don’t think any team has ever had 25 men on it for the entire season. I just need to put myself in position to take a spot if one opens up.
The Atlanta Braves are off to a slow start in their Grapefruit League campaign (1-6-1), but several non-roster players are making key contributions and earning extended playing time on the field.
On Tuesday afternoon, Phil Gosselin keyed the Braves’ 8-4 victory over the Washington Nationals, as his bases-clearing triple in the bottom of the eighth gave the Braves a 7-4 lead. He scored the final run on sacrifice fly by Edward Salcedo, leading the Braves to their first win of the spring.
Gosselin, who played in four games with the Atlanta Braves in 2013 (.333, 2R), is tied for third on the team with three RBI in five Grapefruit League games.
While, Gosselin is holding his own in the first week of action, Tommy La Stella is opening eyes all around camp. The Braves’ farmhand leads the squad with seven hits and is batting .412 (7-for-17) through six Grapefruit League contests. Despite never playing above Double-A, La Stella is thriving at the dish with a consistent line drive approach and plate discipline, seeing four walks in 21 plate appearances. He has benefitted from Tyler Pastornicky’s knee injury, as he has been one of the primary back-ups in his absence.
Infielder Tyler Greene is showing his value around the diamond, playing third base for the Braves even though he is a shortstop by trait. Greene has played six Spring Training games at third, but has only played third in 41 out of 973 professional games. The position change hasn’t affected his bat, as he is hitting .273 (3-for-11) with two runs and a stolen base.
Matt Lipka, another former shortstop, is also faring well this spring. The former supplemental 1st rounder out of McKinney High School in Texas, is batting .333 (4-for-12) with three runs scored, four RBI and one stolen base. He is holding his own in his first taste of big league camp.
Unlike Lipka, catchers Matt Kennelly and Steven Lerud have been around big league camp a while. The veterans have played well, recording two hits and an RBI each.
On the bump, Gus Schlosser’s bid to make the opening day roster continues. The side-winder has made two appearances, hurling 3.0 scoreless innings and limiting opponents to a .100 (1-for-10) batting average against him. He has recorded one strikeout and has allowed a free pass. His 0.67 WHIP is tied for second on the team with Juan Jaime and behind Freddy Garcia, who hasn’t allowed a base runner in 5.0 innings.
Southpaw Ian Thomas has battled control issues, allowing two walks in 2.0 Innings, but he hasn’t allowed a run and recorded three strikeouts. The Braves need for another left-handed arm in the bullpen makes him a strong candidate for the MLB roster.
The Braves continue their Grapefruit League schedule today, as they play the Philadelphia Phillies at 1:00 p.m. in Clearwater, FL. The game will be televised on the MLB Network.
While Braves action is in full gear, be sure to keep up with the Gwinnett Braves as their home opener is April 11th at 7:05 p.mm as they play host to the IL Champion Durham Bulls.
Greetings G-Braves fans! It is a very exciting time here in Braves country as we will be releasing our Top 10 Promotions of 2014 this week leading up to the full release of our promotional schedule on March 3rd. So, make sure to “like” us on Facebook, “follow” us on Twitter and check back to this blog regularly to be the first to see what’s in store for the upcoming season. Let the countdown…..BEGIN!
#10 – Bark in the Park - Let’s be real, we aren’t the only ones that like baseball. Fans will have two opportunities during the 2014 season to bring their dogs out to Coolray Field. Sunday, April 13th of Opening Weekend and Sunday, May 25th have been designated as Bark in the Park days with the Gwinnett Braves. Both of the games begin at 2:05PM. These two Sunday games are also Sunday Funday! Fans can bring their baseballs and gloves and have catch on the outfield grass from when gates open for 20 minutes. Also, after the game kids get to run the bases like their favorite G-Braves player.
#9 – Jersey Auctions - The Gwinnett Braves will twice don specialty jerseys to raise money for charities in 2014. On Saturday, June 7, G-Braves’ players and coaches will wear alternate jerseys sponsored by Gwinnett Medical Center. All jerseys will be auctioned off during the game, with proceeds going to Gwinnett Medical Center’s non-profit foundation. On Friday, June 27, the G-Braves will once again wear Kipper Tool Camouflage Jerseys for “Military Appreciation Night.” All Camouflage jerseys will be auctioned off with proceeds benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project.
#8 – Fur Circus Appearance - On Friday, May 23rd at 7:05, get ready for a night filled with enFURtainment as the Atlanta-based mascot group, The Fur Circus, comes to Coolray Field. Come out to see Splash, Buddy and Miles put on a show for all in attendance when the G-Braves take on the Norfolk Tides. The Fur Circus brings you the most entertaining, funny, and total package entertainment act that will transform Coolray Field into the silliest circus on earth!
#7 – Theme Nights - The G-Braves slogan is “More Than A Game”. This year, we don’t plan on changing that. With a fresh slate of new theme nights to go along with some returning favorites, 2014 is bound to be a year for endless family fun. An Easter prelude leads off our slate as the G-Braves will host an Egg Hunt at 12PM on Saturday, April 19th. Please note the hunt is a different event than the game at 7:05PM. May the 4th be with you on Star Wars Day. That is right, on Sunday, May 4th at 2:05PM, Star Wars Day will be upon us. Join Make-a-Wish Foundation and movie-quality Star Wars characters from the 501st Legion of Georgia at Coolray Field for a day filled with light saber battles and more! On Wednesday, May 7th, we will play host to Medieval Times Night. On Saturday, May 17th, we will have Daddy/Daughter Date Night with a special ticket package for all dad’s and daughter’s to take advantage of. Sunday, June 8th will be SuperHero Day. In addition to seeing your favorite heroes, it will also be a Touch-a-Truck day, so fans will be able to take an up close and personal look into the firetrucks and police cars that are used every day. Outdoors Night is on June 20th and will feature a special guest to be named later. The following night, on Sunday, June 21st, join the Gwinnett Braves in solving a murder-mystery on Clue Night, based off of the popular board game. Col. Mustard, Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum and others will be on hand for this event. Friday, June 27th is Military Appreciation Night. In addition to the aforementioned Kipper Tools Camo Jersey Auction, a special guest will join as well.
Saturday, June 28th will be Monopoly Night, the second theme based off of a board game. This night will also have a neat giveaway that will be revealed at a later date. Sunday, June 29th is Soccer Day to honor this year’s World Cup. Saturday, July 5th is Beach Night and this year fans will be able to win tickets to the night through a social media scavenger hunt. Sunday, June 20th is Christmas in July and with all the snow this winter, you might want to come prepared for anything. Back to School Night is on August 2nd, Football/College Night will take place on August 9th and will include a special giveaway. Chopper’s Birthday Celebration will be on August 10th. Chopper will be joined by his mascot friends to celebrate the day. The season concludes on August 30th for Fan Appreciation Night and G-Braves vs. Cancer Night. As you can see, plenty to look forward to this season. In addition to all of these, select Thursday night’s will be Throwback Thursday’s. Starting with 50′s Night on May 22nd, Throwback Thursday’s will feature music from the decade for the night along with plenty of goofy on-field shenanigans to go along with it.
#6 – Friday Night Fireworks - Back by popular demand are Friday Fireworks! The 2014 season starts with a bang – literally – on Opening Night, Friday, April 11. After the conclusion of the 7:05 PM game against Durham, fans will be treated to the first Friday Fireworks display of the season. The sky over Coolray Field will light up nine more times throughout the year, including May 2, May 23, June 6, June 20, June 27, July 4 (Independence Day), July 18, August 8 and August 29.
#5 – Outdoors Night featuring Tim Guraedy (“Mountain Man” from A&E’s Duck Dynasty) and Fireworks – Friday, June 20th at 7:05PM - This year, Outdoors Night will feature a special guest in “Mountain Man” from A&E’s hit show, Duck Dynasty. Duck Dynasty is an American reality television series on A&E that portrays the lives of the Robertson family, who became wealthy from their family-operated business, Duck Commander. The show has broken several ratings records on both A&E and cable television as a whole. The fourth season premiere drew 11.8 million viewers; the most-watched nonfiction cable series in history. Mountain Man will be on hand to throw out the first pitch, sign autographs and take pictures. In addition to his appearance, fireworks will light up the skies above Coolray Field following the final out of the game between the G-Braves and the Louisville Bats. Bring your duck calls and grow out your beards, because Outdoors Night is sure to be a blast.
#4 – Military Appreciation Night featuring WWE Hall-of-Famer Sgt. Slaughter and Fireworks – Friday, June 27th at 7:05PM - TEN HUT! On June 27th, we honor the military with a special appearance by WWE Hall-of-Famer, Sgt. Slaughter! Slaughter will be on hand to throw out the first pitch, take pictures with fans and sign autographs. Most recently, he made an appearance on Old School Raw in January, serving as the special guest referee for The Great Khali vs Damien Sandow match. Still one of the most recognized figures in professional wrestling today, Slaughter began his wrestling career in Minneapolis, MN in 1975 and has held every major title in the competitive world of pro wrestling. In addition to Sgt. Slaughter, Kipper Tool is sponsoring a Camo Jersey Auction and fireworks will light up the skies of Lawrenceville after the final out. Make sure to be there on June 27th or Sgt. Slaughter might put you in the Cobra Clutch. Fast forward to the four minute mark to see the Sarge’s signature move.
#3 – Promotional Giveaways - Next on the countdown is the unveiling of our promotional giveaway items, with the exception of a few that will be released later in this countdown! Up first on the schedule is the annual Opening Night T-Shirt giveaway courtesy of Georgia Power on April 11th. The shirt will have the Opening Day logo on the front and the entire home series schedule on the back. The next day, on April 12th, fans will receive a 2014 Magnetic schedule on the shape of a G-Braves Jersey. April 19th will be a Fleece Blanket Giveaway presented by Coolray. Fast forward to May 17th, where Coolray will help with the hot temperatures and sponsor a Mister Fan Giveaway. The following Saturday, May 24th, Gwinnett Braves Pint Glasses will be the hot item, thanks to Dave & Busters. The next item (hint…that is not a bobblehead) will be on June 29th, Soccer Day, when G-Braves Soccer Balls will be distributed, presented by Coolray. Next on the schedule is August 2nd, Back to School Night, when Georgia Power will sponsor the first Gwinnett Braves Tin Lunch Box Giveaway. The following Saturday, August 9th, Gwinnett Medical Center features a G-Braves Football Giveaway. Concluding the season on August 30th will be 2015 Magnetic Schedules. All giveaways are limited to the first 2,000 fans through the gates.
#2 – Bobblehead Giveaways - Alright ladies and gents, it is time for the bobblehead reveal you have been waiting for all offseason. This year, we come back with four bobbles that are a must have for any G-Braves fan. Up first on Saturday, June 7th, will be Mike Minor Bobbleheads. Minor, who pitched in Gwinnett in both 2010 and 2011, was the Braves first round pick in 2009. He went 8-6 and posted a stellar 2.86 ERA in 22 starts with the G-Braves. Next on the bobblehead schedule is a unique giveaway featuring our mascot, Chopper. On Saturday, June 28th, fans will receive a Chopper BobbleBank couretesy of Delta Community Credit Union. Yes, a bobble-bank. Chopper, who will stand next to his locker, will bobble and his locker will be a bank for coins. See the picture below for details. There isn’t much time before the next bobblehead giveaway on Saturday, July 5th, when we distribute Julio Teheran Bobbleheads. Signed by the Braves as an undrafted free agent in 2008, Teheran started 50 games for the G-Braves over two seasons. In that time, he posted a 22-12 record and a 3.75 ERA. Our final bobblehead of 2014 will be on Saturday, July 19th. He started his career with the Braves in 1987 and spend seven of his 16 seasons in Atlanta. Coolray and Fox 5 Atlanta will present Ron Gant Bobbleheads and the night will feature an appearance by Gant himself. He posted a .262 average in seven seasons with the Braves and had 147 homers. Currently, Ron is a member of Good Morning Atlanta on Fox 5. Bobblehead giveaways are limited to the first 2,000 fans through the gates.
#1 – Chipper Jones Appearance – April 12th - Opening Weekend gets some extra special attention as Braves eight-time All-Star third baseman Chipper Jones will be on hand at Coolray Field. Come on out to the ballpark and snap a picture of the Braves legend as he throws out the first pitch at the game to honor his 19 years as a member of the Atlanta Braves. Drafted in the first round of the 1990 draft by the Braves, Chipper has a career .303 average and hit 468 home runs. In 1999, Jones won MVP of the National League after a year where he hit .319, hit 45 homers and drove in 110 RBI. In his final season with the Braves over 112 games, Chipper hit .287 with 14 homers and 62 RBIs. The Braves inducted Jones into their Hall of Fame in June 2013. Gametime is at 7:05 PM for Saturday, April 12th.
Brandon Apter is the Marketing & Promotions Manager for the Gwinnett Braves. Follow him on Twitter @ApterShock
Coolray Field is hosting the Second Annual High School Showcase starting tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. 22 teams will gather over the course of the next four weeks and showcase their talents at the Gwinnett Braves’ home ballpark.
The tournament features many talented players from around the area that will get their opportunities to play at the professional level in the future. Instead of focusing on those players, we will take a closer look at all the players in the Atlanta Braves system with Georgia High School ties.
There are seven Braves with Georgia state ties.
In 2007, the Braves selected Jason Heyward out of Henry County High School in McDonough, GA with the 14th overall pick in the First Year Player Draft. The highly-touted outfielder has lived up to the billing, clubbing 73 homers and driving in 234 runs in four years with the Atlanta Braves. Prior to joining the Braves, Heyward led the Warhawks to their first state championship in 2006. In his final season with Henry County, he hit .520 (29-for-52) with seven doubles, eight homers and 29 RBI.
Heyward isn’t the only local talent in the system to be drafted by the Braves in the first round. Brookwood High hurler Lucas Sims was selected with the 21st pick in the 2012 First Year Player Draft by the Braves. Sims enjoyed a solid campaign in 2013, going 12-4 with a 2.62 ERA for the Class-A Rome Braves. Before joining the professional ranks, Sims was named the Georgia Region 8-AAAAA Pitcher of the Year after posting an 8-1 mark with a 1.19 ERA his senior.
Like Sims, Ross Heffley also attended Brookwood High School. He played four years of college baseball at Western Carolina University before being drafted in the 18th round of the 2012 First Year Player Draft. Heffley led the Broncos to the 5-A Georgia State Championship in 2008, batting .403 with 15 doubles, nine homers and 40 RBI. He was named First Team Gwinnett All-County.
One of Heffley teammates last season was Robby Hefflinger. The outfielder was drafted out of Georgia Perimeter College in the 7th round of the 2009 First year player Draft, but attended Gainesville High School in 2008. Last season, Hefflinger clubbed 27 homers, finishing second among Atlanta Braves farmhands.
The last three players with Georgia ties are right-handed hurlers Caleb Brewer, Brett Cammons and Steve Janas. Brewer attended Harris County High School and was drafted in the 14th round of the 2007 Draft, Cammons went to East Coweta High School in Sharpsburg, GA before attending Auburn University and being drafted in 19th round of the 2007 draft and Janas attended Lassiter High School in Marietta, GA before attending Kennesaw State University being drafted in the 6th round of the 2013 draft.
These players have all starred for their local high schools and at the professional levels, so this weekend they will pass the baton to the 22 teams that will be featured at Coolray Field. For more information about the tournament and tickets, click here.
Baseball season kicks off tomorrow at Coolray Field! Join us for the Second Annual High School Showcase at 1:30 p.m. and save the date as the Gwinnett Braves kickoff the 2014 campaign at Coolray Field on April 11, at 7: 05 p.m., as they host the 2013 International League Champion Durham Bulls.
With every offseason comes a changing of the guard. When the Gwinnett Braves take the field in 2014, the roster will carry a couple of familiar faces, while the majority of it will be composed of minor league free agents and Double-A standouts.
The G-Braves roster will be determined at a later date, but for now we will take a look at the former G-Braves that have moved on to different organizations. In the offseason, 11 former G-Braves declared for free agency, pitchers Joe Beimel, Joe Bisenius, Juan Cedeno, Pat Egan, Yohan Flande and Omar Poveda, infielders Alden Carrithers and Sean Kazmar, and outfielders Brandon Boggs, Stefan Gartrell, Greg Golson.
While, Bisenius, Cedeno, Kazmar, Boggs and Gartrell look to catch on with a team once Spring Training starts, the rest of the crew will be reporting to a new location in 2014.
Beimel will report to Peoria, AZ as a non-roster invitee of the Seattle Mariners. The lefty pitched well for the G-Braves, going 1-2 with 4.36 ERA in 33.0 IP. Beimel got off to a slow start as he was coming off of “Tommy John” surgery, but finished strong in August, posting a 3.60 ERA in 15.0 IP with 13 strikeouts.
Fellow southpaw Flande will also head to the Cactus League, but he will head to Tucson, AZ as a member of the Colorado Rockies. Flande spent three seasons with the Braves organization, posting a 23-26 mark with a 4.13 ERA in 416.0 IP for the G-Braves. Last season, he won a team-high nine games. He is second in G-Braves All-Time history in wins, losses, innings pitched, strikeouts (302) and starts (65).
Righties Egan and Poveda will be pitching in the Central Division. Egan will report to Goodyear, AZ with the Cincinnati Reds, while Poveda joins the Chicago White Sox in Glendale, AZ. Egan bounced around from Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. He finished the season with the M-Braves after going 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA with Gwinnett. Poveda enjoyed his best season at the Triple-A level, going 6-7 with a 3.62 ERA in 27 games (25 starts). He was named the Gwinnett Braves Pitcher of the Year at the end of the season. He will be a non-roster invitee for the White Sox and compete for a spot on the rotation.
Carrithers and Golson will report to Phoenix, AZ, Carrithers as a member of the Oakland A’s and Golson with the Milwaukee Brewers. Last season, the left-handed batter, hit .299 (75-for-251) with 14 doubles, one triple, three homers and 19 RBI in 90 games for the G-Braves, while the outfielder batted .462 (6-for-13) in seven games for Gwinnett.
With former G-Braves reporting to camp and the start of the Spring Training season less than 10 days away, baseball season is approaching. Be the first to join the action as the G-Braves open the 2014 season on Friday, April 11th at 7:05 p.m. against the South Division Champion Durham Bulls at Coolray Field.
Infielder Mat Gamel was released by the Braves after suffering another set back to his injured knee. The Braves will head to camp with 61 players as they begin team workouts today.
The Atlanta Braves’ pitchers and catchers have reported to Lake Buena Vista, FL, and have begun their Spring Training workouts. With additions like Ryan Doumit (via trade from Minnesota) and the return of Ramiro Pena and Tyler Pastornicky from season-ending injuries, the Braves will have plenty of battles on the positional front.
In addition to the 19 players on the 40-man roster, 11 non-roster invitees will head to the Wide World of Sports Complex. Catchers Steven Lerud, Matt Kennelly, Jose Yepez and Braeden Schlehuber, infielders Mat Gamel, Phil Gosselin, Tyler Greene, Mark Hamilton, Tommy La Stella and Edward Salcedo and outfielder Matt Lipka, are among the invitees that will get a taste of the big leagues during the Grapefruit League season.
With the departure of Brian McCann to the New York Yankees, the Braves will rely on Evan Gattis, Gerald Laird, Christian Bethancourt and Doumit to take care of most of the catching responsibilities. However, the four non-roster invites will be itching to get to the major leagues. Lerud is the only backstop with big league experience. The former Philadelphia Phillies’ receiver has played in nine Major League games, recording two hits in 15 at-bats. Last season, he made six appearances for Philadelphia during the month of June. The left-handed hitting Lerud provides depth and will be a welcome addition to the Braves organization, but may start the season in Triple-A Gwinnett.
Former G-Braves’ Kennelly and Yepez return to the Disney complex for the third straight season. Last season, Kennelly made five appearances for the G-Braves before being released and signing with the Cincinnati Reds organization, while Yepez spent the entire season with Gwinnett, splitting time with Matt Pagnozzi behind the dish. Yepez finished his second season with the G-Braves hitting .219 (42-for-192) with 25 RBI.
Schlehuber will enter camp as the least experienced backstop on the roster. The fourth round pick in the 2008 First Year Player Draft by the Braves out of the College of Southern Nevada has been with the Braves for six years. Last season, he reached Double-A for the first time in his career, batting .199 (35-for-176) in 54 games for the M-Braves. Schlehuber, Kennelly and Yepez will likely end up somewhere in the Braves system.
While the catchers are short on experience, the rest of the crew is slightly more touted and has big league experience. Infielders Gamel, Greene and Hamilton were once revered as the best prospects in their respective organizations. Gamel was rated the No.3 prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers system according to Baseball America in 2010, but injuries have slowed him down. The corner infielder has missed the last two seasons with knee injuries, but has logged 106 games at the big league level. A career .300-minor league hitter, Gamel has posted a .229 (55-for-240) batting average with six homers and 29 RBI in his Major League career.
He will be joined by former St. Louis Cardinals’ farmhands Greene and Hamilton. Greene, the former first round pick (30th overall) in the 2005 draft out of Georgia Tech, has bounced around since being traded by the Cardinals in 2012. However, the slick-fielder provides depth in the infield and has the athleticism to play the outfield. Last season, he split the year between Triple-A Charlotte and Chicago (AL) before finishing the season with Gwinnett. His former teammate Hamilton spent the whole season with Triple-A Pawtucket in 2013, hitting .261 (74-for-283) with 12 homers and 57 RBI. The three players will compete for one of the available bench spots, but will likely start the season with Gwinnett.
Finally, the last four players in big league camp come with minimal experience but are thought of highly by the Braves organization. Gosselin started the 2013 season in Double-A Mississippi, moved up to Triple-A before his contract was purchased by Atlanta on August 16. He played in four games, hitting .333 (2-for-6) with Atlanta, but was removed from the 40-man roster during the offseason. He has the versatility to play all infield positions and has played left field. He will likely start the season with Triple-A Gwinnett, where that versatility will be utilized.
Gosselin’s prospects as a second baseman has been overshadowed by the emergence of fellow two-bagger La Stella. The former Coastal Carolina star has developed quite a following the last two seasons, carrying a .327 (277-for-286) batting average across three different levels in 241 minor league contests. His showing in the Arizona Fall League (.290 BA, 6 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 10 RBI) has some believing he is ready for the big stage. He will compete for a spot on the 25-man roster, but may start the season with Gwinnett.
Another blue-chip prospect that may join Gwinnett will be Salcedo. The former shortstop has found a new home at third base. He has a combination power and speed, clubbing 44 homers and swiping 80 bags in four minor league seasons. After signing the largest international contract in Braves history (1.6 mil), Salcedo has moved rapidly through the system. Aggressive promotion at the lower levels has forced him to learn on the spot and play above his age. However, at 22 years of age, Salcedo has tools and the work ethic to have a breakout 2014.
Like Salcedo, Lipka was a former shortstop, but since being drafted as a supplemental first rounder out of McKinney, TX in 2010, he has moved to the outfield. Lipka is the only non-roster outfielder attending big league camp. Last season, he played in 137 games for the Lynchburg HillCats, batting .251 (132-for-525) with 29 doubles and 37 steals. His unique athleticism and speed will be utilized at Double-A Mississippi, where he will likely start the 2014 campaign.
The Braves have depth across the board and have viable non-roster candidates that can contribute in 2014. With minimal open spots at the big league level, Triple-A Gwinnett will also benefit from the depth in the organization as they will boast a quality roster, which will feature Major League experience, as well as highly-touted prospects.
The Atlanta Braves are ready to open up Spring Training camp on Thursday, February 13. While, the majority of the 40-man roster returns from a season ago, the roster did take some hits this off season, losing Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Brian McCann to free agency. However, the Braves are locked and loaded to compete for their second straight East Division crown and their third straight postseason berth.
The Braves will enter camp with 62 players, inviting 22 non-roster players to join the fold in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Many of the players will get their first taste of big league camp, while others will compete for a chance at the 25-man roster. Arms are always at a premium, so we will go over all the hurlers that will report to the Disney complex on Thursday. The Braves invited 11 non-roster pitchers, left-handers Ian Thomas, Daniel Rodriguez, Atahualpa Severino and right-handers Lay Batista, J.R. Graham, Jason Hursh, Mark Lamm, Cody Martin, Yunesky Maya, Gus Schlosser and Shae Simmons.
Among the 11 invited, two have big league experience as Severino and Maya spent some time with the Washington Nationals. In 2009, Maya fled Cuba and signed with the Nationals. However, the 32-year old right-hander didn’t live up to the four-year, six-million dollar deal that he signed with Washington, going 1-5 with a 5.80 ERA in 16 games (10 starts) for the Nationals over the last four years. He will compete for a bullpen spot along with former teammate Severino, but they could end up with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Former Los Angeles Angels’ farmhand Lay Batista is the only other non-roster invitee that did not start his career in the Braves system. Batista reached Double-A last year, going 5-8 with a 3.37 ERA in 122.2 IP. He has relief experience, but primarily started the last two seasons. He will likely start in Double-A Mississippi, but he will get a long look at big league camp.
The rest of the invitees have been with the Braves since they began their professional careers. Left-handers Ian Thomas and Daniel Rodriguez are interesting prospects, as the Braves’ bullpen enters camp with one lefty reliever. While, Jonny Venters recovers from “Tommy John” surgery, the Braves will look for another southpaw to emerge during Spring Training. Thomas had a strong showing in 2013, going 7-8 with a 2.76 ERA in 104.1 IP. He struck out 123 batters while walking 37. Rodriguez’ numbers did not resemble Thomas’, but he has been in big league camp two straight seasons and starred in Triple-A Gwinnett last year before an injury shutdown his 2013 campaign.
Rodriguez was not the only one that was shut down with an injury in 2013, as Graham had to miss the second half of the season with a shoulder injury. Graham made a name for himself during last Spring Training, tossing in 9.0 IP, allowing six hits, striking out five and recording two saves. He was sent down to Double-A Mississippi, landing on the DL in May.
With Graham’s absences on the M-Braves roster, Schlosser, Lamm and Martin, had a chance to shine for the Braves Double-A affiliate. Schlosser had the most impressive resume, going 7-6 with a 2.39 ERA in 25 starts, but he was the only one of the three that was not promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett. Lamm and Martin got their first taste of the International League circuit. Lamm went 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA, while Martin went 3-4 with a 3.49 ERA for the G-Braves.
Finally, the last two players that will get a look during big league camp will be Simmons and Hursh. Simmons dominated Class-A Rome, recording a club-record 24 saves, surpassing former record holder Sung Ki Jung of the inaugural 2003 club. While, last season first round pick Hursh will get his first taste of the big leagues during Spring Training. Hursh lived up to the billing last year, going 1-1 with a 0.67 ERA in 27.0 IP for Class-A Rome. The former Cowboy has an impressive upside, but he is likely heading to Double-A Mississippi to continue his development.
The 11 pitchers that are heading to big league camp will get a long look during Spring Training, but it is likely that all players will start the season in one of the Braves Minor League systems.
Tomorrow we will go over the 11 position players that have been invited to big league camp.