Results tagged ‘ Jason Heyward ’

Tyrell Jenkins, Mallex Smith visit Turner Field as Atlanta Braves’ award winners

Two key contributors who helped the Gwinnett Braves push to one game out of a playoff spot were able to catch a glimpse of where their Major League dreams might become reality when they received honors shortly before Saturday’s game between the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field.

Right-handed starting pitcher Tyrell Jenkins earned the Braves’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year award, and center fielder Mallex Smith received the Braves’ Minor League Player of the Year award during a pregame ceremony that honored players from each level of the Atlanta Minor League system, including Gwinnett Pitcher of the Year Manny Banuelos and Gwinnett Player of the Year Adonis Garcia.

“It’s pretty cool, actually,” said Jenkins, who is Atlanta’s No. 4-ranked prospect according to “When they called me and told me, I couldn’t stop smiling for like 10 minutes. It was just awesome.”

Right-handed starter Tyrell Jenkins (middle) receives his Atlanta Braves' Minor League Pitcher of the Year award from Assistant Director of Player Devleopment Jonathan Schuerholz (left) and Director of Player Development Dave Trembley.

Right-handed starter Tyrell Jenkins (middle) receives his Atlanta Braves’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year award from Assistant Director of Player Development Jonathan Schuerholz (left) and Director of Player Development Dave Trembley in a pregame ceremony on Saturday at Turner Field. (Dave Lezotte)

The 23-year-old Jenkins and 22-year-old Smith both began the season at Double-A Mississippi but were promoted to Gwinnett before the Triple-A All-Star break. Jenkins was 3-4 with a 3.57 ERA (18 ER in 45.1 IP) in nine starts for the G-Braves, while Smith batted .281 (78-for-278) and stole a team-high 34 bases in 69 games with Gwinnett.

“It’s just a blessing,” said Smith, the Braves’ No. 13 prospect according to” You can’t really ask for this, it’s something that just happens over the course of time. Every day you wake up and try to get ready to go and perform and just be the best you can possibly be. I just feel like if you go out there and put your best foot forward daily, things happen. The Lord just found mercy on me to bless me with this. It’s just an honor, unbelievable.”

The Braves acquired both players in offseason trades. Jenkins joined right-handed starter Shelby Miller as part of a package in a November 17 trade from the St. Louis Cardinals in return for outfielder Jason Heyward and right-handed reliever Jordan Walden. Smith was part of a five-player deal with the San Diego Padres on December 19 that sent outfielder Justin Upton to the Padres.

Jenkins overcame two lat muscle injuries in the past three years that had kept him from making more than 19 starts in any of his first five professional seasons. He started a combined 25 games between Mississippi and Gwinnett in his first year as an Atlanta farmhand, going 8-9 with a 3.19 ERA  (49 ER in 138.1 IP) that was the fourth-lowest among qualified pitchers in the Braves’ system. His 88 strikeouts also were the fifth-most of any Atlanta minor leaguer.

“Just to be able to come back and be able to have a full season, whether it was (Pitcher) of the Year or not, I was just happy to make it through the season knowing that the whole surgery held up and everything,” Jenkins said. “Just to win that adds on to kind of let you know what people saw I did or what they thought of my year, and it’s pretty special. I’m glad to be here.”

After he led all of Minor League Baseball with 88 stolen bases in 2014, Smith had a blistering start to his career in the Braves’ system. He batted .340 (70-for-206) with 23 steals in 57 games for Mississippi before he received his promotion to Gwinnett. He finished the season with a combined .306 batting average (148-for-484) that ranked fourth among Atlanta farmhands, while his 57 total steals led the organization.

Center fielder Mallex Smith receives his Atlanta Braves' Player of the Year award from Schuerholz (left) and Trembley on Saturday at Turner Field.

Center fielder Mallex Smith receives his Atlanta Braves’ Player of the Year award from Schuerholz (left) and Trembley on Saturday at Turner Field. (Dave Lezotte)

“Mentally, I improved a lot, just going through my ups and downs,” Smith said. “Being traded, I had to get over that mental hump. Adjusting to a different organization, adjusting to different rules. Just trying to better yourself and just make sure you’re not disobeying the rules, just trying to get along and figure out your way. It helped out a lot.”

All of the award winners had the chance to be on the field for batting practice, which allowed Smith to meet outfielder Cameron Maybin, who was also a member of the San Diego organization up until the 2015 season, and outfielder Michael Bourn, who Smith admired during Bourn’s first tenure with the Braves from 2011-12.

“It’s a different feel seeing them up close and personal than on TV,” said Smith, a native of Tallahassee, FL. “It feels more real.”

As for his time in Gwinnett, Smith said it was fun to be part of a team that had a chance to reach the playoffs until the penultimate day of the season after it was in last place its division when he arrived on June 24.

Jenkins spent much of the final three weeks of the season on the Gwinnett disabled list because of arm fatigue, but he was thrilled to be able to come back to make one more start on Sept. 4 to prove to himself and the organization he was healthy and ready to embark on an offseason of preparation for a 2016 season that could see him back in the dugout at Turner Field.

He said it would be particularly special if he could accomplish that goal alongside Smith, his friend and roommate during road trips with Gwinnett.

“We’d always talked about always going up to Atlanta together and being together,” Jenkins said. “If he does something wrong I’ll let him know, and if I do something wrong he’ll let me know. We really looked out for each other this year.”

Smith admitted it would be fun to rise to the big leagues together, but he said he also understands all they can do is put themselves in positions that make that dream a possibility.

“When the time is right, we’ll come,” Smith said. “Until then, we’re going to prepare and get ourselves ready to be up here.”


All Things Five

Anniversary MarkHard to believe, but the 2013 International League season (and our home opener at Coolray Field) is just 85 days away!  With April 4 quickly approaching, we’re starting to lift the curtain on some of the things you can expect to see for the upcoming season of Gwinnett Braves Baseball.

The first major announcement occured this morning with the launch of the Fifth Season campaign and logo (pictured left).  Celebrations of the anniversary season include a new alumni Bobblehead Series and brand new 5-Pack Plans.  The series of five bobbleheads features G-Braves who have gone on to stardom in Atlanta, including Brandon Beachy, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel and Kris Medlen.  Conveniently, you can purchase tickets to all five bobblehead giveaway nights in the Bobblehead Pack, one of the four 5-Pack Plans that were rolled out in today’s announcement.

The 5-Packs also include a Fireworks Pack (all five dates are Friday Fireworks nights), a Best 5 Games Pack (our most popular games including Opening Night on April 4 and July 4) and a Silver Sluggers Pack (five day games).  Reinforcing the five theme, each 5-Pack starts at just $50.  You can get more details and buy online as well by visiting

To add to the excitement of Season Five, is hosting a look back at some of the great players that have played for the G-Braves in the team’s first four seasons.  Expect to read up on guys like Barbaro Canizares (this week’s feature), Matt YoungTodd Redmond and Mauro Gomez in addition to the likes of Freeman, Kimbrel and others.  A new “5th Season Friday” feature will debut each Friday through the end of March. 

Is that enough fives for you yet?  Me neither.  As if the baseball gods had a hand in it, the G-Blog was announced as the 55th most visited ProBlog on the MLBlogs Network for the past year.  Fifth place would have been more fitting, but it’s an honor to finish near the middle of the Top 100 in our first year.  You can check out the entire list over at

Give yourself a high-5 for reading this post and head over to for more on the 2013 season!


Video: Former G-Braves Flourishing in Atlanta

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hess

Craig Kimbrel

The best closer in baseball title belongs to the former Gwinnett Braves farmhand Craig Kimbrel. This season with the Braves, the right-hander has recorded 30 saves (2nd in MLB) alongside an insane 1.35 ERA and 0.65 WHIP. He has struck out an impressive 67 batters in just 40.0 innings of work, while we has walked just 10 hitters all season.

The days of playing at Coolray Field on a regular basis are long gone for Kimbrel. The right-hander consistently registers between 97-99 mph on the radar gun, as is quickly becoming one of the most respected relievers in all of baseball. This former Gwinnett Brave is creating a path to greatness.

Freddie Freeman

Forever connected will Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman be in the minds of Braves fans. They both came up to Atlanta together after stellar Gwinnett career’s, and both set the league on fire upon their emergences. Freeman just lost the National League Rookie of the Year voting to his teammate, but was happy for Kimbrel nevertheless.

This season the first baseman is coming into his own, hitting .270 with 13 home runs, 61 RBI and 22 doubles with Atlanta. Not only is his offense on the rise, but his defense has never been better. Freeman, when on the field, has been one of the more consistent Braves this season. With time, he will grow into one of the most feared hitters in baseball.

Photo courtesy of Melinda Pease

Jason Heyward

The Braves prized product is finally producing in the way the Braves imagined when they drafted the 22-year old. This season Heyward has taken the next step in his career, further enhancing his growth in the game. Heyward is batting .270 with 15 home runs, 49 RBI, 18 doubles and 15 stolen bases alongside fantastic defense in right field.

He has become a full-time player in 2012, starting almost every game against left-handers as well. There is no question the future is still indeed very bright for Heyward, as he continues to scratch the surface of his immense talent.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hess

Mike Minor

Most fans probably assumed that the fourth name would be Tommy Hanson, however Mike Minor has been far more impressive at certain points this year. The southpaw had a rough start to 2012, but he has resurrected his season as he surges to the finish. The lefty is churning out quality starts as if they were going out of style. Minor has worked 6.0 innings or more in each of his last four starts, including striking out nine while he walked none in his sixth win this season during his last start against the Phillies.

The left-hander has trimmed his ERA to a respectable 5.17, alongside a 6-7 record with 98 strikeouts in 113.0 innings of work, yielding 42 free passes. The future ace of the Atlanta Braves rotation? Possibly. He could surprise you as most of these former G-Braves standouts have already done with early success in their young MLB careers.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Watts

By: Tony Piraro

Coming To You Live From Turner Field

The Gwinnett Braves Front Office is taking a much needed breather from their 145-game Triple-A regular season schedule on Thursday, as we visit our parent club at Turner Field this afternoon. I am writing this article live during the Atlanta Braves (15-10) and Philadelphia Phillies (12-13) game from the Turner Field Press Box directly above home plate. The press level is magnificent and is at least 10 times the size of our press box in Gwinnett. This will be an easy adjustment for me to make.

Former G-Braves standout righty Randall Delgado (2-2, 6.30) will be matching up with the Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton (2-3, 3.81) for a 12:10 p.m. first pitch from Turner Field. Other current Atlanta Braves in today’s starting line-up that have donned a Gwinnett Braves uniform are Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann, Martin Prado, Jason Heyward and Tyler Pastornicky…just to name a few.

Regardless, all is well in Braves country. The Atlanta Braves are right in the thick of the National League East Division, as they trail the Washington Nationals by just half a game for first place. With all the hype surrounding the phenom Bryce Harper, it surprises me that there are still four other teams in the NL East besides Harper and his Nats. Needless to say, both the Braves and Nats had improbable wins Wednesday night…

Atlanta found themselves down 6-0 Wednesday night to Roy Halladay who had never lost a game when leading by six runs or more. Also, Halladay hadn’t allowed a grand slam since the previous decade (1999), which really set the stage for some Braves heroics. Following a Brian McCann grand slam that tied the game, 6-6, the Braves found themselves down four runs, 12-8, just an inning later.

Atlanta stole the show and Chipper Jones broke the collective back of the Phillies with not one, but two dramatic walk-off shots in the 12th inning. Jones’ first blast down the right field line was called just foul as the fans of Atlanta were primed to erupt….Nevertheless, two pitches later the living legend sent a no-doubter into the right centerfield stands for a walk-off winner, 13-12, as the Braves grabbed their first win over the Phillies in their last nine tries.

The G-Braves have also been cruising as of late with their league-best record. Gwinnett took one of two games from the back-to-back defending National Champion Columbus Clippers in a Wednesday double-dip. Currently, the G-Braves own the best record (18-8) in the International League and have the No. 1 ranked pitching in the IL this season. Stefan Gartrell has picked up after his 2011 pace, jacking two bombs this week and raising his batting average from .165 to .205 in a matter of days.

The G-Braves return home, alongside the rest of our Front Office staff, on Saturday for the first of 11 games in 10 days from Coolray Field. Gwinnett will be playing host to Charlotte (2 games), Buffalo (4 games) and Toledo (5 games) during the upcoming home stand. Tickets for all Gwinnett Braves home games are on sale now at the Coolray Field Box Office. Call (678) 277-0340 or visit for more information.

By: Tony Piraro


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