Results tagged ‘ Rome Braves ’
Saturday, September 19 was a special night for 14 of the top players in the Atlanta Braves’ organization who were invited to Turner Field to be recognized as the club’s Minor League Pitchers and Players of the Year. The group, including players from each level and affiliate of the organization, received a tour of the clubhouse, watched batting practice from the field and mingled with some of the current Braves’ Major Leaguers prior to accepting their awards in a pregame ceremony.
For Woodstock, GA native and Mercer University (Macon, GA) product Brandon Barker, the Pitcher of the Year for Advanced-A Carolina, the night was more than just a chance to reflect on a breakout season, it was the opportunity to live out a childhood dream.
“When I was in college and growing up, I always dreamed of playing for my hometown team, the Braves,” said Barker. “I grew up a fan, so being out here is a great experience. I mean, it’s just awesome. I never thought I’d actually be on the Braves’ field.”
Barker earned that chance to step out on the Turner Field playing surface by asserting himself as one of the top pitchers in the Braves’ organization in 2015. He went 12-10 with a 3.25 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 146.2 innings, leading all Braves’ farmhands in wins and strikeouts and finishing sixth in the system in ERA. The 23-year-old made 27 starts across three levels, advancing from Class-A Rome all the way to Triple-A Gwinnett by season’s end.
His best numbers came with the Carolina Mudcats, where he went 8-5 with a 3.00 ERA and eight quality starts in 17 total starts to earn the club’s Pitcher of the Year award.
“It’s a great honor to be here, and I’m happy that the Braves gave me the award for Carolina,” said Barker prior to the September 19 ceremony. “It’s such a surreal experience coming out here and seeing the locker room, seeing all the facilities and being on the field with everybody, it’s just a great experience.”
Selected by Atlanta out of Mercer in the 16th round in 2014, Barker made his professional debut that same season, going 5-2 with a 3.96 ERA in 14 games, five starts between Rookie-level Danville and Rome. He returned to Rome to open 2015, going 3-4 with a 3.48 ERA in eight starts.
A promotion to Carolina followed, but it wouldn’t prove to be his highest rung on the organizational ladder. Barker went on to make two spot starts for the G-Braves, facing the Charlotte Knights on July 5 at Coolray Field and the Norfolk Tides on September 2 at Harbor Park.
“To be honest, no,” said Barker when asked if he thought he’d reach the Triple-A level this year. “But I knew that if I just worked hard and took it day by day and did what I could on my end, that things would hopefully work out and I’d get my chance.”
His first chance with Gwinnett produced mixed results as he took the loss in his Triple-A debut on July 5. Barker held the potent Charlotte offense to two runs over his first four innings, but was saddled with two more runs after his exit with one out in the fifth. Over 4.1 innings, he yielded four runs on four hits, walked three and struck out an impressive seven batters. Barker exited in a 2-2 game, and the G-Braves went on to lose by a narrow 5-4 margin.
“The first game that I came up, I was a little nervous, just because I didn’t know anybody that I was playing with,” admitted Barker. “I’m from Woodstock, so it’s not too far away. I had a lot of friends and family there. So I was a little bit nervous the first time. But the second time I went out there, I knew I’ve already been there and thought I could do the job. I just did the best that I could, and it turned out well.”
The next time the G-Braves tabbed him to start on September 2, the club was in the heat of a playoff chase. Following a 6-2 win in game one of a rain-soaked doubleheader at Harbor Park in Norfolk, VA, Gwinnett trailed the Tides by 3.0 games for first place in the International League South Division. Only six games remained in the regular season.
Barker helped keep slim postseason hopes alive by throwing 5.0 innings for the victory, holding the Tides to two runs (one earned) on five hits, walking one and striking out three. The G-Braves swept the twinbill with a 7-2 win, cutting Norfolk’s division lead to 2.0 games. That damp September night proved to be the last start and win of Barker’s tremendous 2015 campaign.
Ending his second season with success at the highest level of the Atlanta Braves’ system will give Barker plenty of confidence heading into 2016, but the right-handed starter is stopping short of worrying about which level he’ll open at next year.
“It’s just a great way to end the season so I can work hard in the offseason and have a good Spring Training, and hopefully — you know what, it doesn’t matter what team I break camp with, I just want to have a successful season.”
Photo courtesy of Kyle Hess
Atlanta Braves (31-25, 2nd place)
The big league club plays in arguably the toughest division in Major League Baseball, alongside the American League East. However, the Braves are having another solid season and are in line for one of the five playoff spots in the 2012 MLB Playoffs as they trail the Washington Nationals by 2 games in the NL East standings. Atlanta is succeeding with a host of players from their deep minor league system. Everyone knows about the quick ascentions of Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman and a year earlier with Tommy Hanson and Jason Heyward, but how about the contributions from former Gwinnett Braves such as; Jose Constanza, J.C. Boscan and Randall Delgado this season? Enough can’t be said for the guys in Gwinnett who’ve already made their presence felt in Atlanta like; Tyler Pastornicky, Jair Jurrjens and Cory Gearrin. The Braves most highy-piblicized promotion this season came from Double-A Mississippi, when the Braves promoted Andrelton Simmons to Atlanta. Since entering the Major League fold, the highly touted shortstop has been brilliant both defensively and offensively. He was one of the top ranked shortstop prospects in minor league baseball and the No. 4 overall prospect in the Braves system according to Baseball America. The Braves are 19-5 this season when Chipper Jones is in the starting line-up, so look for more good times ahead as the living legend is eligible to return from the DL on Friday, amidst his final season in an illustrious Hall-of-Fame career.
Gwinnett Braves (33-27, 2nd place)
Photo courtesy of Chris Roughgarden
The G-Braves have been struggling as of late, from both an offensive and pitching standpoint. In their last two games, Gwinnett has allowed 15 runs to their opposition, while the G-Braves offense has accumulated just five hits and two total runs over that span. For the month of May, Gwinnett registered a 15-15 record after securing the best mark in the International League (17-7) in April. The G-Braves are now 1.5 games behind the IL South leading Charlotte Knights after Gwinnett squandered a maximum first place lead in April of 7.0 games. Julio Teheran is the unquestionable ace of the staff and Todd Redmond has been the most consistent starter in 2012. In fact, Redmond was named the IL Pitcher of the Week the same week as teammate Ernesto Mejia was awarded the IL Batter of the Week. You can’t talk about the offense without mentioning the guy who got them going and the G-Braves 2011 MVP, Stefan Gartrell. Gartrell was named the IL Batter of the Week the first week of May after transforming his batting average from .165 on April 29 to .263 a month later on May 29. Luis Durango and Christian Marrero were also instrumental to the G-Braves offense through the month of May. Cory Gearrin has solidified the closer’s role in the bullpen and has six saves on the season. Jaye Chapman, Anthony Varvaro, Jose Lugo and Buddy Carlyle have excelled out of the bullpen this month for Gwinnett.
Mississippi Braves (26-34, 5th place)
Photo courtesy of Melinda Pease
The Double-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves has a great deal of star-power, but that has yet to be realized 100-percent with their 10-9 record in the month of May. Mississippi, as a team, does not have a great deal of power or speed, totaling just 18 home runs all season and not one player on the M-Braves has double-digit stolen bases. Mississippi is led by one of the best catching prospects in baseball in the form of Christian Bethancourt. This season, the do-it -all catcher is batting .257 with 29 hits, 10 RBI and 31 total bases. In 43 games with Mississippi this season, Simmons batted .292 with 28 runs scored, 50 hits, nine doubles, two triples, three home runs, 21 RBI, 10 stolen bases and an extraordinary 1:1 walk to strikeout ratio with 20 of each, prior to his promotion. Ian Gac and Evan Gattis supply a majority of the power for this team, as the two have combined for 10 home runs and 41 RBI in 2012. Todd Cunningham is their one-base guy, as he boasts a team-leading .325 batting including his team-high 54 hits and .371 on-base percentage. The former Independent League star Gary Moran has transitioned to affiliated ball brilliantsly this season after coming over from the River City Rascals of the Frontier League. This year, the big righty has a 1-4 record with a 3.00 ERA, alongside 41 strikeouts to just 19 walks in 57.0 innings of work. Zeke Spruill leads the team in wins with five and Mark Lamm is the team -leader in saves with six in eight opportunities. Don’t forget the Braves first round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, Sean Gilmartin who has 3-5 mark with a 3.39 ERA in 11 starts, including 52 stirikeouts and 17 walks in 69.0 innings pitched.
Lynchburg Hillcats (29-28, 1st place)
Photo courtesy of Karl Moore
By: Tony Piraro
Currently, the Atlanta Braves organization is impressing at nearly every level throughout their minor league system. Two leagues are set to get underway in the middle of June, therefore the Danville Braves (Rookie) and Gulf Coast League Braves (Rookie) have yet to begin their respective seasons. As for the rest of the Braves affiliates, life is good, especially after the top prospects got the rare opportunity to play the Atlanta Braves in the April 3 Inaugural Exhibition Game hosted at Coolray Field.
Photo courtesy of Melinda Pease
Atlanta Braves (16-11, 2nd place)
The big club has been playing some outstanding baseball since a rough start to begin the season. Chipper Jones has returned from the DL and is playing at his usual, high-level. Speaking of returning injured players, Tim Hudson has made two starts for Atlanta after spending some time in Rome and Gwinnett. All in all, the former G-Braves stars have begun to take over the Atlanta ballclub, such as: Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Martin Prado, Tyler Pastornicky and Craig Kimbrel. The Braves only trail the upstart Bryce Harper-led Washington Nationals by two games in the NL East standings, but I can see that changing as quickly as the Nats luck has been changing of late.
Photo courtesy of Melinda Pease
Gwinnett Braves (18-9, 1st place)
With the best record in the International League (18-9) the G-Braves are focused on being consistent. Gwinnett currently has the No. 1 ranked pitching staff in the IL with a team ERA of 2.78 and their hitting is starting to heat up, especially Stefan Gartrell (pictured above). The G-Braves outfielder/designated hitter has been a monster as of late, crushing a home run in each of his last three games including six total hits during that span. Gartrell is now batting .209 with four homers and 14 RBI, which is saying a lot considering he was batting .165 before the G-Braves 8-game road trip last week.
Photo courtesy of Kyle Hess