Welcome to the first May edition of the weekly report of the Atlanta Braves farm system from Last Word on Baseball! It was a mixed bag across every level for the Braves this week. Rome posted a 1-5 record this week due to a couple of bad breaks and poor outings from the bullpen. The team of the week is the Mississippi Braves (Double-A) after going 4-2 with a four-game win streak. Kolby Allard (third) is both the pitcher and player of the week after striking out 11 and posting a game score of 81 in a tight pitcher’s duel. Other players featured this week include Johan Camargo, Luis Valenzuela, Jeremy Walker, and Lucas Herbert. (Prospect ranking listed in parenthesis. All rankings taken from MLB.com’s Atlanta Braves Prospect Watch Top 30.)
Weekly Atlanta Braves Farm Report: Mississippi’s Allard Outduels Kopech
Gwinnett Braves (Triple-A)
The Gwinnett Braves struggled on the week with a record of 1-4. They have now slipped five games back of the Durham Bulls in the International League South. Gwinnett did receive two fantastic starts from their rotation this week. Sean Newcomb (fifth) looked to have hit his stride at the start of the week. Newcomb went seven shutout innings in his first start of the week with just a lone hit and two walks against him. The most impressive part of Newcomb’s start was the 11 strikeouts he recorded. Newcomb was less effective in his second start of the week, but still posted decent numbers. Despite lasting just four innings, Newcomb allowed one earned run and struck out six without a walk. Lucas Sims (18th) also posted a strong outing in a losing effort. Sims allowed just two earned runs over five strong innings, and he also struck out seven Durham Bulls without issuing a walk.
Young infielder Camargo (unranked) continues to hit the ball well during his time at Gwinnett. Camargo went 9-for-18 with two runs scored and four RBI. Camargo should continue to push for another appearance in Atlanta as bat off the bench. Third baseman Rio Ruiz (22nd) came back down to earth after his strong performance last week. Ruiz logged just three hits and two RBI with just one of his hits going for extra-bases.
Mississippi Braves (Double-A)
The Mississippi Braves posted a strong week with a 4-2 record and finished the week on a four-game win streak. The game of the week came on Thursday night when Atlanta’s third ranked prospect, Allard, squared off against Michael Kopech, the third ranked prospect in the Chicago White Sox farm system. In what wound up being a low-scoring affair, Allard outdueled Chicago’s flamethrower to pick up his second Double-A win. Allard posted six shutout innings by scattering three hits and striking out 11 Birmingham Barons without issuing a walk. Kopech also went six innings and struck out eight, but he surrendered a two-run home run to Luis Valenzuela (unranked) that proved to be the difference for Mississippi. Allard lowered his season ERA to 1.36 over his first six starts of 2017.
Travis Demeritte (ninth) continues to struggle with his consistency despite showing his potential at the plate. Demeritte went 5-for-23 on the week with two doubles, an RBI, and three runs scored. He posted two multi-hit games to begin the week, but finished it off by going 0-for-11 with six strikeouts over the last two games. Valenzuela (unranked) was the driving force for Mississippi in the Allard-Kopech pitching duel. Valenzuela went 2-for-3 against Kopech with a double and the game-deciding two-run shot. He finished the night 3-for-4 in the hard-fought win for the Braves. Infielder Carlos Franco (unranked) and outfielder Adam Walker (unranked) hit a two-run and three-run home run respectively to score all five of Mississippi’s win in the final game of the week.
Florida Fire Frogs (Advanced-A)
The Florida Fire Frogs posted a decent showing after being shutout to begin the week. The Fire Frogs went 4-3 on the week and scored 17 runs in a Friday night game against Clearwater Threshers. The lefty trio of Drew Harrington (25th), Tyler Pike (unranked), and Luiz Gohara (10th) continue to dominate and lead Florida’s rotation. Each picked up a win this week, and the trio posted a combined line of 17 innings pitched with just one run allowed on eight hits, four walks, and 15 strikeouts. The respective ERA’s for each of these pitchers is 2.16, 2.16, and 1.69.
First baseman Carlos Castro (unranked) had a solid week for Florida. Castro went 8-for-26 with one home run, one double, six RBI, and five runs scored. The highlight for Castro was a grand slam in an 8-1 victory over the Palm Beach Cardinals. Third baseman Austin Riley (12th) has definitely found his stride in Florida after an up-and-down April to start 2017. Riley went 8-for-20 with two home runs, a double, four runs scored, and eight RBI. The hot week has brought Riley’s slugging percentage up to .448 and his on-base percentage to .312 on the season.
Rome Braves (Single-A)
Rome struggled mightily this week with a 1-5 record and an offense that scored just under three runs per game this week. Rome’s bullpen struggled at times and surrendered two walk-offs this week. The real heart breaker was Friday night when the Greensboro Grasshoppers scored five runs over the last two innings, including three in the bottom of the ninth, to stun the Braves. Ian Anderson (sixth) surrendered three runs for the first time this season. Oriel Caicedo (unranked) picked up his first loss of the season after recording four wins. Caicedo still pitched well in his appearance out of the bullpen, with five strikeouts and two earned runs allowed in three and a third innings. The start of the week for Rome came courtesy of Walker (unranked) who struck out seven with just one walk and one earned run over five innings. Walker would receive a no-decision in the heartbreaker, but it was definitely his most effective outing of 2017.
Catching prospect Herbert (28th) had a fantastic week for Rome. Herbert homered in three straight games to begin the week, and he finished the week with a line of 5-for-17with three home runs, three RBI, four runs scored, and two walks. Herbert also got a chance to display his strong throwing arm with two players caught stealing in his three games behind the plate. Fellow catching prospect Brett Cumberland (29th) provided a lift in the lone victory of the week with a two-run home run. Cumberland is still hitting just .188 with 27 strikeouts to start the season and is need of a hot-stretch moving forward.