Welcome back to the weekly update of the Atlanta Braves farm system by the folks at Last Word on Baseball! The season is in full swing, and it was a strong showing for the teams in the Braves system. The Florida Fire Frogs were the only team to post a losing record, but even Alex Jackson displayed some fireworks in a rough week. Mike Soroka is the pitcher of the week, while Randy Ventura is the player of the week. (Prospect ranking listed in parenthesis. All rankings taken from MLB.com’s Atlanta Braves Prospect Watch Top 30.)
Mike Soroka Shines in Mississippi
Gwinnett Braves (Triple-A)
The Gwinnett Braves posted a much stronger second week of the season. Gwinnett finished the week with a record of 6-1, including a six-game win streak. The pitching was dramatically improved. Sean Newcomb (fifth) picked up his first Triple-A win by limiting the Norfolk Tides to two runs, one earned, in 5.1 innings. Newcomb recorded five strikeouts, but he did struggle a bit with three walks. Aaron Blair (unranked) is the pitcher of the week for Gwinnett. In two starts this week, he completed 11 innings with three earned runs and 13 strikeouts to five walks. The rotation in Atlanta has performed well to begin the season, but Blair will put pressure on the front office to give him playing time if he continues to perform like he did this week.
Infielder Ozzie Albies (first) had a hit in every game this week to bring his batting average to an even .300. Albies went 10-for-30 with six runs, six RBI, four doubles, and a triple. One could already hear the Atlanta fans clamoring to see Albies with the big league club. Unfortunately, Brandon Phillips has been on a small tear since the opening of SunTrust Park. Albies is the second baseman of the future, but it appears his time will wait a little while longer. Infielder Johan Camargo (unranked) was called up to Atlanta, where he is 1-for-3 with an RBI and two strikeouts.
Mississippi Braves (Double-A)
The Mississippi Braves had a strong week, with a record of 5-2. The pitching was fantastic this week, holding the opposition to three runs or less in five games this week. Soroka (fourth) gets the recognition for pitcher of the week thanks to two great outings. Soroka picked up his first two Double-A victories. He pitched 11.2 innings, allowing just five hits and one earned run. What is even more impressive is Soroka’s 14 strikeouts without issuing a walk. He looks a cut above right now and is primed for a big season in Mississippi.
The offense was led by first baseman Carlos Franco (unranked). Franco posted six hits, three home runs, two doubles, and 11 RBI. Through his first 10 games, Franco has a .710 slugging percentage and 1.092 OPS. Second baseman Travis Demeritte (ninth) went 8-for-26 at the plate, but he continues to hit the ball hard. Demeritte recorded his first Double-A home run, along with four doubles and six RBI.
Florida Fire Frogs (Advanced-A)
The Florida Fire Frogs struggled this week with a record of 3-4. The big problem for the Fire Frogs was a pitching staff that gave up six or more runs four times. Right-hander Touki Toussaint (11th) began the week with a shutout performance of five innings, two hits, and six strikeouts. Unfortunately, Toussaint ended his week by giving up five earned runs, including two home runs, in five innings. He did have a total of 14 strikeouts on the week, and Toussaint continues to reduce his walk rate.
Jackson (23rd) continues his hot start to the season. He went 6-for-22 with two home runs, five runs driven in, and four runs scored. In his first 10 games to start the season, the catcher has three home runs and a .579 slugging percentage. He has a ways to go before the big leagues are in the picture, but it is no secret the Braves are looking for their backstop of the future. A strong season from Jackson will put his name into the mix for the future. Third baseman Austin Riley (12th) hit his second home run of the season, but he is still trying to find his groove with the Fire Frogs. He is hitting just .209 with a .349 slugging percentage in his first 11 games.
Rome Braves (Single-A)
The Rome Braves finished the week with a 4-3 record to keep their strong start going. They are 8-3 on the season and it looks like another deep run in the South Atlantic League is certainly possible. Southpaw Joey Wentz (13th) was roughed up in his first start of the week. Wentz gave up four runs on nine hits in just four innings of work. Wentz pitched much better in his second start of the week, with just a lone earned run over five innings. He struck out 10 over his two starts, compared to just two walks. Ian Anderson was the pitcher of the week for Rome by capturing his first win of the season. Anderson did not allow a run on two hits and two walks, while striking out eight over five innings of work.
Ventura (unranked) receives the player of the week award for the Braves farm system. The 19-year-old Dominican is tormenting the pitchers of the SAL to start the season. Ventura had a hit in each game this week for Rome. He went 12-for-26, with four runs scored and two RBI. In 10 games to start the season, Ventura is slashing .429/.487/.457. He has just one extra-base hit so far, but he is a great addition to Rome’s lineup behind speedster Anfernee Seymour (unranked). Tim Tebow may be in town to face Rome this week, but folks will be better served by checking out what Ventura is doing to start the season.