Welcome to week three of the weekly report on the Atlanta Braves farm system. It was an exciting week, as all three affiliates in the postseason (Gwinnett, Mississippi, and Rome) won their respective series. Each team will now play in a championship series, with another chance to prove their worth to management. Unfortunately, Ozzie Albies (2nd ranked prospect) suffered a season-ending elbow injury. There is no timetable for his return, but fans are certainly hoping he will be ready for the start of Spring Training, or soon after.
Rome’s starting pitchers turned in the performance(s) of the week with three dominant games in their opening round victory. Max Fried (11th) turned in the individual performance of the week, with 11 strikeouts in Rome’s decisive third game. Mississippi’s Carlos Franco (unranked) is the offensive performer of the week (Prospect rankings are in parenthesis. Ranking is based on MLB.com’s Prospect Watch for the Atlanta Braves organization.)
Max Fried Dominant in SAL Playoffs
The Gwinnett Braves completed their regular season with a record of 65-78. Gwinnett was able to hold of the Charlotte Knights and Durham Bulls to win their division and advance to the International League Playoffs. The Braves finished off a hard-fought series with the Columbus Clippers with a 5-4 victory on Saturday. They won the series three games to one, but only one game in the series was decided by more than two runs. The best start of the series came from righty Chris Ellis (16th) in the pivotal third game of the series. Ellis went seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and no walks with eight strikeouts. Ellis was backed by plenty of run support in the eventual 11-1 Braves victory, but he was determined to earn the victory.
The Gwinnett offense was led by the trio of Ronnier Mustelier, Blake Lalli, and Sean Kazmar (all unranked). Of this group, Kazmar was the standout. This infielder accounted for 14 total bases, including a double and two home runs to accompany his four runs scored and four RBI. Gwinnett will now play the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders in the five-game International League Championship Series.
The Mississippi Braves finished their regular season on Monday with an overall record of 73-65. The M-Braves rolled into the playoffs and a five-game series against the division winning Pensacola Blue Wahoos. The Braves appeared doomed after losing a back-and-forth affair in game one. They blew a one-run lead in the ninth inning to drop the opener 6-5. More importantly, Ozzie Albies was lost for the rest of the post-season after suffering a broken elbow in the loss. The Braves, however, rallied around stout pitching to win the next three games advance to the championship round. Braves pitching allowed four runs (three earned) in games three-five. The best performance of the series came from Patrick Weigel (28th). Weigel started game two and went seven dazzling innings without allowing a run. He was able to scatter three hits and two walks while striking out eight in a series-altering performance.
Third baseman Carlos Franco (unranked) provided a number of big hits in the series. Franco’s triple-slash line for the series was .467/.500/.933. Four of Franco’s seven hits went for extra bases (two doubles, a triple, and a home run) to go along with six RBI and three runs. Mallex Smith (unranked) should continue to add a spark at the top of the line-up for the rest of the post-season. Smith contributed four runs and two RBI in the series. The Braves will face the Jackson Generals in the five-game Southern League Championship Series.
The Rome Braves finished off their regular season on Monday with a record of 70-69. Rome rolled into the first round of the playoffs and a matchup with the Charleston River Dogs. The strength of Rome’s starting pitchers would be the difference in this series. Mike Soroka (7th), Kolby Allard (4th), and Max Fried (11th) were the starters for Rome, and they were nothing short of dominant. For the three-game series, Rome’s starters combined for a line of 21.1 innings pitched with just two earned runs allowed on 13 hits. They also accumulated 16 strikeouts with Fried accounting for 11 in the decisive third game.
Third baseman Austin Riley (13th) provided the spark on offense with two doubles and four RBI in the two Rome victories. Outfielder Ray-Patrick Didder (unranked) provided a nice contribution at the top of the order for the Braves with a line of 4-for-11 to with four runs scored and one run driven in. Rome will play the Lakewood Blue Claws in a five-game series for the South Atlantic League Championship.
The Carolina Mudcats finished off their season with three straight wins. Their final record for 2016 is 52-87. Outfielder Keith Curcio (Unranked) was named Carolina’s Player of the Year. Curcio spent all of 2016 with the Mudcats and appeared in 124 games. Curcio showed a knack for getting on base while posting a triple-slash line of .257/.352/.389. He led the Mudcats in many offensive categories including hits (124), doubles (29), triples (eight), total bases (178), and steals (24).
The Atlanta Braves are currently stocked with talented center fielders in Ender Inciarte and Mallex Smith. Curcio still has time to impress, but it will be a tough task to break through with the Braves current make up. Matt Withrow was honored as the Pitcher of the Year in Carolina. Withrow put together a solid season over 24 starts for Carolina. He had the most wins for Carolina (nine) to go along with 131 strikeouts and a 3.80 ERA in 120.2 innings pitched.