This week's Talking Chop Minor League Player of the Week featured a solid group of player. Among the candidates for inclusion were Sander Boeldak, Jacob Schrade, Randy Ventura, and Seth Webster. Ultimately, it came down to race between 3 players-Last Week's winner Austin Riley (1.340 OPS w/ 2 HR), Leudys Baez (1.338 OPS in call up to Rome), and the new Brave John Gant. We eventually decided on Savannah native John Gant, who the Braves acquired in a trade with the Mets on July 24. He was a 21st round pick by New York in 2011, and has really come on in the last 3 seasons after a rough couple of years in the lower minor leagues. He has a full arsenal of pitches, and while he doesn't throw hard he gets great movement on his fastball and all of his off speed pitches. He has a large 6'5" frame, and uses it well in getting downhill action on his fastball. His best offspeed pitch is a wicked vulcan change, and he also has a solid above average breaking ball. He uses his pitches well and could remain as a starter despite the crowded playing field at that position.
Gant is an obvious choice for player of the week, and he was absolutely outstanding in his first 2 start in a Braves uniform. The Braves placed him at AA Mississippi-a classification he struggled with in the Mets system-and he responded quickly with a debut of 5.2IP, 2H, 1R, 1ER, 2BB, 7K on 87 pitches. He came back even stonger in his second start, going 6 innings, allowing just 1 hit, no runs, 2 walks, and striking out 9 on the same 87 pitches. Both games were wins for Gant, so his Braves numbers sit at an outstanding 2-0 with a 0.77 ERA and 16K in 11.2IP. This week he ranked first in the system (Min. 9IP) in ERA, K/9, WHIP, H/9, and wins. Since being sent down to A+ on May 25, Gant has put up great numbers. In 52IP he has struck out 64 batters, walked just 14, and given up 10 runs (9 earned). He has also allowed just 30 hits in that time, which puts him at a 1.56 ERA and 0.85 WHIP to go along with a 31.5% K rate. Understatement time: That's pretty good. He has made a mechanical adjustment this year, which is what my Mets source attributes Gant's statistical improvement to. (@Astromets31 on twitter. Credit where credit is due) This change helped him increase his velocity, which is most noticeable in his jump in strikeout rate. One last note-Yesterday was Gant's 23rd birthday, so we would like to wish him a happy birthday and hope he spends many more with a tomahawk across his chest.
How about a nasty curveball:
I see that curve, and raise a Vulcan Change: