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Atlanta Braves Minor League Recap: Soroka Cooks Shrimp in AA Debut

On a day filled with high profile pitching prospects on the hill, none was brighter than Mike Soroka in his AA debut.

Mike Soroka Delivers a pitch Jeff Morris

The Braves had an intriguing slate of games down on the farm during Monday’s off day, as Luke Jackson, Mike Soroka, Touki Toussaint, and Joey Wentz all were on the mound to start the day. While some were better than others on Monday, the group as a whole didn’t disappoint with a pair of scoreless outings from the four starters.

Norfolk Tides 3, Gwinnett Braves 0

Box score

  • Ozzie Albies, 2B: 1-4, SB
  • Rio Ruiz, 3B: 1-4
  • Luke Jackson, SP: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 3 R, 6 K

The Braves bats were held in check by the Orioles AAA affiliate, managing just four hits and no walks as a team with Alec Asher leading the way. That means there’s not much to talk about from an offensive perspective outside of Ozzie Albies now having at least one hit in every game other than Opening Day, and stealing his third base of the young season.

Luke Jackson, the prospect with a 100 MPH fastball received from Texas for Tyrell Jenkins this past winter, made his debut in the Braves organization and was solid overall. He lasted just 4.1 innings, giving up 4 hits and 3 runs, but threw 41 of his 64 pitches for strikes as he walked just one while striking out 6. Jackson actually faced just one batter over the minimum in recording those 13 outs before everything really imploded on him, as a series with a single, walk, triple, and double did him in.

Next game- 4/11 @ Norfolk, 6:35 PM. Probable Starter-Aaron Blair

Mississippi Braves 7, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp 4

Box score

  • Mike Soroka, SP: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 7 K
  • Travis Demeritte, 2B: 1-3, BB, 2 R, HR, RBI
  • Carlos Franco, 1B: 3-4, 2B, HR, 5 RBI

The move from A ball to AA is supposed to be the hardest move in a baseball organization outside of a move to the big leagues, and that’s just talking about the move from High-A to AA. It goes without saying the move from Low-A to AA, especially as a teenager, is a move that should challenge any prospect. With that said, it’s hard to imagine Mike Soroka’s AA debut going any better than what he did against the Jumbo Shrimp - 5 scoreless innings where he allowed just a pair of base runners. The only reason that he didn’t go deeper into the start was because he was at 80 pitches through five innings. That gave former Phillies first rounder Jesse Biddle a chance to make a second quality multi-inning relief appearance on the year, giving up a run on a pair of hits in his two innings of work.

Soroka wasn’t the only prospect of note to have a big performance, as Travis Demeritte walked and hit his first homer of the season. However the real offensive star was Carlos Franco, who doubled and homered while driving in five of the seven Braves runs. Luis Valenzuela added a triple, while Connor Lien also added a hit.

Next Game- 4/12 @ Tennessee, 7 PM. Probable Starter-Max Fried

Florida Fire Frogs 4, Dunedin Blue Jays 0

Box score

  • Touki Toussaint, SP: 5 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 0 R, 6 K
  • Ronald Acuna, RF: 2-4, SB, 2 K
  • Alex Jackson, C: 1-3, HR, 2 RBI

If Mike Soroka’s AA debut was the story of the day, Touki Toussaint’s High-A debut was a very close second. Like Soroka, Toussaint also went five scoreless innings while allowing a pair of hits, but unlike Soroka he did walk a pair while striking out 6. A strong season debut for Toussaint is a good sign that he may be able to continue his second half progress from last season. Toussaint wasn’t the only Fire Frog to shut down the Jays, as four innings of relief from Carlos Salazar, Chase Johnson-Mullins, and Devan Watts held the Jays hitless. Overall Fire Frogs pitchers gave up just two hits, but did walk 7 in the shutout.

Alex Jackson remains hot with the bat to start the year. The former top draft pick by the Mariners got the start behind the plate and slugged his second homer of the season, pushing his slugging percentage up to .737. It’s very early and I haven’t personally seen enough to make a new scouting report, but his hitting potential was always there, just needing some changes to the approach to unlock it. Jackson has the potential to make a huge jump up the rankings if he’s truly made some changes.

Top prospect Ronald Acuna had a pair hits to raise his season average to .200 and stole his second base of the year. Ray-Patrick Didder walked and hit a homer of his own, while Austin Riley added a single.

Next Game- 4/11 home vs Dunedin, 6:35 PM. Probable Starter-Luiz Gohara

Kannapolis Intimidators 5, Rome Braves 1

Box score

  • Juan Yepez, 3B: 3-4, 2B, RBI, SB
  • Randy Ventura, RF: 2-4, SB
  • Joey Wentz, SP: 4 IP, 9 H, 0 BB, 4 R, 5 K

As good as Soroka and Toussaint pitched in their season debuts, Joey Wentz struggled in his full season debut. Wentz gave up 4 runs on 9 hits over 4 innings, and nearly a fifth if not for Cristian Pache throwing out a runner at the plate. The good is that Wentz did rebound a bit after allowing three runs in the first and another in the second and his command was solid, walking none and throwing 49 of 71 pitches for strikes.

The star for the Braves was Juan Yepez, who seems to be motivated to put last year’s injury plagued campaign behind him. The move back to third base and return to full health has led to a hot start, as the three hits here raise his average to .375 and his RBI brings his total to 5.

The team speed here could be really fun to watch this year as Randy Ventura had a steal with his two singles, and fellow outfielders Anfernee Seymour and Cristian Pache also stole bases.

Next Game- 4/11 @ Kannapolis, 7:05 PM. Probable Starter-Ryan Lawlor

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