September 1st approaches the horizon, and for Major League Baseball that brings a time of chaos, as rosters expand and teams get deeper as they prepare for the march to the postseason. For many this is a chance of a lifetime as they will make their major league debuts, and for others they will be getting a chance to fight for a roster spot in the next season. It seems pretty firm who the Braves will call up this season and why they will be here, but perhaps a few surprises could be in store if Coppy and crew truly want to ring our bells.
Locks to be in Atlanta
Coming into the 2017 many expected Ruiz to take control of at least a share of the third base job with Adonis Garcia by the middle of the season. An uninspiring start to the season kept Ruiz in Gwinnett until Garcia’s injury in the middle of May, but 4 days before his 23rd birthday he got his first chance at a full time playing spot in Atlanta. Rio spent just over a month in Atlanta and had a dreadful time at the plate hitting .175 with a .551 OPS and accruing -0.5 WAR. The Braves finally decided to send Rio back down, and in his time back in Gwinnett he has shown more power that ever in his career with 11 home runs in 55 games, though he still struggles to maintain a high batting average. Ruiz’s chances will be limited this fall, but a few good games over the course of the month could give him the upper hand in landing him the opening day starter role next season.
Aaron Blair’s September in Atlanta could be his last month in a Braves uniform. With a potential 40-man crunch next season as the Braves try to protect prospects and Blair’s poor play he is in a dog fight with a handful of other players for a roster spot next season and his play out of the bullpen may be his last shot to make an impression with the team. His numbers this season have lacked luster as he has a 4.59 ERA with nearly 4 walks per nine innings and less than 7 strikeouts per nine with Gwinnett this season. Blair’s age and former prospect status may buy him a few more opportunities than the average player, but if he comes in this September and plays horribly once he could face being non-tendered this winter.
As Aaron Judge destroys baseballs up in New York the player taken one spot ahead of his continues to struggle since his organizational pitcher of the year award in 2014. Hursh had a strong 2016 campaign out of the bullpen that saw him earn his first call up to the major leagues, but his 2017 season has been rife with inconsistency and poor numbers at Triple-A. Hursh has actually posted the best peripherals of his career and was called up to Atlanta for a spell where he had good numbers prior to a poor final outing that resulted in his demotion. Hursh will be getting the jump on what seems to be a fairly wide open bullpen race for next season, and will have a chance to prove that the start he had in Atlanta this season wasn’t a fluke.
Morris is the most likely of this first group of players to have a role going into the 2018 season, as he’s proved his worth often over the past season and a half in the organization. Morris’s 7 1⁄3 innings of time with Atlanta were highly successful as he used his arsenal of pitches, including that still nasty changeup, to pitch to a 1.23 ERA with 9 strikeouts. His walk rate remains high, but he has improved that over last year and is continuing to strike out batters at a high rate. Morris could be an important piece if the bullpen is to take a step forward in 2018, as he provides both a late inning and multi-inning relief option. He’ll receive his share of chances this September, and if he shines once again the Braves will have a hard time keeping him off of the 25 man roster next season.
Matt Wisler’s frustrating tenure as a Brave will continue out of the bullpen going forward, but his lack of improvement despite his significant opportunities gives little hope that September will be much different than the previous cycle. Wisler has been solid for Gwinnett this season with a 3.52 ERA and an improved home run rate, but has seen even more of a drop in his strikeout rates and even in his best stretches he struggles to combine swing and miss ability and weak contact. Wisler has only allowed 2 earned runs in his 8 1⁄3 innings since moving to Gwinnett’s bullpen, though with no drastic tweaks in any of his peripherals. We’ll have to see how things play out in Atlanta, but it doesn’t seem that things are moving in the right direction yet for Wisler.
50/50 Shot to come up
Mauricio Cabrera is still on the 40 man roster and still throws baseball time-and-space-bendingly fast, but to be frank he doesn’t deserve a spot in Atlanta right now. He may still receive a call up due to his defiance of physics, but his 6.87 ERA and regression in all major statistical categories is frightening. Mauricio has walked nearly 10 batters per nine innings this season, you read that right, and has struck out fewer than 7 per nine. He isn’t necessarily being hit hard, and he never has in his career so there is no reason to believe it will start, but he simply has not lived up to the hype this season and the Braves calling him up and giving him time in the bullpen is an act that will make the team worse. Then again, I said that last year when he got called up so maybe I should just let that beast of a right arm go to work and hope it works out.
The Braves purchase of Enrique Burgos from the Diamondbacks flew well under the radar, but since his move to the system he has pitched well and shown that he could be a contributor at the major league level. Burgos has always gotten guys to strike out, and since coming to Gwinnett has done the best job of his career at limiting walks. All this has played into a 2.86 ERA, and his status as a member of the 40 man roster makes him a prime candidate to get called up in a few weeks. It could be another steal for the Braves if they can turn him into a reclamation success like Jose Ramirez, and this will be the first opportunity they get to see if his improvements this season are real.
Long Shot Chance to get the call
There is no reasonable chance the Braves call up Ronald Acuna in a lost season, but the way he has played this season has been anything but reasonable. He has played out of his mound, there is a very strong case to be made that he is ready for the major leagues, and there’s a solid chance he’s an upgrade over either corner outfielder the Braves have right now. The case to be made here depends on whether the Braves plan to start Acuna opening day next season. If not, leaving him off of the roster gives them a shorter wait period before they would be saving a season of service. If they do start him opening day, a September call up would not cost them service time, would not cost Acuna rookie eligibility, and would be a fantastic opportunity for him to get his feet wet before being thrown in the fire next season. He’s proven he’s ready to advance beyond Triple-A, so will the Braves put their money where their mouth is when they said the prospects would “let us know when they are ready”?
Kris Medlen has not been good for the Gwinnett Braves this season, but if there are story book endings wouldn’t it be fitting for Medlen to get called up for old times’ sake and go on a strong run down the stretch? Medlen has gotten roughed up a bit this season, but if something crazy happens and they need a guy who can fill innings for a month and not pitch so terribly we want to evict the memories of him from our brains, then Medlen may be the guy. As it stands you shouldn’t be expecting a Kris Medlen appearance anytime soon, but we can hope right?
Gohara wasn’t originally on this list, but our old friend Mark Bowman dropped this little tidbit of an article and now it seems we may be seeing some starts from him this September. Coming into this season the expectation that the 21 year old Gohara, having never pitched above low A ball, would make his major league debut was insane at best. Simply put Luiz Gohara has been the best pitcher in the Braves system this season with a 2.69 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 113 2⁄3 innings across 3 levels this season. Gohara has taken a step forward with his command and his changeup and despite the lack of press has solidified himself as one of the top 3 pitching prospects in the system. He has the ceiling of an ace, the floor of a good reliever, and if Bowman is to be believed he will be in Atlanta sooner than we all could have imagined. He’s a treat to watch, and has perhaps the best 1-2 punch I have seen out of a Braves prospect.