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Braves Minor League Recap: Hurston Waldrep debuts in Double-A

Waldrep had a nice outing for Mississippi, but it was Mitch Farris and the Augusta GreenJackets who took home the system’s lone win

image: Mills Fitzner, Rome Braves

If you’re looking for action-packed offensive showdowns and long balls galore you should probably skip this recap. but we still had plenty of interesting notes from a Saturday on the Atlanta Braves farm system. Hurston Waldrep had a solid showing in his first crack at Double-A, striking out four batters across three scoreless innings. Down in Augusta Mitch Farris had the best pitching day in the system, befuddling the young Low-A Red Sox as he and Ambioris Tavarez led the GreenJackets to a win.

(60-69) Gwinnett Stripers 0, (64-67) Memphis RedBirds 4

Box Score

  • Vaughn Grissom, SS: 1-1, .332/.417/.511
  • Braden Shewmake, 2B-SS: 0-4, .226/.292/.393
  • Jared Shuster, SP: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 5.40 ERA

Gwinnett’s offense dragged through the evening Saturday, and it left a pitching staff that held Memphis to just two runs high and dry. Offensively the Stripers did nothing against RedBirds starter Michael McGreevy, and didn’t get a runner past second base in the. Vaughn Grissom had the first hit of the game in the first inning and would ultimately provide the only notable headline from the offense as he left the game following the third inning. There was no indication of injury on the field and he wouldn’t be eligible for promotion unless the Braves had an injury, so it’s not clear exactly why he was removed from the game. Drew Lugbauer had the Stripers other hit but also struck out twice and has 33 strikeouts now in 65 Triple-A plate appearances.

Jared Shuster got results as he allowed only one earned run in the game, but his continued trend of high walk totals and low strikeout totals is a major concern for his game. The 10 ground ball outs he got, three of those turning into double plays, helped him to strand runners on base, but he also walked more batters than he struck out and had to dance around trouble consistently. Jackson Stephens pitched well out of the bullpen, striking out three batters and walking none over two scoreless innings. The concern for Stephens since his return has been his drastic dip in velocity, though it seems to slowly be climbing back up towards career norms. He averaged 92.5 mph on his fastball today, which although still well below where he was throwing last season is still nearly a full mile per hour higher than when he first returned.

(54-70) Mississippi Braves 2, (57-68) Rocket City Trash Pandas 4

Box Score

  • Luke Waddell, SS: 1-3, BB, .295/.389/.422
  • Javier Valdes, DH: 1-3, HR, .234/.383/.407
  • Hurston Waldrep, SP: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 0.00 ERA

Hurston Waldrep has landed in Mississippi’s rotation, and his first start had some real positive aspects to it. The three walks and strike rate of only 54.7% are numbers that highlight the biggest issue in his debut, but there is obviously the big caveat there. Yes, command is Waldrep major red flag on his profile, but then he also is dealing with his first game with the ball with an experimental grip so really any results from any pitcher in Double-A have to be taken with a grain of salt. Waldrep forced 13 whiffs across his three scoreless innings which add up to a whiff rate 44.8%. Waldrep did his job despite the action on the basepaths in keeping Rocket City from scoring, and the Braves quick trigger on getting him to Double-A is interesting as even with their recent history of drafting college arms they haven’t been advancing any of them this quickly.

Jose Montilla pitched a solid game out of the bullpen, covering the next three innings in place of Waldrep and only allowing one unearned run. Montilla struck out four and only walked one. The Braves got that run back for Montilla thanks to Javier Valdes, who hit a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Valdes’s numbers have faded through the season after a blazing start, but the underlying information suggests he has been better than the numbers show and could be looking at a resurgence following an offseason for everyone to get healthy. Unfortunately Rocket City immediately got their lead back in the seventh inning when Peyton Williams came in and allowed a triple, a double, and then another double. Fortunately a relay between Jesse Franklin, Cal Conley, and Drake Baldwin behind the plate was able to get the runner trying to score on the second double to keep Rocket City from extending that lead further. Jesse Franklin kept his hitting ways going with a base hit in the seventh inning, then stole second base to put him in scoring position. Drake Baldwin singled to then put runners on the corners and Joshua Fuentes tied the game up with an RBI single. Once again given a chance in a tied game the Mississippi bullpen struggled with Trey Riley allowing a run each in the eighth and ninth innings to put the Braves down 4-2.

(60-65) Rome Braves 0, (60-60) Winston-Salem Dash 6

Box Score

  • Ignacio Alvarez, SS: 1-4, .284/.393/.394
  • David McCabe, 3B: 2-3, BB, .285/.391/.446
  • Ian Mejia, SP: 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 4.73 ERA

Hitting just wasn’t the strong suit for the Braves affiliates on Saturday, and Rome was no exception as outside of David McCabe little was produced. McCabe struck out in his first plate appearance, and in the fourth inning the Braves had gone 11 up and 11 down until he broke through with a two-out single. This didn’t turn into anything and would be the only hit the Braves got over seven innings against Dash starter Juan Carela. In his final inning Carela issued a walk to McCabe with one out, and after a wild pitch and then a stolen base McCabe sat 90 feet away but the Braves couldn’t come through. The Braves finally did something with Nacho Alvarez and McCabe leading off the inning with consecutive singles, but neither runner would score as the next three batters went down in order.

Unlike the two upper levels it was an all-around stinker from the Rome squad, as the pitching staff also had a rough day in allowing six runs. Ian Mejia struck out three batters to join the 100 strikeout club for the season, and after he worked around a leadoff triple in the first inning he settled in nicely and didn’t allow a run through four innings. The fifth inning went wholly wrong for Mejia though, as after a leadoff single the Dash got two straight bunt hits to load the bases. On the first Mejia’s high throw made a close play moot as Justin Janas come off of the bag at first base and the second was popped into the gap between the pitcher and third base where no one could make a play. This forced Mejia from the game and JJ Niekro didn’t have a great day in his own right. He immediately allowed two runs to score on an RBI single,and after three more singles the Dash had dinked and dunked their way to seven hits and five runs. Rome allowed fifteen hits in the game, with only one of those being an extra base hit which was the first batter of the game. Every Dash batter had a hit.

(59-65) Augusta GreenJackets 4, (53-69) Salem Red Sox 3

Box Score

  • Ambioris Tavarez, SS: 1-3, BB, .213/.314/.333
  • Jace Grady, CF: 1-2, 2B, 2 BB, 2 RBI, .244/.344/.402
  • Mitch Farris, SP: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 0.00 ERA

The GreenJackets saved us from having to witness a sweep, though we didn’t know it at the time as their game finished first, and in a strange sequence of events the team decided that scoring runs is actually a good way to win baseball games. Ambioris Tavarez has started to put together a competent sequence of games and over his past 12 he is hitting .386 with a .481 on base percentage, and while that is heavily BABIP dependent (as is his performance this entire season) he has cut his strikeout rate to a much more respectable 26.9% in that span. Tavarez led off in the first inning by drawing a walk, and Cam Magee was hit by a pitch to put the GreenJackets in a good spot early. Jace Grady made sure to capitalize, hitting a double to score both runners and put Augusta up 2-0. Grady stole third base as well and then scored on a balk which capped off the three run first inning that drove Augusta to victory. The rest of the game looked a bit more like what we saw in the rest of the system, as the GreenJackets had only three more hits in the final eight innings. The Red Sox cut the Augusta lead down to 3-2 in the seventh inning, and once again Tavarez sparked a rally by getting a one out single. After a wild pitch he moved into scoring position, where Cam Magee’s single gave the GreenJackets a much-needed insurance run.

This game did not start exactly how Mitch Farris had hoped, as in the first inning he allowed two walks and a base hit. Fortunately following the first of those walks he got a double play ball, and the first of his seven strikeouts ended the inning. Farris dominated the Salem lineup from there, allowing only two more singles across his final 3 13 innings of work. Farris was absolutely carving through the Red Sox getting 17 whiffs on 27 swings (63%) with all seven of his strikeouts being of the swinging variety. Adam Shoemaker came in to pitch out of the bullpen, and while it wasn’t a great day for him we’ve seen much worse as he didn’t walk anyone on the day. Shoemaker was hit around a bit, allowing six hits and two runs over 3 23 innings, but he kept the GreenJackets in the lead going into the ninth inning. Nolan Martinez made it interesting in the ninth inning as a single and double in with one out had the tying run on second base. A ground out back to the pitcher scored one of those runs, but Martinez then got a ground out to Tavarez at shortstop to end a stressful situation and seal the win.

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