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Braves MiLB preview: Michael Harris II is good at baseball things

The Atlanta Braves minor-league teams combined to go 18-6 last week. Here’s what to watch as they look to keep the momentum rolling this week.

Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

Winner, winner chicken dinner. The young Atlanta Braves had a dominating week in the minor leagues as all four teams won their respective series, combining to go 18-6. We saw the return of Drew Waters and Victor Vodnik, Ronald Acuña, Jr.’s brief rehab tour come to an end, and this Michael Harris II fellow making a case to be a top 15 prospect in all MiLB.

Here’s your weekly primer for what is ahead in the first week of May.

Gwinnett Stripers (11-13)

Last week: 5-1

Last week’s rotation: Jasseel De La Cruz, Touki Toussaint, Tucker Davidson, Connor Johnstone, Nolan Kingham and Huascar Ynoa

This week: vs. Charlotte, May 3-8

It was a strong week for the Stripers and they look to keep the momentum rolling. This week they take on the Chicago White Sox’ Charlotte Knights, which sit at 10-14 coming into the series.

On the bump, Jasseel De La Cruz’s struggles continue as he didn’t even escape the first inning this week, walking three batters and only recording two outs. Touki Toussaint is doing Touki Toussaint things, striking out batters, walking a little too many, but still limiting runs and getting wins. Tucker Davidson struck out nine, which was very nice to see. With Kyle Muller’s promotion, Nolan Kingham moved into the rotation and pitched more scoreless innings and Huascar Ynoa finished a solid week.

With the brief Ronald Acuña, Jr. show coming to an end and Travis Demeritte in Atlanta, Braden Shewmake was the main focus at the plate. He finished the week hitting in four straight, recording six hits over that span. He continues with his nice — and somewhat surprising — start to 2022.

Mississippi Braves (8-13)

Last week: 4-2

Last week’s rotation: AJ Puckett, Darius Vines, Jared Shuster, Alan Rangel and Freddy Tarnok

This week: Pensacola, May 3-8

Mississippi double-upped its win total in a single week, walking away with four wins against Montgomery. This week, the M-Braves square off against the Blue Wahoos (the Miami Marlins affiliate) who are 9-12 thus far.

Jared Shuster had another strong start this past week but unfortunately got a tough-luck loss. He did strike out seven through seven, two things we like to see: strikeout stuff and the ability to go deep. Perhaps the most exciting thing on the mound this past week was the return of Victor Vodnik who looks absolutely filthy as a reliever.

At the plate, Michael Harris II continued to shine, capping the week with his first two-home-run game of the season. He hit in every game last week, going 10-for-27 (.370) with three home runs and three stolen bases. His days as a Double-A-er may be ending soon. Luke Waddell has three multi-hit games — including a five-hit barrage — and looks to be heating up. Oh, and Drew Lugbauer hits home runs. He now has seven on the season. Jesse Franklin V hit the seven-day IL, so hopefully his stay is brief.

Rome Braves (13-8)

Last week: 4-2

Last week’s rotation: Dylan Dodd, Andrew Hoffmann, Tanner Gordon, Luis De Avila, Rolddy Munoz, Roddery Munoz

This week: at Greenville, May 3-8

How do you not love this team? The Rome Braves had yet another winning week and had three games where they scored double-digit runs, leading to a +35-run differential through the first month of the season. This week they play the Boston Red Sox’ Greenville Drive who sit at 8-13.

Dylan Dodd had a much-needed strong start to open the week. Of course, getting 17 runs behind you is a good way to settle in. Andrew Hoffmann picked up his first loss of the season but didn’t deserve to — Rome put up an uncharacteristic one run, and Hoffmann went seven strong yet again. Tanner Gordon had a ridiculous start, striking out 10 over six shutout innings.

**Update: Basically as soon as the preview has been live for a little bit, we discover Tanner Gordon on the Mississippi roster.

At the plate, the big news was that there was a Drew Waters bomb in his return from injury. He played three games and didn’t seem too rusty, going 4-for-11, scoring five runs and driving in two with that homer. He should make quick work of his rehab starts and be back in Gwinnett soon. Vaughn Grissom had a nice little week, hitting in all five games he played with three multi-hit games in a row. He also launched two home runs and is looking a lot more comfortable at the plate.

**Update: Predictably, our preview posted and we had several promotions/activations including Drew Waters heading back to Gwinnett where he promptly homered.

Augusta GreenJackets (12-9)

Last week: 5-1

Last week’s rotation: Royber Salinas, Luis Vargas, AJ Smith-Shawver, Landon Leach, Samuel Strickland

This week: at Carolina, May 3-8

It was a big week for Augusta, and it looks to stay hot as the GreenJackets hit the road against a former Atlanta Braves’ affiliate, the Carolina Mudcats. Now a Milwaukee Brewers farm club, the Mudcats sit at 11-10.

In case you weren’t aware, Royber Salinas strikes people out. A lot of them as a matter of fact. The 21-year-old righty is now must-watch baseball having struck out at least 11 batters in three of his five starts this season. He struck out 12 to open the week and fell just short of his fourth double-digit strikeout game in his second start, whiffing nine over five. AJ Smith-Shawver looked really good in his start, striking out seven over five.

**Update: Royber Salinas got the promotion to Rome after leading the minor leagues in strikeouts by a wide margin.

Brandol Mezquita and Caleb Durbin remain the big attraction at the plate. Mezquita had a six-hit week, including launching his first home run of the year. Durbin racked up eight hits, three of which were doubles, and also drove in six. He’s also a ridiculous 12-for-12 in stolen bases this year and has the makings of a nice player skilled across the board.

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