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Braves MiLB preview: Darius Vines leads a surging group of pitching prospects

Darius Vines, Kyle Muller, and Jared Shuster are the cream of a strong pitching crop in recent weeks.

Photo Credit: Mills Fitzner

After the all star break the Atlanta Braves minor league system is back in action, with each team playing a meager three game weekend series to get their second halves rolling. It was a mixed bag of performances, with Gwinnett and Rome winning their series and Augusta and Mississippi each going 1-2.

Let’s take a quick look back at the weekend’s action, and see what awaits us in the coming week.

Gwinnett Stripers (46-47)

Last week: 2-1

This week: vs. Jacksonville, July 26-31

It was a curious weekend in Memphis for the Stripers, as they oddly allowed exactly six runs in each of their contests against the RedBirds. Fortunately, they scored more than that twice and head back home to take on the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Miami Marlins).

The rotation has been a bit of a question for Gwinnett this season, with only Kyle Muller giving consistent strong performances. He’s allowed only two runs in four consecutive starts and since the start of July has 18 strikeouts to only three walks. Freddy Tarnok’s first foray alongside Muller went well, but this past week he got beat up a bit the second time through the order and will look to bounce back. The Stripers also expect to see Kirby Yates make a rehab appearance with them this week and they may also be getting William Woods back in the fold soon.

Braden Shewmake had a fantastic weekend for Gwinnett, going 6-12 with a home run. In a lineup desperate for interesting bats he has been an inconsistent performer, giving us flashes of his potential brilliance along with long stretches of mediocre play. Over his past seven games Shewmake has struck out just twice.

Mississippi Braves (44-46; 15-6 second half)

Last week: 1-2

This week: @ Pensacola, July 26-31

The first place Mississippi Braves had a horrible weekend on offense, totaling just four runs over three games as Vaughn Grissom has cooled off a bit. They now go down to visit the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Miami Marlins), in a venue that has often sparked big offensive performance from this team.

The dog days of summer may be burning up your biscuits, but the hottest thing under the July sun has been the duo of Darius Vines and Jared Shuster. The pair have allowed a total of four runs over seven July starts, totaling 43 23 innings. Vines is riding a 12 inning scoreless streak into this week and has yet to allow a home run this month while posting two double-digit strikeout games. Joining them in the rotation is Dylan Dodd, who became a dominant piece of the Rome rotation before his promotion. Alan Rangel will look to bounce back from a very poor outing last week during Mississippi’s 15-1 drubbing at the hands of the Biscuits.

The new look offense for Mississippi didn’t have their wood swinging last week, and Vaughn Grissom saw a 45 game on base streak come to a close on Sunday afternoon. Justyn-Henry Malloy and Cody Milligan have both struggled on either side of him and it seems unlikely that this trio will produce so little in a three game stretch again.

Rome Braves (53-37; 17-7 second half)

Last week: 2-1

This week: @. Hickory, July 26-31

This Rome team is on fire, and they snuck out two close wins last week to win their fourth consecutive series. The last team to topple them in a series — the Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) is their next challenger.

Boasting a rag-tag crew of mid-tier prospects, the Rome Braves have managed to consistently put up wins with the help of their starting rotation. Royber Salinas ranks second in all of minor league baseball with 133 strikeouts this season, and got himself back on track last week with one run and seven strikeouts over five innings of work. Key has been his return to commanding the ball as he hasn’t allowed more than two walks in an outing this month. JJ Niekro is the second man in this group, boasting the best numbers among Braves prospects this season especially after going six innings with only one run allowing in his High-A debut.

Cal Conley turned a rough season into a blazing start with Rome, and has been easily the team’s best hitter since his promotion. Last week he had only three hits, but that’s because he was walked five times and struck out only twice. His infield partner Beau Philip had a strong week last week as well, and hopes to continue being a contributor to the bottom of the Rome lineup.

Augusta GreenJackets (44-44; 8-14 second half)

Last week: 1-2

This week: vs. Myrtle Beach, July 26-31

Augusta has been the most impacted negatively by promotions, and it shows in their paltry record in the second half. They now have a tall task to go against the 60-30 Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Chicago Cubs).

The GreenJackets may be hoping on draftees filling out their roster in the coming weeks, but for now it’s the same old cast of characters. AJ Smith-Shawver represents immense talent, but his inconsistency has led to early exits in recent weeks and high walks rates. Brandol Mezquita’s continued absence of play deepens the struggles of a team who often fails to come up with the big hit, though Geraldo Quintero continues to play his butt off despite being the only consistent contributor on the roster.

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