The month of July wrapped up for the Atlanta Braves minor league system, and the group ended on a bit of a sour note. All four teams lost their series this past week, with each carrying a 2-4 record. Now they all go on to take on weaker opponents in the hopes they can get back on a winning track to start August.
Gwinnett Stripers (48-51)
Last week: 2-4
This week: @ Charlotte, August 2-7
Gwinnett had their struggles against the Jacksonville pitching staff throughout the week, but they finally broke through over the weekend and won both Saturday and Sunday with a combined 16 runs. They hope to carry that momentum with them up to take on the Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox).
The Gwinnett pitching staff is featuring some new additions, the most notably being Kirby Yates. Yates made two rehab appearances for the Stripers this past week and allowed a run while striking out three batters. The second of those was his first multi-inning outing as he went 1 1⁄3 innings. William Woods and Huascar Ynoa also returned from absences to join Gwinnett's bullpen this week. Ynoa’s future will be one to watch as to whether this bullpen move is just to get him back into action or whether he will move to relief full time.
Braden Shewmake has had his fair share of time missed this season, and he’s on another mini-absence having not played at all after Thursday. He struggled offensively in what little time he did see at the plate carrying a .594 OPS for the week. Gwinnett’s offensive MVP this past week, and really all season, has been Ryan Casteel. Casteel clubbed three home runs this past week and had a 1.033 OPS in 14 games during July.
Mississippi Braves (46-50; 17-10 second half)
Last week: 2-4
This week: vs Biloxi, August 2-7
Mississippi had a rough week down in Pensacola, allowing an average of 5.5 runs per game. Still, they held tight to their division lead for the second half and sit two games up on the Montgomery Biscuits for that playoff spot. They now take on the Biloxi Shuckers (Milwaukee Brewers), who are in last place in the division but have won seven of their past ten games.
The Darius Vines train continues to roll on as he pitched Mississippi to their only very good staff performance this week. His six innings of one run ball was part of a 3-2 win on Saturday, but with the losses of Freddy Tarnok and now Jared Shuster to Gwinnett this pitching staff is spread a lot thinner. Overall the starting pitching wasn't the biggest issue for the team, as outside of Dylan Dodd’s two poor starts no other starter allowed more than one run. The bullpen allowed 21 runs this week — an average of 3.5 per game — and had a 7.27 ERA.
You might be shocked to hear this, but Vaughn Grissom was again the offensive leader of this lineup. He had 10 hits this past week and posted a 1.106 OPS. Justyn-Henry Malloy also had a strong week at the plate with a .965 OPS, though the Blue Wahoos staff was able to strike him out 10 times in 24 at bats a number he will have to greatly improve.
Rome Braves (55-41; 19-11 second half)
Last week: 2-4
This week: vs Greenville, August 2-7
Rome’s poor showing in Hickory has erased most of their division lead and they now sit just half a game up on Bowling Green in the second half. Fortunately they draw the last place Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox) this week at home in what should be a chance to regain some cushion.
To say Roddery Munoz was the pitcher of the week for the system would be an understatement, as he turned in the best performance of his young professional career in a close win on Friday. Munoz struck out 12 batters over six shutout innings, controlling the strike zone better than he has all year while also limiting any hard contact. Munoz has shown improvement throughout this year and will now look to use this game as a springboard towards more high level outings. His performance was followed by Jose Montilla going four shutout innings on Saturday in a Rome win, but the rest of the pitching staff had less to right home about. With the help of Dylan Spain’s absolute implosion the Rome Braves staff as a whole had a 5.58 ERA this past week.
Bryson Horne had himself a week at the plate, crushing three home runs in six games to lead the team in OPS. Cal Conley also had a pair of home runs, though his fantastic peripherals took a hit as he had 10 strikeouts and no walks.
Augusta GreenJackets (46-48; 10-18 second half)
Last week: 2-4
This week: @ Delmarva, August 2-7
Augusta looked exactly like the major underdog against Myrtle Beach, sneaking away with two wins but being fairly thoroughly handled in the other four games to put up a losing week. They go on the road now, but have an easier assignment in the Delmarva Shorebirds (Baltimore Orioles) who sit at 13-17 this half. Augusta has played just three games against teams below .500 this half.
AJ Smith-Shawver may not have had the results he wanted this past week, allowing four runs over five innings, but the inputs were perhaps his best of July. He struck out seven batters to put him over 100 on the season, one of four teenagers to reach that mark. He also only walked one batter, but got burned on the first home run he has allowed since May.
Offensively the GreenJackets’s two big pieces in Geraldo Quintero and Brandol Mezquita struggled, and with them the entire offense struggled to consistently produce baserunners and runs. Brandon Parker and Adam Zebrowski had strong weeks in the middle of the lineup to carry the load, with Zebrowski driving in eight runs in four games.