As the minor league season ends, two Braves affiliates made their league’s playoffs. High-A Lynchburg and A-ball Rome each made the playoffs in two completely different ways.
The Hillcats won the Carolina League Northern Division first half title, giving them their playoff berth. They finished the season 72-68, showing consistency throughout the summer. The team was fifth of eight teams in R/G and third in RA/G, only outscoring their opponents by five runs total.
Nick Ahmed has been the main catalyst for the team, playing shortstop nearly every day. His slashline is just a bit above-average, but, much like Michael Bourn, his 40 stolen bases make him a valuable offensive piece. The picture above shows his playoff run last summer with UConn. He will likely not be at SS tomorrow night, when Andrelton Simmons brings his rehab assignment in Lynchburg.
The two best hitters this year have been 2B Tommy La Stella and 1B Chris Garcia. Both have used very good plate discipline approaches, especially La Stella with his 34:24 BB/K ratio. Braeden Schlehuber has done well, moving his way into the main catching role. Edward Salcedo took a step back this year, hitting .240/.295/.412 with 42 errors at third base.
Gus Schlosser heads the rotation, going 13-7 with a 3.38 ERA, winning the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year award. He does not strike out a ton of hitters, but he walks few and keeps the ball on the ground. Aaron Northcraft had more impressive stats, striking out nearly 25% of hitters, walking about 8%, and inducing around 60% groundballs. His .327 BABIP allowed led him to a 3.98 ERA, but his 2.64 FIP shows the talent he could display.
Lynchburg plays the Wilmington Blue Rocks, the Royals A+ affiliate. They finished 66-74, winning the second half division title. As their record would indicate, they were outscored during the season, struggling on offense. Their most impressive player is 20-year-old shortstop Orlando Calixte, who hit .281/.326/.426 after his promotion near the halfway point.
After finishing the first half an unsightly 18-52, Rome managed to make a run in the second half, winning the division title despite a 62-76 overall record, the worst in the Southern division. Overall they finished near the bottom in both scoring and run prevention. Hinted at above, Simmons will begin his rehab assignment tonight in Rome.
1B/DH William Beckwith and LF Robby Heflinger were the only two productive hitters, both squaring the ball up well but lacking some in plate discipline. 2B Ross Heffley and 3B Kyle Kubitza provided above-average offense at minor premium positions.
My fellow Winona State alum Tony Mueller provided all but one facet of the game to the team. He hit .266 with a .335 OBP, also playing a good center field. Unfortunately, in his 483 PA, he only got eight extra-base hits, all doubles. This led to an .019 ISO and a .285 SLG. Brandon Drury also took a major step back, hitting .231/.273/.335, numbers close to his 2010, making last year seem like a mirage.
On the mound, Navery Moore gets the call Game 1. In his first professional season, Moore posted decent numbers, walking and striking out an above-average rate of hitters while limiting homers. Alex Wood has also been impressive after being selected in the 2nd round this year out of UGA.
Rome faces the Asheville Tourists, the Rockies A affiliate. Dominating the South Atlantic league with an 88-52 record, the Tourists scored a ton of runs and got pretty good pitching. Their two most impressive players are 19-year-old doubles machine SS/3B Trevor Story and 20-year-old C William Swanner. Swanner cannot throw basestealers out, catching 13 of 133 runners. Guys like Mueller should be able to take advantage of this deficiency.