Minor league reviews will start today with the AAA Gwinnett Braves. It was a tough year for Gwinnett, finishing in last place in the International League at 60-82. While there were a couple bright spots, there were many who did not fulfill their expectations. It is tough to keep replenishing the talent that has recently graduated to Atlanta.
First baseman Ernesto Mejia was the only big bat for Gwinnett this season, hitting .296/.347/.502 with 24 HR. This is following a solid AA showing in 2011, but at age 26, he will likely need to hit at the major league level next year to avoid becoming organizational depth. He’s a right-handed bat with good power, but his poor 4:1 K/BB ratio in AAA will only get worse, which can really limit potential. 28-year-old Stefan Gartrell is a corner outfielder with similar skills, minus the high line drive rate.
Jose Constanza and Luis Durango were essentially the same player, except Durango struck out a bit more. Neither one of them have enough power to sustain a full-time major league position, though Constanza has shown he can be a useful piece off the bench. Felix Pie was signed in May and the former Cub and Oriole had a decent season after a rough 2011 in Baltimore. Jordan Parraz was off to a nice start before a wrist injury derailed his season.
Joey Terdoslavich really struggled in his jump to AAA, hitting .180/.252/.263 and committed 22 errors in 50 games before his demotion to AA. At 23 years old, he still has some potential, though it’s greatly diminished after proving he can’t play third base. Tyler Pastornicky had a similar season, struggling in Atlanta before a lukewarm performance in Gwinnett. Josh Wilson, Ruben Gotay, Christian Marrero, and Lance Zawadzki filled the rest of the infield without much production.
The biggest disappointment on the season was the severe dropoff by the top 5 MLB prospect Julio Teheran. Every component of his game saw some regression, with the long ball seeing the most. After allowing five HR in 140 IP in 2011, the 21-year-old allowed 18 in 130 IP. A rise in hit batters and a sizable drop in strikeouts led to a 5.08 ERA and 4.83 FIP. While his peripherals were in some decline after leaving high-A ball, there was no way this far of a fall could have been expected. He is still plenty young to rebound and live up to his potential, but someone that seemed to be a future lock for the rotation now needs to prove his worthiness.
Johan Flande led the team with 147.2 IP, posting average BB and K rates and an above-average GB% to post a 4.21 ERA and 3.95 FIP. The 26-year-old lefty will have a tough road to make the ATL roster, as Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and Luis Avilan give the Braves three quality lefties in their bullpen. Todd Redmond was the best starter on the team before leaving for Cincinnati in the Paul Janish deal. Jair Jurrjens had his well-documented struggles, leading to a likely non-tender this winter. 35-year-old Eric Junge made 18 starts before his release in late July.
Most of the remaining starts were made by 22-year-olds Randall Delgado and Sean Gilmartin. Delgado had an adequate start in Atlanta, but he was sent to AAA after fading a bit. His Ks were up quite a bit in Gwinnett, but his GB rate was down some, leading to a higher HR rate. Gilmartin had a great AA season, but his introduction to AAA was rough, posting a 4.78 ERA and 4.98 FIP. Delgado should be fighting for a rotation spot in Atlanta, while the lefty Gilmartin will likely start in Gwinnett, waiting in line as an injury replacement.
The bullpen was the strength of this team. Cory Gearrin struck out 29% of his batters faced and 60% of the balls put in play were on the ground, leading to a 2.30 ERA and a spot in Atlanta’s bullpen. Buddy Carlyle posted a tremendous 5:1 K/BB ratio, ending up with a 3.43 ERA and 2.73 FIP. Jaye Chapman‘s great changeup was traded to Chicago in the Paul Maholm deal, while Dusty Hughes and Anthony Varvaro rounded out the sub-3.50 ERAs.
The Braves’ minor league system is not in the best of states, understandable after Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Brandon Beachy, Andrelton Simmons, and many other high-caliber players. With some of the lower-level players developing slower than normal, the AA and AAA teams are going to struggle for a bit. There are still some important pieces that can help the Atlanta squad in the future, but this team will not have too much effect on Atlanta’s future.