TomahawkTake.com has been going through the rosters of the minor league affiliates for the Braves, and today it is time to look at AAA Gwinnett. Previous reports from Ben (High-A Lynchburg) and myself (AA Mississippi) are available at the highlighted links.
The International League squad is led by first-year manager Brian Snitker, formerly found wearing out the grass along the third base coaching box at Turner Field. He is assisted by Garey Ingram (hitting coach), Marty Reed (pitching coach), Ivan Cruz and Billy Nicholson.
Gwinnett should have quite a bit of offense this year, particularly if guys like Joey Terdoslavich and Mark Hamilton come around after their Spring funks. There are some others – Philip Gosselin and Tommy La Stella, for example – who we expect to be solid contributors on offense. Then there’s Ernesto Mejia, who’s currently in a world of his own (more on that below).
For pitching – it’s a little hard to say. Right now, there’s an abundance of major league pitchers passing through as they have been still getting ready for Atlanta. The regulars are mostly licking their wounds after rough Spring outings.
With that as an introduction, here is the roster of your AAA Braves… subject to change at literally any moment!
- Mitch Atkins. RHP. Will be 29 this year and has been bouncing around since starting with the Cubs 2006-2010. 3 cups of coffee; 10 major league appearances, last one being in 2011 with the Orioles. 118 AAA innings w/Nats in 2013. Had a 4 innings start so far this year. History suggests that AAA is his ceiling.
- Ryan Buchter. LHP. An Atlanta bullpen slot was his to lose this Spring, and he got it… via attrition… but it didn’t last as Ryan had trouble throwing strikes in a role that required strikes. So far in AAA? Hasn’t recovered from Spring, but he’s only 4 innings in as well.
- Juan Jaime. RHP. The enimga. Throws 100 mph. Will either K you or Walk you. So far, 2 innings: 4K, 2BB. But nobody has scored, so that’s an improvement. If he can ever keep the walks down to 1 every 3 innings, he’ll get to Atlanta.
- Mark Lamm. RHP. It’s a theme, and the theme is ‘control': Walks eliminated him from the Spring conversation, and he’s started with 3 more in his first 4 AAA innings. Walks have increased as he’s moved up the ladder. I’ll use Mark’s example to make a quick speech (which could apply to several): A lot of these guys need to either figure that their stuff is good enough to continue to pound away at hitters. Many seem to start nibbling more vs. better hitters, and thus introduce their own control issues. It’s a psychological hurdle that has to be surpassed. Gus Schlosser, for instance, is not a “stuff” guy, but he’s continuing to throw strikes and to trust ‘what got him there’. Ergo, he’s in the majors.
- Cody Martin. RHP. Got drilled in Spring. Bad. First 3 innings (1 appearance) back at Gwinnett have been okay. Respectable 3.49 ERA in almost 70 innings in 2013 after a 2.82 at AA. Yes: has to keep the walks at bay (see ‘the speech’ above).
- Yunesky Maya. RHP. Sub-4 ERA in AAA over 2012-13 with Nationals. AAA innings eater.
- Wirfin Obispo. RHP. 3.53 ERA in ~64 relief innings at AAA/2013. 30 years old; could be viable for the bullpen if… he gets the walks down. I wouldn’t expect that at this point, however.
- Luis Perez (DL). The ‘mystery lefty’ snatched from Toronto at the end of Spring. Once healthy could be a useful lefty resource for Gonzalez.
- (Hector) Daniel Rodriguez. LHP. Very good start to 2014. Pulled from the Mexican League in 2012, he’s taking some time to get in gear in AAA. Could surprise us, though a 5.77 ERA in 2013 suggests maybe not. Will see if he can build on the excellent 1st outing.
- Andrew Russell (DL). RHP. Very good AA year in 2012. I do not know about his injury – was not in the major league spring camp.
- Atahualpa Severino. LHP. 29 yo, joins Atlanta after Nationals, Pirates, Royals. Reliever with some very good AAA seasons, but hasn’t made the leap excepting 4.2 innings in 2011. Got hammered in Spring. 1.2 innings so far in 2014 w/decidedly mixed results.
- Zach Stewart. RHP. Yet another claimed pitcher (Reds, Jays, both ‘Sox’ teams). History suggests good control, not strikeout stuff, and maybe a 4+ ERA.
- Luis Vasquez. RHP. Was hope to be in the bullpen for the big club. Might have until he started walking everybody, and was abruptly shuttled to the minor league camp. Good start with Gwinnett. Still a decent candidate to move up at some point.
- Catchers are Steven Lerud, Christian Bethancourt, and Jose Yepez (DL). Lerud had a really good Spring, and seemed to be stealing time from Christian – to the point that I was wondering if Lerud had perhaps stolen the Right of Next Callup, should that need arise. Alas, neither one is hitting right now: 2 hits combined so far. Was certainly hoping that CB would build on his excellent year in 2013.
- First Base: Ernesto Mejia and Mark Hamilton. Okay, so Ernesto (the Most Blocked Man in Baseball) is on fire. Seven hits – five out of the park. Ridiculous OPS of 1.778. The funny part is that Hamilton is hitting .333 himself with a homer as well (1.113 OPS). Both have OBA’s of .500 or better! For as long as it lasts, I’m real sure that Brian Snitker will take it.
- Second Base: Philip Gosselin and Tommy La Stella. La Stella is our 2nd sacker of the future, but Gosselin isn’t going down without a fight. Both had very good Springs (Gosselin finished very strong; La Stella not so much) and both have started very – very – well in the first week: Gosselin hitting .500 and OPS’ing 1.243. La Stella hitting .417 and OPSing .845. Between 1st and 2nd base, that’s the bulk of the Gwinnett offense, right there.
- Third Base: Edward Salcedo and… technically nobody else, but Gosselin will support him. Salcedo is starting about as expected: hitting .176 with 2 fielding errors already. I honestly think we’re seeing the last hurrah for Salcedo with Atlanta unless he catches fire - on both sides of the ball – real soon.
- Shortstop: Sean Kazmar and Tyler Greene. Pretty much what you’d expect. Decent defense and light hitting.
- Outfielders: Jose Constanza, Todd Cunningham, Joey Terdoslavich, Mycal Jones (DL), and Derrick Mitchell. I don’t have to introduce anybody to the first three names; Jones moved up from AA and has been around since 2009. Got legs; light hitting. Good guy, but not really a prospect. Mitchell was in AAA with Philadelphia in 2013 (with them since 2006). Never hit more than .265 at any level, and nothing else really stands out.
As I review these names, I see a future second baseman (La Stella), a useful utility guy (Gosselin), multiple very good bench bats, a superb defensive catcher who needs to hit more, and a couple of extra outfielders along with a handful of bullpen options. La Stella could develop into a really steady player for a while (think Marcus Giles). Mejia has a place if the National League adopts the DH… tomorrow. As a team, Gwinnett should compete rather well this year. Beyond that, we’re a bit thin here in terms of major-league players, but that defines the farm system right now.
There’s your AAA club for 2014!