Legends On Deck

Atlanta Braves Enjoying Organizational Success in 2017

The unprecedented amount of talent in the farm system, the opening of SunTrust Park, the improvements of the major league club, and of course Freddie Freeman; tomorrow marks exactly one month since MLB opening day 2017 and there is a lot to be excited about within the Atlanta Braves organization, from the big club all the way down to Single-A in Rome. Let’s take a look back at the organization’s start to the season and how each club has performed through the first month.

Atlanta Braves: 11-14

Hyosub Shin/AJC

One month in to the season the Braves are sitting just four games under . 500, leaps and bounds better than their 5-18 mark through April last season. After an outstanding opening day pitcher’s duel between Noah Syndergaard and Julio Teheran, the Braves bullpen imploded late en route to a 6-0 loss. No need for panic as the Braves would take game two of the opening day series before dropping game three. 1-2 was a good place to start, especially against a team with a dominant top half rotation like the Mets.

Then, the unusual happened, and it wasn’t playing baseball in the snow. The next stop was Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates and that is when the roller coaster began.The Braves would get swept in the treacherous weather at PNC, in a tough manner at that, losing all three games by a combined total of four runs. After weathering the storm in Pittsburgh, literally, it was off to sunny South Beach to take on NL East foe, the Miami Marlins. A loss in game one would lead to a 1-6 record and five game losing streak that  had many fans in Braves Country hitting the panic button, or simply proclaiming “here we go again”. The Braves would manage to pull out a gutsy one run win in Miami before heading home to play ball in Cobb County.

After snapping the five game losing streak, the Braves would open up SunTrust Park with a four game sweep of the San Diego Padres, leading to a five game win streak. However, the momentum of winning in the beautiful new Braves home would come to a screeching halt as the Nationals came to town for a three game series to close out the first ever homestand in the new digs. Getting swept back to back by the Nationals and then the Philadelphia Phillies had the Braves in the midst of yet another streak, this time a six game losing one.

Throw in a four game win streak before a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on the final day of April, and it made for an extremely peculiar start to 2017 for the Braves. 13 of their first 23 games were within the division and they only played seven home games in the entire opening month.

Top Headlines:

  1. SunTrust Park is open and the consensus seems to be, it’s outstanding. Despite the Atlanta infrastructure seemingly fall apart around it, I have heard nothing but positive reviews from Cobb County.
  2. A big take away so far, Matt Kemp. Maybe it is too early to start uttering “MVP candidate” form, but there is no disputing that through the first month, despite injury, he looks better so far than he ever has since the Dodgers days. He has hit safely in 12 of his first 15 games and 13 of his 22 hits have gone for extra bases. He has a wRC+ of 186 and is off to his best start in left at a -2 DRS.
  3. Dansby Swanson’s unlucky start could be a sign of good things to come. If you’re a Braves fan or have Swanson on your fantasy team, you’ve certainly heard the term “batting average on balls in play” or BABIP. While it is quickly becoming one of those overused advanced numbers, like exit velocity, it is the perfect stat to display, well, how unlucky Swanson has been. His BABIP is .188, basically meaning he has been hitting the ball right where guys are playing. Many are chalking this up as bad luck and while this is mainly true, it is worth noting he has struck out 24% of the time and his line drive rate is under 20%. One positive note is that 86% of his batted balls have been considered to be hit medium to hard. Typically, if you keep hitting the ball hard good things will happen. Only time will tell if Swanson can turn his luck around.

Gwinnett Braves: 14-10

Braves Prospect Ozzie Albies (Curtis Compton/AJC)

After dropping four of their first five games of the season, the G-Braves went on a tear winning 10 of their next 11. They would finish out the last week of April with a 3-4 record. While pitching is the talk of the farm system, the G-Braves have taken a different approach to their success. They currently sit second in the International League in runs scored at 104 while the pitching is just sitting middle of the road.

Top Offensive Performers:

Xavier Avery: ,306/.368/.484, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 8 XBH, 5 SB

Ozzie Albies: .255/.279/.378, 8 RBI, 10 XBH, 8 SB

Mel Rojas Jr: .250/.296/.375, 2 HR, 16 RBI

Top Pitching Performers:

Lucas Sims: 2-0, 2.66 ERA, 21 SO, 0.72 WHIP

Andrew Albers: 2-0, 2.12 ERA, 17 SO, 1.41 WHIP

Sean Newcomb: 1-1, 3.08 ERA, 35 SO, 1.37 WHIP

Mississippi Braves: 11-14

Braves Prospect Max Fried (Kyle Hess/Rome Braves)

Perhaps the most hyped team in the Braves organization was the M-Braves as they entered 2017 with six of the organization’s top 16 prospects, five of which are pitchers. Many people figured once the Mississippi rotation was announced that this was the one pitching staff that no Southern League team would look forward to facing. While they seemed to have a devastating staff on paper, that hasn’t quite translated to the field. The starting rotation has been solid, but not as dominant as the preseason hype, and the bullpen has been doing them no favors. The staff as a whole has the second highest ERA, 3.89, the second most home runs allowed, 21, and the second most walks issued, 91, in the Southern League. Despite the struggles, a few prospects are putting up some outstanding individual performances.

Top Offensive Performers:

Kade Scivicque: .309/.361/.400, 1 HR, 4 RBI

Carlos Franco: .273/.333/.477, 4 HR, 20 RBI

Travis Demeritte: .267/.344/.401, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 10 XBH

Top Pitching Performers:

Kolby Allard: 1-1, 1.67 ERA, 17 SO, 1.07 WHIP

Matt Withrow: 1-0, 2.08 ERA, 22 SO, 0.77 WHIP

Patrick Weigel: 1-0, 2.73 ERA, 28 SO, 1.18 WHIP

Florida Fire Frogs: 10-15

Photo by David Conde

With one third of the Atlanta Braves top 30 prospects on the Florida Fire Frogs opening day roster, expectations were high for the inaugural season in Kissimmee. The Florida State League is a highly competitive league this year and the Fire Frogs have an extremely young team, a lot of which were a part of the 2016 South Atlantic League champion, Rome Braves. The offense certainly isn’t to blame for the subpar start, the Fire Frogs are second in runs scored and home runs and have the third highest batting average and OPS in the league. The pitching has been a different story as the staff currently has the third worst ERA, WHIP and Walk Rate in the FSL. One bright spot for the pitching staff is being able to keep the ball in the ball park as they have allowed a league low eight home runs.

Top Offensive Performers:

Alex Jackson: .299/.320/.567, 7 HR, 17 RBI,17 R

Carlos Castro: .342/.381/.456, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 10 R

Ronald Acuna: .278/.330/.456, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 17 R, 12 SB

Top Pitching Performers:

Luiz Gohara: 2-0, 1.73 ERA, 27 SO, 1.08 WHIP

Drew Harrington: 2-2, 2.54 ERA, 21 SO, 1.13 WHIP

Tyler Pike: 1-1, 2.63 ERA, 29 SO, 1.10 WHIP

Rome Braves: 17-8

Braves Prospect Oriel Caicedo (David Corss/Danville Braves)

The defending South Atlantic League champions find themselves sitting at the top yet again as they currently hold a one game lead over the Greenville Drive in the Southern Division. What is the reason behind the hot start? Two things, speed and pitching. Let’s start with speed. Virtually every hitter in the Rome lineup is a threat to lay a bunt down for a base hit or leg out an infield single. They truly do play the game in a “Get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get em’ in” kind of way. However, the real story line of the Rome season thus far has been pitching. The starting rotation and the bullpen have both been equally dominant through 2017 and the staff altogether has only allowed 81 runs all season. That is 10 fewer than the next closest team.

Top Offensive Performers:

Juan Yepez: .337/.380/.506, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 10 R, 11 2B

Randy Ventura: .359/.419/.397, 3 RBI, 13 SB

Anfernee Seymour: .314/.375/.372, 6 RBI, 6 SB

Top Pitching Performers:

Bryse Wilson: 2-0, 2.38 ERA, 23 SO, 0.97 WHIP

Ian Anderson: 2-1, 2.63 ERA, 30 SO, 1.21 WHIP

Joey Wentz: 1-1, 2.70 ERA, 20 SO, 1.35 ERA

Featured Image: Brett Davis/USA Today Sports

Jake Berry
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Jake Berry

Contributing Writer at Legends On Deck®
Jake resides in Carrollton, GA and loves everything baseball. He is a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan and enjoys traveling to watch their Minor League teams. He graduated from the University of West Georgia with a Bachelor's Degree in Sport Management. Jake is also a certified personal trainer and has a passion for fitness and weight lifting. You can find his personal site at berrysbaseball.com

You can also reach out to Jake at jberry@legendsondeck.com
Jake Berry
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