Weekly Preview (July 27-Aug. 1): A Look At Upper-Level Stat Lines

As it always does, the minor league season is flying by. We’re nearing the end of July and season stat lines are starting to form into something that we can evaluate.

With three months down and a couple to go, let’s take a look at a few lines that have stood out for better or worse among Braves prospects in the upper levels.

Cristian Pache – Triple-A Gwinnett

Pache showed he wasn’t ready for the starting spot out of spring training and was officially optioned to Gwinnett on June 2. He reverted to previous swing mechanics in an attempt to find a comfort zone at the plate, and the results have been mixed. For the season, he’s hitting .246/.323/.401 with seven doubles, five home runs and a 30% strikeout rate. I think the swing is in a good place for the most part, but pitch recognition continues to be a work in progress. His career to this point has been level by level except for the lack of a full Triple-A season, and he has shown development every step of the way. He needs to get comfortable against Triple-A pitching and perform before getting another call. History has shown he should develop enough to hold his own in the majors with time.

Drew Waters – Triple-A Gwinnett

It’s entertaining how strong the opinions are about this guy. Yes, a 32% strikeout rate is rough. At the end of the day, he’s holding his own as a 22-year-old playing a full season at Triple-A. Waters enters the week at .256/.346/.439 with eight home runs, 16 steals and a 10% walk rate. The most encouraging sign is the progress from the right side of the plate, posting a .974 OPS from what has previously been his weak side. There is definitely a hole down and in from the left side that is getting exploited, but Waters is learning on the fly against the highest level of minor league competition and is holding his own. Recalibrate your expectations for his offensive production if you have to, but Waters is a future everyday outfielder. It will take time and there will be growing pains, but he will be fine.

Kyle Muller – Atlanta Braves

Muller shortened his arm path and tightened everything mechanically in an effort to replicate his motion and release better. He flipped a switch after a few rough starts and allowed four runs and six walks to 27 strikeouts in his last four minor league starts. More importantly, he has performed in the majors. The mechanical adjustments have given Muller’s projection new life. There are still some things he needs to tighten up, like replicating arm speed and release on secondaries and maintaining velo and sharpness each time out. But what was previously a guaranteed reliever projection has become more of an open door to a starter possibility if he can continue to adjust and maintain what he has working.

Shea Langeliers – Double-A Mississippi

Langeliers has been one of the big stories among Braves prospects this season. It’s not talked about enough how difficult it is for him to miss a year of play, make swing adjustments, jump to Double-A and immediately perform. He’s been on a bit of a slide recently but is still hitting .242/.325/.493 with 15 home runs. The offensive profile has shifted from a contact-first, line-drive approach to massive loft and tapping into plus raw power. There is a legitimate question of how much contact he will make in the majors with this new approach, but he’s holding his own against a higher level of competition and generally has a good enough eye. This power production at Double-A is eye-opening and will raise his stock tremendously. He was already projected as an everyday catcher based on defense, but adding impact power will boost him to at least above-average everyday catcher territory.

Braden Shewmake – Double-A Mississippi

Shewmake’s May was so bad that it’s taking him the entire season to recover his stat line. He’s currently at .223/.268/.386 with six home runs. He had seven hits over the entire month of May. He found his stroke in June and hit .264/.312/.460, and he is building upon it in July at .359/.375/.590 (albeit 10 games). Shewmake has made swing adjustments to add lift and separate better. I covered the tweaks here. He seems to have found his comfort with the changes and is now producing. The final 2021 line may not look great because of May, but as long as he finishes strong it should be considered a positive year developmentally.

Spencer Strider – Double-A Mississippi

Across three levels, Strider has a 3.74 ERA with 27 walks to 89 strikeouts in 53 innings. He currently has a 6.65 ERA with 16 walks to 33 strikeouts in 23 innings at Double-A. Strider’s stuff was far too advanced for either level of A-ball, but he’s found the right level of competition at Double-A and is being challenged by hitters who are picking up fastballs left over the plate and breaking balls that show early break. Strider is still holding his mid-to-upper-90s velo, but he seems to be struggling to gain feel out of the hand right now. In his most recent start, the fastball was just missing to either side and was getting hit when left at the thighs. The breaking ball didn’t consistently feature the deep break and bite that has devastated hitters to this point, although it did flash a few times. As I’ve written before, there is little room for error when you feature two pitches against upper-level hitting. Strider will be fine. He just needs to regain the feel he showed in A-ball to be able to get the most from his two pitches.

Bryce Elder – Double-A Mississippi

I’m feeling good about preaching Elder’s underrated value coming into the season. He has a 3.00 ERA with 32 walks to 81 strikeouts in 75 innings spanning Double-A and High-A. At Mississippi, it’s a 3.60 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 12 walks in 30 innings. Elder has a major league arm, and I was confused as to why he wasn’t higher on lists coming into the year. He’s mostly keeping the fastball off the plate and flashes a feel to utilize solid arm-side run. He’s pairing it nicely with the plus slider and has developed his curve exceptionally well to this point. There isn’t much room for error with the fastball, but he’s proving he can hold his own with it against better hitting. There is an easy reliever floor here, but Elder has starter ability if he can maintain effectiveness with the fastball.

Indigo Diaz – Double-A Mississippi

Diaz was drafted in the 27th round in 2019 and has come out of nowhere to become a legitimate relief prospect. He has a 0.83 ERA with 63 strikeouts and nine walks in 32.2 innings, including 5.2 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts so far at Mississippi. He throws straight gas in the mid-to-upper-90s and keeps it around the zone at a high rate, and he pairs it with a hammer breaking ball from the same high slot. Diaz is a big dude with present strength and a very quick arm. This is quickly becoming a great find by the Braves.

Schedule

Triple-A Gwinnett
July 27-Aug. 1: at Memphis (Cardinals)
July 27-30 at 8:10 p.m., July 31 at 7:35, Aug. 1 at 3:05

Double-A Mississippi
July 27-Aug. 1: at Pensacola (Marlins)
July 27-30 at 7:35 p.m. ET, July 31 at 7:05, Aug. 1 at 5

High-A Rome
July 27-Aug. 1: vs. Asheville (Astros)
July 27-30 at 7 p.m., July 31 at 6, Aug. 1 at 2

Low-A Augusta
July 27-Aug. 1: vs. Myrtle Beach (Cubs)
July 27-30 at 7:05, July 31 at 6:05, Aug. 1 at 5:05

Prospects to Watch This Week

Most of the Triple-A Gwinnett lineup is mashing everything in sight right now. Cristian Pache has six hits, including two homers, and five walks in his past six games. Drew Waters has a home run in three straight games. William Contreras has four homers in his past five games. At Double-A Mississippi, Freddy Tarnok threw well at Rome and earned a promotion, and his first start at Double-A was two runs with nine strikeouts in 5.1 innings. At Low-A Augusta, Vaughn Grissom has looked good since returning from the IL, notching six hits in his past four games, including two doubles.

Recent Prospect Performances

Triple-A Gwinnett
7/25: Cristian Pache 1-2, 2 BB
7/25: William Contreras 1-4, HR, 2 RBI
7/24: Drew Waters 1-5, HR
7/24: Cristian Pache 1-3, BB, SB
7/24: Alex Jackson 2-2, RBI
7/24: William Contreras 1-3, BB
7/23: Drew Waters 2-4, HR, 3 RBI
7/23: Cristian Pache 1-3, HR, 2 BB, SB
7/23: Alex Jackson 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI
7/23: William Contreras 1-4, HR, 3 RBI, BB
7/22: Drew Waters 1-4, HR, 2 RBI, BB
7/22: Cristian Pache 1-5, 2 RBI
7/22: William Contreras 1-4, HR
7/22: Jasseel De La Cruz 4 IP, 4 H, 5 K
7/21: Cristian Pache 2-6, 2 HR (DH)
7/21: Drew Waters 1-3, 2B, RBI
7/21: William Contreras 1-3, HR

Double-A Mississippi
7/25: Braden Shewmake 3-4, 2B
7/24: Shea Langeliers 1-3, HR
7/23: Freddy Tarnok 5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R/ER, BB, 9 K
7/23: Indigo Diaz 2.2 IP, 5 K
7/20: Daysbel Hernandez 2 IP, 2 K

High-A Rome
7/25: Jesse Franklin 3-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI
7/24: Cody Milligan 2-3, 3B, RBI
7/23: Michael Harris 2-5, 3B, RBI
7/23: Logan Brown 1-5, HR, 2 RBI
7/22: Michael Harris 1-3, RBI, BB, SB
7/21: Jared Shuster 3.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R/ER, BB, 4 K
7/20: Logan Brown 2-4, 2 2B, RBI

Low-A Augusta
7/24: Vaughn Grissom 4-5, 2B, 2 RBI
7/24: Willie Carter 3-5, 3 RBI, SB
7/24: Brandon Parker 3-4, 3 2B, RBI
7/24: Stephen Paolini 1-2, BB
7/23: Willie Carter 2-4, 3B, RBI
7/22: Willie Carter 1-3, 2B, RBI
7/22: Stephen Paolini 1-3, HR
7/22: Gabriel Rodriguez 1.1 IP, BB, 3 K
7/21: Willie Carter 2-4, BB
7/21: Joey Estes 5.1 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 10 K

FCL Braves
7/24: Brandol Mezquita 1-3, 2 BB
7/23: Kadon Morton 2-4
7/22: Brandol Mezquita 4-5, 2 2B
7/22: Kadon Morton 2-3, 2B, 3B, RBI, BB
7/20: Mahki Backstrom 2-4, 2B, RBI, SB
7/20: Brandol Mezquita 3-5
7/19: Mahki Backstrom 1-3, HR, 2 RBI, BB

Transactions

7/24: OF Jaycob Brugman released
7/24: INF Riley Delgado assigned to Double-A from High-A
7/24: INF Riley Unroe placed on 7-day IL at Double-A
7/24: RHP Rainiery Rodriguez assigned to Low-A from FCL
7/22: RHP Bryse Wilson optioned to Triple-A
7/21: RHP Bryse Wilson recalled to Atlanta
7/21: C Alex Jackson optioned to Triple-A
7/21: C Jonathan Lucroy outrighted to Triple-A
7/20: LHP Mitch Horacek assigned to Triple-A from High-A
7/20: RHP Freddy Tarnok assigned to Double-A from High-A
7/19: LHP Kyle Muller recalled to Atlanta
7/19: LHP Sean Newcomb recalled to Atlanta
7/19: LHP A.J. Minter optioned to Triple-A