In what will become a weekly series here at BravesFTW, Minor League Report will focus on a different aspect of the Braves minor league system to keep you up to date on all the happenings below the big club.
Up first is the AAA Gwinnett Braves.
Despite having essentially no offensive prospects on the team (most hitters are fringe utility players) the G-Braves are tied for first in their division with a 24-21 record.
Mauro Gomez, a 26 year old first baseman has led the team offensively and is second in the International League in OPS. Gomez has spent seven seasons in the minor leagues and flashed some power in 2009 (28 homeruns) but likely is nothing more than a possible injury replacement at this point.
Other non-prospects Stefan Gartrell and Wilkin Ramirez have also been solid offensively. Both are 25 or older but are slugging over .500. Gartrell and Ramirez were originally highly ranked prospects with different organizations who couldn’t figure things out, so the Braves are hoping one can get on track and hopefully provide some depth in the outfield.
The rest of the offense is filled with guys who have played a handful at the Major League level. Jordan Schafer was an everyday outfielder before recently getting called up (although he struggled). Matt Young, Brandon Hicks and Ed Lucas, all possible bench candidates (in fact, two of them started the year in the majors) are starting for Gwinnett as well.
While the hitting at Gwinnett is unspectacular and unexciting due to the lack of prospects, the pitching has been anything but.
Gwinnett’s pitchers have kept the team above water despite an unspectacular offense and four of the teams starters are ranked in the top 7 in ERA.
Both Julio Teheran (1.65 ERA) and Mike Minor (2.56) are well known prospects who have made a couple starts for Atlanta already this year.
Teheran has done nothing but confirm he is the top pitching prospect in baseball and Minor has continued to strike batters out at a terrific rate.
Gwinnett’s rotation has been bolstered by the terrific pitching of Todd Redmond and Rodrigo Lopez as well. Redmond recently turned 26 and would be a potential candidate for a fifth starter role in many other organizations. He is probably pitching somewhat over his head (2.30 ERA) but gives the Braves excellent depth.
Rodrigo Lopez has done well in AAA, but that should be expected for a longtime MLB veteran. While he is hardly a candidate to crack the Braves rotation, they could eventually end up dealing him to a pitching hungry team for bench help or a middling prospect.
The Gwinnett bullpen has been terrific as well this year, with Jairo Asencio (1.88), Scott Proctor (1.06), Juan Abreu (1.59), Stephen Marek (3.38), Cory Gearrin (3.38) and Jose Lugo (2.37) all posting impressive ERAs in 10 plus innings.
None of these relievers will make a big impact in the majors, but a handful of them could end up having multi-year careers as middle relievers if they can find the opportunity.
All in all, the Gwinnett Braves doesn’t have the traditional minor league look of prospects all over the place trying to prove their potential. There are dozens of veterans trying to get a promotion to Atlanta one way or another and Gwinnett should remain in contention for a division title as long as injuries in Atlanta don’t take away the majority of their roster.