This week on Minor League Report Braves FTW will take a look at Atlanta’s AA affiliate: the Mississippi Braves.
Despite boasting one of the best starting rotations in the minor leagues, Mississippi is just 21-32 overall on the year and in last place in the Southern League South Division.
Randall Delgado is the biggest prospect to spend the majority of his time this year at Mississippi. One of the top arms in the Braves system, Delgado hasn’t been as dominant in 2011 as he was last year. His ERA is 3.77 (mostly due to one terrible start) but his control hasn’t been as good as last year.
While he wasn’t on many prospect lists coming into the season, Paul Clemens leads both the team and the entire Southern League in ERA (2.08). Clemens doesn’t have terrific peripheral stats but is in the middle of a breakout year and gives the Braves another talented young arm.
J.J. Hoover, who has made a couple of starts at AAA, is second in the league in ERA. Hoover is a terrific young talent although he is shadowed by some of the ace-caliber arms the Braves have. A potential third starter, Hoover has kept the walks down this year (although he struggled with control in his two AAA starts) and has a terrific 3.67 K/BB for Mississippi.
The other full-time member of the rotation is Brett Oberholtzer, a workhorse with terrific peripheral numbers (4.67 K/BB) even if his ERA is a little higher (4.10) than expected. Another guy who isn’t as dominant as one of the Braves top prospects, Oberholtzer has a future somewhere at the Major League level.
Arodyzs Vizcaino (who was profiled by Will Brown this past Tuesday) recently received a promotion to AA and gives Mississippi a rotation full of future Major Leaguers.
The bullpen also has a couple of players to watch.
Billy Bullock, who was acquired from the Twins for Scott Diamond this past offseason, is a high strikeout reliever who could break out at any moment. Last year he struck out 105 batters in just 74 innings and he actually has a higher K/9 this year (13.3 to 12.8). While walks have been an issue, Bullock has the potential to be a shutdown reliever and is a great piece to have in the organization.
Another reliever to watch is Benino Pruneda. Like Bullock, Pruneda is a high strikeout pitcher who can be a bit wild at times. His 2.95 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 21 innings thus far in 2011 is promising, and Pruneda is gives the Braves already rich pitching system more depth.
While the Mississippi Braves pitching staff had tons of guys to be excited about, the hitting is about the polar opposite. The team is hitting just .252 as a whole and ranks near the bottom of the league in just about every major statistical category.
The team only has three players that are worth mentioning.
The highlight of the offense is shortstop Tyler Pastornicky (another player previously profiled by Will Brown). He is hitting .301 and has flashed some power and speed so far this season.
Mycal Jones is an interesting prospect to watch as well. Although his numbers aren’t overwhelming (largely due to him playing only 15 games thus far) he has a terrific blend of power and speed. In the past, Jones hasn’t hit for average or gotten on base enough to solidify his prospect status. This year, Jones converted to centerfield (from the infield) and might be the most “MLB ready” outfield prospect the Braves have. (A number of their AAA outfielders are too old for prospect status).
Coming off two good seasons, Cory Harrilchack was supposed to take another step forward in 2011 but instead has fallen apart offensively. He is hitting just .209 and has struggled in every category except walks. He has promise and may eventually end up in the Braves outfield if he can turn things around.
All in all, Mississippi is being held back by serious offensive problems. The five pitchers who make up their starting rotation all have a future at the major league level and the bullpen offers some high strikeout relievers who could eventually make an impact. However, Cory Harrilchak and Mycal Jones have a lot of work to do to solidify their prospect status, leaving Tyler Pastornicky as the only position player who is a sure thing to make it to the Major Leagues.