Here are the candidates for the Rome Braves infield this season.
Jake Schrader got the most starts at first base last year for Rome, starting 61 games. He was a 27th round draft pick in 2013 out of the University of Tampa. He hit .290 with 11 home runs and 55 RBI in 360 plate appearances. Schrader will be 24 years old this season, so he needs to be pushed up to High-A in the Carolina League. Plus, Schrader did well enough in Rome last season to warrant a promotion.
Joey Meneses played 29 games at first base last season in Rome. He’s probably more of an outfielder moving forward. Meneses is listed as an outfielder on the roster. He’ll turn 23 in May and needs to move on up to High-A.
Last year in Danville, Mike Dodig started 32 games at first base, while Matt Tellor started 28 games at the position. Dodig was a 10th rounder in 2012, and he’s been at Danville the last two years. So Dodig really needs to move up to Rome. Can he be the starter, though, after hitting only .206 in 350 career at bats in pro ball?
Tellor is a big tall kid (6-5, 210 pounds) who was a 10th rounder last June out of Southeast Missouri State (15 home runs and 71 RBI in his junior season). He hit .228 with four home runs and 25 RBI in 141 plate appearances with the Danville Braves. While his batting average was not great, Tellor is 23 years old. He’s a switch-hitter and the power he showed was impressive (in only 37 games).
Tanner Krietemeier was Atlanta’s 23rd round pick out of Oklahoma State last June. He split time between Danville and Rome. Krietemeier hit .254 in Rome with 13 RBI in 63 at bats. He will turn 23 in May. Krietemeier is a switch-hitter who hit .275 with 10 home runs and drove in 52 last season for Oklahoma State. The Braves will see what he can do in March and if he can become a serious candidate.
SUMMARY: Tellor and Dodig will likely fight in out in spring training. Tellor had the more impressive numbers last year in Danville, and since he’s the draft pick from the previous draft he might have an edge. Both of these players were 10th round draft picks and they are both older, so the Braves need to see what they can do for a full-season team in Rome.
Ross Wilson (38 games) and Reed Harper (28 games) were the two main starters in Rome last year. Eight players started at second base, so it was a most unsettled position. Wilson is an older minor leaguer the Braves signed last season. He’s still in the system, but at 25 years old he’ll battle for a job on one of the minor league teams. Wilson is a utility type the Braves plugged into second base in Rome, but he can play where they need him as a versatile player on one of the four rosters.
Harper was a 25th round pick from Austin Peay in 2013. He split 2014 between the GCL Braves and Rome. Harper hit only .193 in Rome and has hit .250 in his 416 pro plate appearances. Harper is 24, so he’s more of a utility-type player, with the ability to play all four infield spots.
Mikey Reynolds started the season getting a lot of playing time at second base for the Rome team, but he was suspended in May for 50 games for using methylphenidate, which is used for ADHD. Reynolds did not play again in 2014. He was a fifth round pick in 2013, so the Braves need to see if he can play. Reynolds hit only .188 in his 64 at bats with Rome, so he struggled. But being a high pick makes it more important the Braves see what he can do. Therefore, Reynolds will likely get a shot in March to win the second base job for the Rome team.
Reynolds may have to battle Omar Obregon, who played 47 games at second base for Danville last season. Obregon will be 21 on April 18. He’s a switch-hitter who hit .297 last season for the D-Braves. Obregon has some speed (17 stolen bases in 139 pro games) but no power (0 home runs). His .377 career OBP may tempt the Braves to see what he can do in Rome for a full season.
Two draft picks from last June’s draft played in the GCL and may try to win the Rome second base job in spring training. These two kids have a lot in common. J.J. Franco, the 38th round pick out of Brown University and the son of former Mets closer John Franco, hit .347 with one home run and 14 RBI in 31 games in the Gulf Coast League last summer. Franco will be 23 years old and is a college player, so he’s likely to compete for a job on the Rome roster.
Luke Dykstra, the seventh round pick and former Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra’s son, hit .262 with two home runs and 28 RBI in 166 plate appearances. Dykstra is only 19 years old, so he’d likely have to really impress the Braves to be pushed up to Rome. Dykstra is likely to be in Danville, but an impressive spring training may tempt the Braves.
SUMMARY: This is wide open for competition in March. Reynolds and Obregon are the favorites, but it will be interesting to see how Franco and Dykstra play in spring training.
This is a no-brainer. Ozhaino Albies hit .364 between the GCL and Danville last season, with a .446 on base percentage and 22 stolen bases. He just turned 18, so Albies will be sinfully young in the South Atlantic League this season. But Albies is getting a lot of love for being a top prospect. He’s a switch-hitter with speed and has shown a great bat so far. Albies is not very big, so the Jose Altuve comparisons are starting already, but the Braves can’t wait to see how Albies does in Rome this season. Right now, there are plenty of reasons to believe Albies is another Rafael Furcal-type prospect that can shoot up the minor league ladder. His performance in Rome may dictate how fast that can happen and how close Albies might be to Atlanta.
Last year’s shortstop for Rome, Johan Camargo (114 starts, .267 batting average, 40 RBI) needs to go up to High-A. He just turned 21 years old in December.
SUMMARY: Albies will likely be the starting shortstop, barring some drastic struggles he has in March. The Braves are anxious to see what Albies can do next.
Carlos Franco played 110 games at third base last year for Rome. He hit .255 with nine home runs and 49 RBI in 491 plate appearances. Franco is 23 years old, so he does not need to stay in Rome after two years of being the main third baseman. It will be interesting to see what the Braves do with Franco, since Dustin Peterson is likely to be the starting third baseman in Carolina. But Franco does not need to go back to Rome.
Danville’s main third baseman last year was Jordan Edgerton, last June’s 9th round draft pick out of UNC Pembroke. Edgerton is a 21-year-old right-handed hitter that batted .275 with three home runs and 43 RBI in 260 plate appearances. His .347 on base percentage was pretty impressive, along with 13 doubles. The Braves would like to see what Edgerton can do for full-season Rome in 2015.
SUMMARY: Edgerton will likely be the starting third baseman for the Rome Braves.
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