Braves acquire two more young pitchers

John Gant is one of two new pitchers headed to the Braves.

The mass exodus has begun, as the Braves have announced a trade with the New York Mets.

Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, who can both become free agents at the end of the season, will head to the division-rival Mets for two minor league pitchers – right-handers Rob Whalen and John Gant.

Johnson has been one of Atlanta’s best hitters this season, batting .275 with nine home runs, 34 RBI and a .321 on base percentage. He has played 33 games (20 starts) at first base, one game at second base, 11 games (six starts) at third base, 27 games (24 starts) in left field and four games (two starts) in right field this season.

Uribe was acquired in May from the Dodgers and played in 42 games (37 starts) at third base. He also made one start at second base. Uribe hit .285 with seven home runs and 17 RBI in 167 plate appearances.

The Braves continued to add to their pitching depth with the acquisitions of Whalen and Gant. Whalen was ranked as New York’s 20th best prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2015 season. Whalen was drafted by the Mets in the 12th round of the 2012 draft out of Haines City, Florida. Mike Silvestri was the scout who signed Whalen. Silvestri is now Atlanta’s Director of Latin American Scouting.

Whalen was 4-5 in 15 games (14 starts) for High-A St. Lucie this season. His ERA was 3.36, with 72 hits allowed in 83 innings, 34 walks and 61 strikeouts. Last season Whalen was mainly in Savannah in the Sally League and had a 2.01 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) with a 9-1 record, 44 hits allowed in 62.2 innings, 19 walks and 53 strikeouts.

Whalen is 6-2, 200 pounds and will turn 22 next January 31. Fangraphs analyst Kiley McDaniel had a report on Whalen last month. He tweeted Friday night that Whalen was a “possible back end SP (starting pitcher) or setup RP (relief pitcher).

Here is a link to McDaniel’s video of Whalen.

Baseball America reported Friday that Whalen has “a sinker that sits at 89-91 mph and his four-seam fastball can rise to 93-94. He also throws a slider, curveball and a changeup and is athletic and has a repeatable delivery. Whalen could reach his ceiling as a mid-rotation starter with continued health and pitch refinement.”

Gant was New York’s 21st round pick in the 2011 draft out of Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel, Florida. He was born in Savannah, Georgia almost 23 years ago. The right-hander is 6-3 and weighs 175 pounds.

Gant started the season in High-A St. Lucie and made six starts. He was 2-0 with a 1.79 ERA, 27 hits allowed in 40.1 innings, eight earned runs, 10 walks and 48 strikeouts. Then Gant was promoted to Double-A Binghamton in the Eastern League. He’s made 11 starts and has a 4-5 record with a 4.70 ERA. Gant has allowed 67 hits in 59.1 innings, 26 walks and 43 strikeouts.

So overall this season, Gant is 6-5 with a 3.52 ERA in 17 starts. He’s allowed 94 hits in 99.2 innings, with 36 walks and 91 strikeouts. Last season in Low-A Savannah, Gant made 21 starts and had a 2.56 ERA, with only 40 walks and 114 strikeouts in 123 innings pitched. Gant finished first in the Sally League in shutouts, tied for second in complete games (two) and finished second in strikeouts.

Expect Gant to join the Double-A rotation for the Braves in Mississippi. Whalen will likely join the Carolina Mudcats in High-A.

McDaniel tweeted Friday night that he saw Gant last month. He wrote Gant’s fastball was “90-93 and topped out at 94 mph, with a solid average four-pitch mix, athletic, solid back-end type.”

Here is a link to McDaniel’s video of Gant.

McDaniel also tweeted that both Whalen and Gant “are solid 40-45 FV guys, likely MLB contributors in 1-2 years, could both be (upside) league average starters or (downside) long/setup RP.”

Expect more trades from the Braves as we approach the July 31 trade deadline.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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