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Newcomb and Sims headline the Braves' Double-A rotation

Bill Shanks previews the Double-A rotation in Mississippi.

The Double-A rotation for the Braves will include some very interesting arms who might not be too far away from Atlanta.

Newly acquired Sean Newcomb will lead the rotation. The former Angels’ prospect pitched in seven Double-A games last season. He had a 2.75 ERA and allowed just 22 hits in 36 innings.

The problem for Newcomb then, and again in spring training in his first time in a Braves’ uniform, was his control. Newcomb walked 24 batters in those 36 innings in AA Arkansas, while striking out 39. Newcomb had six walks in 1.2 innings with the Braves in spring training.

But the Braves hope a full season in the Southern League will prepare Newcomb for Atlanta. The hope is the big left-hander can be an option for the big league rotation in 2017.

Lucas Sims will be Mississippi’s second starter. Sims allowed nine runs in five innings with the Braves in March. But the Braves are hopeful Sims can continue his good work from late last season when he got a cup of coffee in Mississippi. Sims struck out 56 and allowed just 29 hits in 47.2 innings when he made nine starts in Double-A last summer.

Sims then was really impressive in the Arizona Fall League, as he struck out 17 and walked just three in 17 innings with Peoria. The Braves want him to continue that progress, which could make him also ready for a chance at a rotation spot in Atlanta next season.

Chris Ellis also came from Los Angeles in the Andrelton Simmons trade. Ellis had 15 starts in Double-A Arkansas last season and had a 3.92 ERA. The Braves want Ellis to get more work in Mississippi. Ellis is a bit behind some of the other prospects in the line, but a good first full season in an Atlanta uniform could get him on the radar in a hurry. Ellis has a fastball, change, curve and slider.

Brandon Barker will be the fourth starter. Barker pitched at three levels last season and did well, with a 3.25 ERA in his 27 starts overall, with 142 hits allowed in 146.2 innings pitched.

Rob Whalen will round out the Mississippi rotation. The Braves got Whalen from the Mets in the same deal that fetched John Gant, for Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe. This will be a step up for Whalen, who pitched in 18 games between the Mets’ High-A affiliate and three starts last season in Carolina. He had a 3.35 ERA. Whalen turned 22 at the end of January.

Two pitchers who spent time in last year’s Mississippi rotation will start out in the bullpen. Steve Janas made 13 starts in Double-A last season. He was doing really well in Carolina before the bus crash, which kind of impacted his season. Janas will try to get back on track in the pen to begin the year.

Andrew Thurman was also impacted by the bus crash. He had a 3.77 ERA with Carolina and then went to Mississippi and made five starts for Mississippi. Both Janas and Thurman may not get starts to begin the season, but the Braves expect both pitchers to get plenty of innings this season.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at Follow Bill at and email him at

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