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Atlanta's Low-A affiliate will have one of the best rotations in the minor leagues

The Braves are loaded in Low-A Rome this season. Bill Shanks looks at the starters headed to the South Atlantic League.

The Rome Braves are poised to have one of the best minor league rotations in the game. Ricardo Sanchez, Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Touki Toussaint and Patrick Weigel are set to be the starters for the Braves’ Low-A affiliate.

The Braves held back on Sanchez last season because of his age. He will turn 19 years old next Monday. He made 10 starts in Rome last season and had an ERA of 5.45, with 37 hits allowed in 39.2 innings, 21 walks and 31 strikeouts. The Braves seem ready to let Sanchez go for a full season of innings in 2016.

Soroka was Atlanta’s second first-round draft pick last June, the 28th overall pick in the draft. He had four appearances in the Gulf Coast League and then six starts in Danville. Overall, Soroka had a 3.18 ERA with 33 hits allowed in 34 innings, only five walks and 37 strikeouts.  Soroka is up to 225 pounds to fit his 6-4 frame.

Fried is coming off the Tommy John surgery he had while with the Padres in the summer of 2014. The Braves gave him last season off after acquiring Fried in the Justin Upton trade. Coaches were pleased with Fried’s progress in spring training, and the Braves are anxious to see exactly what they have with this talented left-hander.

Atlanta’s front office made an interesting decision to return Toussaint to Rome, where he made 10 starts there after being acquired from the Diamondbacks last June. Toussaint’s ERA in Rome was 5.73, so the Braves obviously want him to do well in the Sally League before moving up to High-A Carolina. Toussaint wants to work on fastball command this season.

Weigel, last June’s seventh round pick for the Braves, will be the lone college pitcher in the Rome rotation. He made 14 starts in Danville last season and had a 4.53 ERA, with 53 hits allowed in 51.2 innings pitched, 26 walks and 49 strikeouts. Weigel has a fastball that reaches the mid-90s, along with a changeup that has improved since he entered pro ball last summer.

Braves’ pitching coaches were very complimentary of all five of these prospects in spring training. There will be a huge light on this group, which might be the best collection of Braves’ pitching prospects since the 1997 Macon Braves. That rotation included Bruce Chen, Rob Bell, Jason Marquis, Jimmy Osting, Jason Shiell and Odalis Perez. Those six combined for 315 major league wins and 322 losses.

 

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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