Some news and notes on the minor leagues in the Braves' farm system

Bill Shanks has some news and notes on the Braves' minor league prospects.

If Aaron Blair is the choice to pitch Sunday in Atlanta against the Mets, he will be promoted with very good Triple-A numbers. Remember, he got 12 starts last season for Reno, the Diamondbacks' Triple-A team. So with his three starts in Gwinnett this season, Blair's numbers in Triple-A are tremendous: 10-2, 2.81, 16 games, 15 starts, 77 hits in 96 innings, 30 earned runs, 32 walks and 78 strikeouts.

After Blair's seven no-hit innings last week, he might well be ready for his final promotion to the major leagues.

While Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies are off to great starts, Rio Ruiz needs attention as well. He's hit .368 with a .419 on base percentage in his first 15 games for Gwinnett, with two home runs and 10 RBI. Last season for Double-A Mississippi, Ruiz hit .229 with five home runs and 45 RBI in 484 plate appearances. 

Ruiz was streaky last season. He hit .217 in April and .149 in May, but then had a .310 average in June. Ruiz fell back to a .185 average in July, followed by a .302 average in August and then a .176 average in his five minutes in September.

So before we anoint Ruiz the next starting third baseman, let's see him have a couple of good months in a row. He still needs a lot of work defensively, but the start Ruiz has had at the plate is a great sign for his development.

If Ruiz is proving he is legit, could it be that the Braves could have three rookies in the infield next season to open Sun Trust Park? There's becoming little doubt that Swanson and Albies will be the middle infielders next year, but can you imagine where Freddie Freeman would be joined in Atlanta's infield by a third rookie in 2017?

Swanson is hitting .344 with a .425 on base percentage. Nine of Swanson's 22 hits have been doubles, and he has four stolen bases. Albies is hitting .339 with a .414 on base percentage. He has two stolen bases.

The Braves love Ronald Acuna's potential. He's hitting .300 so far in the first 15 games of the season, with a home run, seven RBI and six stolen bases. The Braves believe the 18-year-old could be one of their top position player prospects right now.

Is Dustin Peterson becoming more of a serious prospect. He's off to a solid start in Mississippi, with a .267 average, a .338 OBP, two home runs and nine RBI.

On the pitching side, John Gant had another solid start for Gwinnett Friday night. He allowed just one run on two hits in six innings, with three walks and seven strikeouts. Gant has a 3.68 ERA in his three starts, with only eight hits allowed in 14.2 innings, along with 18 strikeouts.

Gant needs to be a starting pitcher. The Braves are going to need relievers, and obviously the ones in Gwinnett are not very good. But Gant has the stuff to increase his value into a starting pitcher. Forget about these ideas of him being a relief pitcher in the big leagues.

Could Mauricio Cabrera be turning a corner? The hard-throwing reliever has a 2.45 ERA in his first six games for Mississippi. He's allowed two earned runs on six hits in 7.1 innings, with four walks and seven strikeouts. The Braves need relief prospects to advance, and it's good to see Cabrera off to a good start.

Matt Marksberry is headed back to Atlanta to replace Casey Kelly on the big league roster. Marksberry had a 1.06 ERA in his six games, with two saves, three hits allowed in 8.2 innings, two walks and seven strikeouts. Marksberry should have been kept in spring training longer as the other lefty relievers faltered. He would have been a better candidate to take a look at compared to some of the others.

Maybe Carlos Salazar is becoming a serious prospect. The 2013 third round draft pick out of a high school in California has a 1.23 ERA in five games, with only one hit allowed in 7.1 innings, eight walks and eight strikeouts. The Braves moved Salazar to the bullpen last season. He had a 2.70 ERA in 33 games between Rome and Carolina last season. He's struggled with his control at times, so that's what's keeping him from reaching that next level.

Fans are worried about Touki Toussaint, who got roughed up a bit again Friday night. Toussaint now has a 12.66 ERA in his first three starts this season. Sure, it would be better if Toussaint was doing well and had good stats, but remember the Braves may have him working on something specific which could impact his stats.

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.


Atlanta Dugout Top Stories