Well we've completed the first weekend of the minor league season and there are some surprises. Greenville's struggles are at the front and center of the surprise list.
The G-Braves have a team ERA of 8.04 and a team batting average of .239. That explains their 0-4 start. Macay McBride has had the only quality start of the first four games. Greenville needs Zach Miner to bounce back Monday night as they start a road trip in Jacksonville. Miner struggled in a relief appearance on Opening Night.
The Greenville team is a mixture of young kids (Tony Pena, Jr., Aaron Herr, Andy Marte, Brayan Pena, and most of the pitchers) who were at Myrtle Beach last season and some older players (Kelly Johnson, James Jurries, Billy McCarthy) who are repeating AA. It's probably going to take time for these kids to come together, and it hasn't helped that the Braves best prospect (Marte) and best pitching prospect (Meyer) both injured their ankles during the first weekend of the season. Both could miss another week before returning to action.
There are a few bright spots, however. Adam Stern, who missed most of last season with hamstring troubles, is back and hitting .429 at the top of Brian Snitker's batting order. Johnson and Jurries are both hitting .357 so far this season. But the pitching has been the trouble. Macay McBride's first five innings of the season are about the only positive so far. These kids are young, but they're better than what they've shown so far.
On the other hand, Richmond's pitching has been superb. The Richmond team ERA is 2.13. The starting pitchers have allowed only four earned runs in four games (19 innings). This is a pitching staff that could be even better than last year, when it was the International League leader in team ERA.
But the reason Richmond is only 2-2 on the season is its offense, or lack of offense. The Braves team batting average is .203 so far. For a team with former major leaguers like Russ Branyan, Damon Hollins, and Ryan Jackson, this is terrible. Joe DePastino is the only player on the team with more than three hits (6-9). Richmond is having trouble generating offense with only 26 hits in four games.
Down in A ball Myrtle Beach is off to a 2-2 start. The Pelicans have also gotten some great starting pitching with an ERA of 1.89 by their starters in four games. The Pelicans head out for their first road trip of the season Monday when Jose Capellan starts against Kinston.
The Rome Braves won three out of their first four games of the season. Rome had an off day offensively Sunday getting only three hits, but offense has been a big key in Rome's early fast start. The Braves scored 19 runs in those three wins getting thirteen hits per game.
Rome's pitching has done well with a team ERA of 3.25 so far in four games. Remember, they are "piggy-backing" four starters in a seven-man starting rotation. It's allowing the young kids to get their innings, but it's also precluding some of the relievers from getting enough work. Kyle Bakker and Jake Blakeney have yet to pitch. This shows the tremendous depth in the Braves system. Don't be surprised if Bryan Digby and possibly Gonzalo Lopez are promoted during this season, giving Sean White and possibly Bakker a chance to get some starts in Rome.
Richmond hosts Indianapolis Monday and Tuesday before going to Louisville for games on Wednesday and Thursday. Richmond will then play in Indianapolis Friday through Sunday.
Greenville continues its season-opening road trip this week with three games in Jacksonville. Then the G-Braves open up their home schedule Friday night against Chattanooga. Greenville is home for a seven game home stand.
Myrtle Beach takes off for a four game series in Winston-Salem. The Pelicans will be back home next weekend for a weekend series against Potomac.
Rome hits the road for the first time this season with a three game series in Columbus against the Catfish. Then Rome travels to Columbia to play the Capital City Bombers next weekend.
Bill Shanks hosts "The Braves Show." He can be reached at email@example.com
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