Keep up to date with the latest happenings throughout the Braves farm system. How did the acquisition of Tom Martin effect the pitching situations in Myrtle Beach and Richmond? <B><U>Plus:</U></B> New additions help both Richmond and Greenville and a progress report on the Braves 2004 draftees.
The Braves begin the week a game and a half behind Durham in the South Division of the International League.
Left-hander Sam McConnell will re-join the Braves and replace right-hander Brett Evert on the Richmond roster. Evert was 2-1 with a 7.03 ERA in 6 games (5 starts) in AAA. He'll return to Greenville. McConnell was 6-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 14 games (13 stats) before he was promoted to Atlanta. The Braves wanted to keep him in the major leagues, but McConnell still has options left while Tim Drew is out of options. Expect McConnell to be recalled in September.
Right-hander Will Cunnane has struggled since he was demoted from Atlanta. Cunnane is 1-5 with a 6.25 ERA in 27 games.
Left-hander Dan Meyer is 1-3 in his first 6 AAA starts, but he's got decent ancillary numbers. Meyer has a 3.69 ERA and has allowed 32 hits in 31.2 innings with 16 walks and 28 strikeouts. The walk total is a little high; Meyer had only 12 walks in 14 games (13 starts) at AA before his promotion. Richmond pitching coach Guy Hansen is now working with Meyer to refine his delivery in hopes of finishing his development.
The pitcher that has perhaps made the most progress this season is right-hander Roman Colon. Two years ago, Colon was almost released after a mediocre season in Myrtle Beach. But the Braves decided the bullpen would be his future, and many believe he could be the leading candidate to be in the Atlanta pen next season. Colon's numbers are not overly impressive, but it really doesn't matter. The opinion is unanimous: Colon is ready for the big leagues. He could get a call-up in September with fellow right-hander Jose Capellan.
Speaking of Capellan, he's now 11-3 between Myrtle Beach, Greenville, and Richmond with and ERA of 2.24. Overall, he's allowed 92 hits in 108.2 innings with 34 walks and 123 strikeouts. The Braves feel they could have the second coming of Bartolo Colon on their hands.
Triple-A has not been a huge challenge for first baseman James Jurries. After hitting 7 home runs and hitting .306 in 72 at bats for AA Greenville, Jurries has hit .280 with 17 home runs and 48 RBI in 254 at bats. Jurries is probably assuring himself of a place on the Atlanta 40-man roster this winter.
Another red hot hitter has been outfielder Billy McCarthy. Since arriving from AA Greenville, McCarthy is hitting .345 with 4 home runs and 17 RBI in 84 at bats. Overall this season, McCarthy is hitting .312 with 13 home runs and 59 RBI in 317 at bats. He, too, will be strongly considered for a spot on the 40-man this winter.
Luis Lopez, who has seen major league action with the Blue Jays and the Expos, has been a breath of fresh air since arriving earlier in the season. Lopez is hitting .323 with 6 home runs and 33 RBI in 130 at bats. One wonders if the Braves needed another corner infielder this season if Lopez would be selected over Jesse Garcia, who just returned to Richmond to replace Pete Orr on the roster. Orr is joining Greenville outfielder Adam Stern in representing Canada in the Olympics.
Greenville begins the week in second place in the Eastern Division of the Southern League, 3.5 games back of Chattanooga. They have lost five straight games and seven of their last ten. The G-Braves started the second half of the season 11-1, but have gone 9-14 since then.
Why would the Orioles trade Napoleon Calzado? Since coming to the Braves organization in an April trade, the versatile Calzado has been spectacular. He leads the Southern League with a .355 average, 32 points higher than former Brave farmhand Richard Lewis. Calzado also has 6 home runs and 48 RBI in 355 at bats. He currently has a ten game hitting streak (18-43 with 4 doubles).
Catcher Brayan Pena has a 12-game hitting streak (18-41) to raise his average to .291. Pena also has 2 home runs and 24 RBI in 206 at bats. The 22-year-old Cuban catcher entered this season with a .292 career minor league average. He's also thrown out 22% of attempted base stealers.
Infielder Brent Butler was activated over the weekend after being out since July 10th with an inflamed SC joint in his left collarbone. Butler has a .266 batting average with 4 home runs and 22 RBI in 154 at bats for the G-Braves this season. Butler is a former third round pick of the Cardinals who saw major league action with the Colorado Rockies. If he finishes strong in Greenville, he could get an invite to spring training next February as a non-roster player.
In his 17 games since coming off the disabled list July 15th with a right ankle sprain, third baseman Andy Marte is hitting .350 (21-60) with 7 home runs, 15 RBI, and 15 walks. Marte is now hitting .284 with 18 home runs, 47 RBI, 36 walks, and 72 strikeouts.
Kelly Johnson hit .340 in the month of July to raise his average to .274. Johnson has 13 home runs and 39 RBI on the season. He's played all three outfield positions and is looking very comfortable.
Shortstop Tony Pena, Jr. has been in a slump for the last three weeks. Pena is hitting .205 (18-88) in his last 21 games.
Second baseman Aaron Herr had a productive month of July hitting .338 in 25 games.
Right-handed starter Brian Moehler is slowly making progress in his comeback from Tommy John surgery. Moehler says it will be next spring before he's ready to attempt a major league comeback. The shoulder trouble that bothered him before his Tommy John elbow surgery has slowed down his recovery compared to Atlanta starter Paul Byrd. Moehler hopes the Braves will give him a spring training invite as a non-roster player.
After being swept by the Winston-Salem Warthogs over the weekend, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans are now in third place in the Southern Division of the Carolina League, 4.5 games back of the Warthogs, who have now ten games in a row.
Myrtle Beach is expected to get back two of its walking wounded. Catcher Brian McCann should be able to DH while still healing his ailing shoulder. Right-handed reliever Ryan Basner is expected back mid-week. He's been out with tendonitis but outfielder Onil Joseph still may be out a week with his leg injury.
Carlos Duran may finally be realizing his potential. Duran was named one of the Braves top 5 prospects by Baseball America before the 2002 season, despite never playing above rookie ball. He struggled with inconsistency in Macon in 2002 and in Myrtle Beach last season. After missing the first two months of the season with a broken hammate bone in his hand, Duran has returned trying to prove he is a legit prospect. Duran is hitting .318 with 2 home runs, 20 RBI, and 10 stolen bases in 151 at bats. Duran is an excellent outfielder, and if he continues to show promise offensively, the 21-year-old may head to AA next season.
Now that Matt Merricks is with the Dodgers organization, Sean White will take his spot in the Myrtle Beach rotation. Since arriving from Rome, White is 4-3 with an ERA of 3.44 in 12 games (4 starts). He's allowed only 24 this in 36.2 innings with 18 walks and 19 strikeouts. Last year after White was drafted in the 8th round out of the University of Washington, the Braves believed he was the closest of all their college pitching draftees to the big leagues.
Myrtle Beach right-hander Blaine Boyer is 4th in the league with a 2.90 ERA. Boyer has allowed only 102 hits in 115 innings of work.
Matt Wright leads the Carolina League with 107 strikeouts.
Rome is 18-18 in the second half of the season and in 5th place in the Southern Division of the Sally League, 5.5 games back of Capital City. They are 57-48 overall on the season.
Martin Prado is 6th in the South Atlantic League with a .324 batting average. Prado is second on the team with 102 hits, despite missing about twenty games with injuries earlier in the season.
Josh Burrus is arguably Rome's MVP this season. The former first round draft choice is hitting .287 with 8 home runs, 38 RBI, and 23 stolen bases in 278 at bats.
While Matt Esquivel has been productive since returning from his suspension, his strikeout numbers are a worry. He has 96 strikeouts in 300 at bats. His other numbers are impressive (.300 with 13 homers, 46 RBI, and a .370 OBP), but the strikeouts have got to go down.
Steve Doetsch has also struck out a lot this season: 118 times in 347 at bats. Doetsch got off to a strong start but is now at .268 with 8 homers and 59 RBI.
The Braves have got to be pleased with the progress of Carlos Guzman, in his third season in the Sally League. Guzman moved to first base this season and has done well. He's also got 10 home runs and 42 RBI in 267 at bats. Guzman does need to improve his .247 batting average.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is very quietly having a very solid season. "Salty Dog" is hitting .274 with 9 home runs and 41 RBI in 263 at bats. He's still just three months past his 19th birthday, so the Braves have to be pleased with the progress of their young catcher.
Rome lefty Chuck James still leads the Sally League with a 1.71 ERA. He's also third in WHIP (1.04).
Jake Stevens has had two straight poor performances after almost being perfect through three and a half months. Stevens is now 6th in the league in ERA (2.62) and 5th in WHIP (1.05).
Bryan Digby has stayed healthy this season, one of the main goals the Braves set for him at the beginning of the year. But his H/IP numbers are worrisome (146 hits in 113 innings) along with a high number of walks (53). The Braves have waited for Digby to get some significant innings, and that remains their main goal in his development this season.
Ricardo Rodriquez has performed well as Rome's closer. He's got 7 saves, a 3.45 ERA, and 38 K's in 31.1 innings pitched.
The Danville Braves (24-17) begin the week in second place in the East Division of the Appalachian League, a half game back of Pulaski.
Cole Armstrong, a 16th round pick in 2003, is having a fantastic season. Armstrong is 2nd in the Appy League in hitting with a .343 batting average. He also has 2 home runs and 25 RBI (7th in league) in 105 at bats.
First baseman Keith Eichas, drafted a round later than Armstrong last summer, is also off to a great start. Eichas is 10th in the league with a .325 average along with a home run and 24 RBI (9th in league).
J.C. Holt, the Braves 3rd round pick, is off to a fast start in Danville. The left-handed hitting second baseman is hitting .330 (8th in the league) and has a .403 on base percentage.
Carl Loadenthal continues to put up solid numbers in the Appy League. Last year he hit .310 with 21 stolen bases in 216 at bats. Now this summer he's hitting .323 and is 5th in the league with a .429 on base percentage. He's also fifth in the league with ten stolen bases. Loadenthal may be a candidate for a late-season promotion to Rome.
Former University of Louisville star Mark Jurich is slowing coming around at the plate. His power numbers are strong (6 home runs and 18 RBI in 118 at bats), but his average (.212) is just now getting over the Mendoza Line. The Braves hope Jurich is getting used to using the wood bat.
The Braves are a bit frustrated with Jamie Romak. The 4th round pick out of Canada a year ago has tremendous work ethic and power, but his average is still stuck below .200 (.190). Romak has 5 homers in 116 at bats, but needs to get his average up to have a complete season.
The story with the Danville pitchers is the tremendous control the starting pitchers have showed so far this season. Here are the main starters and their walk totals along with the number of innings pitched: Matt Harrison (2 BB in 39 IP), Luis Atilano (6 BB in 37.1 IP), Paul Bacot (7 BB in 38.2 IP), and Chris Vines (8 BB in 32.1 IP).
Vines is third in the league with 44 strikeouts.
Kelvin Villa, an 18-year old left-hander who was signed as a free agent two years ago, has a 2.03 ERA in 11 appearances. Villa has been starting lately as the Braves attempt to get him more innings. He also has 26 strikeouts in 26.2 innings pitched.
The GCL Braves are 14-22 on the season and in last place in the North Division of the Gulf Coast League.
Third baseman Maximilio Ramirez is in a five-way tie for the league lead in home runs with 5. He's also third in the league with 21 RBI. Ramirez is hitting only .244 in 135 at bats.
Switch-hitting second baseman Ovandy Suero leads the Gulf Coast League with 15 stolen bases. Suero is a light-hitting infielder but he has good speed and plays solid at second base.
Atlanta's first pick in the 2004 draft, second rounder Eric Campbell, is third in the league with 35 hits. He's also got 4 home runs and 19 RBI. Campbell has played 25 games at shortstop and 5 games at third base, which is where the Braves see Campbell playing eventually.
Lanky right-hander Jairo Cuevas is tied with teammate Johnny Venters for third in the league with 37 strikeouts. Cuevas has only 5 walks in 31 innings, while the left-handed Venters has only 6 free passes in 24.2 innings.
Right-hander Sergio Valenzuela, the pitcher of the year for the Domincan Summer League team last summer, has only 3 walks in 21 innings of work. Valenzuela has allowed only 15 hits in 21 innings pitched.
Australian left-hander Glen Richards is off to a great start in the Braves bullpen. Richards is 1-1 in ten relief appearances with a 0.51 ERA, 2 walks, and 19 strikeouts in 17.2 innings pitched.
Eduardo Rosario has yet to give up an earned run in his seven appearances (two starts). Rosario has had some control trouble, however, with 10 walks in 11.2 innings pitched.
Bill Shanks can be reached at email@example.com