It happens every Fall. The Instructional League is one last chance for some of the younger players in the farm system to get additional work going into the winter. It's also a chance for more of the coaches and instructors to get a good, solid glimpse at the future.
This year the Braves will have 47 players in the Instructional League. That number is down a little bit from previous years, as the Braves have only six players on the IL roster that played in A ball this season.
Sixteen of the 47 players played this season in the Gulf Coast League, while 14 played in Danville. There are eight new players, either signed late after the draft or international signings, that will be making their debuts in a Braves' uniform. Five members of the Rome Braves will be in Orlando this fall. Three players are coming over from the Dominican Summer League, while one player is coming off an injury. There is only one player that played this season in Myrtle Beach.
The 23 pitchers include 11 pitchers from the GCL Braves, including some of the Braves' top draft picks from the June amateur draft. Cory Rasmus, the supplemental first rounder, will get back on the mound after missing some time in the GCL with elbow tendonitis. Steve Evarts (supplemental first rounder), Jeff Locke (second round), and Chad Rodgers (third round) are also on the roster.
Additional picks from the June draft that were with the GCL Braves this year that will pitch this fall include sixth rounder Steve Figueroa (who missed some time this summer with mono), eighth rounder Casey Beck, 11th round pick Mike Mehlich, and 13th rounder Joe Johnson.
Neftali Feliz, a hard-throwing 18-year-old from the Dominican, will follow up his impressive GCL season in Instructs. Junior Guerra, a former catcher that was switched to the mound, will be on hand. And Jared Shaffer, coming back from back surgery, will get time on the mound.
The Danville contingent will include Michael Broadway, who missed part of the season with some discomfort in his pitching arm. Jamie Richmond, the Appy League's Pitcher of the Year, will get additional innings. Kris Medlen, the Braves 10th round pick last June who was outstanding in Danville, will be on the roster, as will Sergio Valenzuela, who was 3-4 this past season for the Appalachian League champions.
Carlos Rivas is the lone twirler that pitched for Rome that will be in Instructs. Three late signings from the 2006 draft will be on hand, including 9th round pick Tim Gustafson, 19th round pick Deunte Heath, and 26th rounder Ryne Reynoso.
Reidy Escobar and Junior Rodriguez were two summer signees that will be making their Braves' debuts. Escobar is a six-foot-four sixteen year-old right-hander, while Rodriguez is a seventeen year-old from the Dominican. Chen En Hong, signed in July out of Taiwan, will also make his debut. Hong has been compared to Yankees' starter Chien-Ming Wang.
And Jonny Venters will be coming back from Tommy John surgery. The lefty could challenge for a rotation spot in Rome or Myrtle Beach next spring.
There will be six catchers on the roster, including Steven "Bubba" Garcia and Javier Dominguez from the GCL Braves. Phillip Britton, who had a breakout season in Danville hitting .296 with 7 home runs and 35 RBI in 22s at bats, will get additional work. Tyler Flowers, a draft and follow signee from May, will get some time behind the plate and at first base.
The Braves coaches will get a look at Matt Kennelly, signed out of Australia a year ago. Some have compared his potential to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The final receiver will be Jesus Sucre, who hit .278 for the DSL Braves this summer.
The infielders are highlighted by Elvis Andrus, one of the Braves' top prospects. Andrus just turned 18, but he had a great first full-season in Rome this year. The shortstop hit .265 with 3 home runs, 50 RBI, and 23 stolen bases.
Third baseman Adam Coe will be on the roster. Coe was the Braves' 7th round pick back in June and had a great first season in pro ball. Chase Fontaine, the second round pick from the draft, will play second and short in the Instructional League.
Myrtle Beach's shortstop from this season, Diory Hernandez, will get additional action after missing part of this season with injuries. He'll be joined in the infield by Paul Bennett, a versatile player that helped Danville a great deal this summer. Two other important fielders for the D-Braves will be in Orlando: first baseman Ernesto Mejia and third baseman Danny Brezeale.
Cole Miles, a late draft and follow signee that missed part of the season with a dislocated left hand, will play this fall. Finally, the Braves will see Ryohei Shimabukuro, a sixteen year old signed this summer out of Japan. "Shima" was signed as an outfielder, but the Braves have him listed as an infielder on the IL roster. He has seen some time at first base, and the Braves even believe he may catch in the future.
There are nine outfielders on the Instructional League roster. Cody Johnson, this year's first round pick, will try to improve on a difficult start to his pro career. Johnson hit only .184 and had 49 strikeouts in 114 at bats.
The outfields from both Danville and Rome will be on hand. Willie Cabrera, Jon Mark Owings, Concepcion Rodriguez, and Larry Williams all had solid seasons for Danville. Rome's Quentin Davis had a decent year, and after slow starts both Jamie Romak and Jordan Schafer ended the season on high notes in the South Atlantic League.
Camillo Parra, who hit .304 with 3 home runs and 31 RBI for the DSL Braves, will be the last outfielder on the roster.
Players will report to Orlando this Sunday, and the first game will be on September 25th. The Instructional League ends on October 20th.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at email@example.com.
Braves set Instructional League roster
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