Myrtle Beach starts Wednesday with a 14-18 record and a two-game losing streak. They've struggled a bit at the plate, with a .243 team batting average. The pitching staff has a 4.13 earned run average, which is sixth best (out of eight teams) in the Carolina League.
Let's start with the pitching, where the Pelicans are getting some good starts from lefty Jake Stevens. Remember how dominant Stevens was three years ago in Rome? Well he's showing signs of being back at that level with a good start to his season. Stevens' control is once again good and he even had a decent outing in Richmond when he was called upon to help out the Triple-A affiliate. The Braves have been pleased with Stevens' demeanor and really feel like he's growing up.
Statistically Moises Hernandez is having the best year of the starters, and he might soon be ready for a promotion to Double-A Mississippi. Hernandez started for only part of last year, so the Braves may want him to get a little more time in Myrtle Beach before considering him for a promotion.
James Parr has an ERA of 3.51 in his first six games. His control has been outstanding, with only five walks in 25.2 innings. Parr had some soreness earlier in the season, just some fatigue, but he's doing well now. The Braves tested Dustin Evans with a promotion to Myrtle Beach and so far he's struggled a bit. And Jairo Cuevas has struggled more than any starter. He's got an ERA of over 4 and a 0-5 record, but the Braves feel like he is having a decent season of development.
Jonny Venters is coming back from Tommy John surgery and has done very well. The Braves are bringing him alone slowly, but he's showing good progress.
The bullpen has been seen several changes, with Brad Nelson and Michael Nix now in Double-A. Kevin Gunderson has had a couple of bad outings recently which has ballooned his ERA over six. Nelson Payano (2.60) and Adam Stanley (2.75) have been solid.
Now to the position players, where Clint Sammons was sent to Mississippi to replace Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Sammons was showing power in Myrtle Beach, with four home runs in his first 78 at bats. But defense was, as usual, the story with Sammons, as he had thrown out 62% of his baserunners from behind home plate.
The Pelicans now have outfielder Jordan Schafer, who tore up Rome before his promotion to the Beach. Schafer hit .372 with 5 home runs and 20 runs batted in for the Rome team in 129 at bats. His defense has been outstanding for a while, so the Braves have just waited for him to hit. Now that he has, Schafer could be one of the top breakout players this season.
Elvis Andrus has made eight errors through the first 28 games of the season, but the Braves are not worried one bit. And while Isaiah Ka'aihue has started slow, remember that he's coming off a hand injury. So you can expect him to heat up with the weather.
The Braves won't get Eric Campbell back for a while, probably the end of May. But Quentin Davis is providing some offense with his league-leading 18 stolen bases.
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 be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta, 105.5 the Fan in Macon, and the Atlanta Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at email@example.com.
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