Minor League Report - June 18

The Braves Show's Bill Shanks has some notes from around the Braves' farm system.

· Richmond's Brayan Pena has been lighting up the International League since his return to Richmond. Pena has hit .400 (26-for-65) in June and is hitting .311 overall. Pena has caught only two games, while he's played first base three times, third base once, and played four times in the outfield.

· While Pena is doing well, it does not guarantee that he'll be brought up to Atlanta if the Braves decide to add a third catcher behind Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Pena's defense behind the plate remains an issue, which could result in Corky Miller getting a call. Miller can't hit a lick (.205 in Richmond this season), but he's an excellent defensive catcher.

· Lefty reliever Will Startup gave up his first earned run Sunday since May 24th. He had gone twelve innings without allowing a run. Startup has been outstanding in the last three innings of games, with an ERA of 2.23 in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. Startup is very close to being ready if the Braves need another left-handed option in the bullpen.

· In Mississippi the Braves clinched the first-half division title on Sunday after a week of struggling. The Braves have been very good at home this season, posting a 23-12 at Trustmark Park.

· Lefty starter Jo Jo Reyes helped Mississippi clinch the tie Saturday night with another victory. Reyes is tied for the Southern League's lead in wins with eight. Reyes has been outstanding in his last four games (including one game in AAA Richmond): 4-0 with a 2.16 ERA, only 8 walks, and 31 strikeouts in 25 innings pitched. Reyes had some trouble with his control in the two games prior to that stretch (12 walks in 10 innings), but an adjustment was made and he's been on a roll. Reyes may have surpassed Matt Harrison as the team's top lefty and perhaps most-ready pitching prospect.

· Harrison is having a pretty good stretch himself. In the three games since skipping a start in late May, Harrison has allowed only five earned runs in 18.1 innings pitched. That's an ERA of 2.46. Harrison had walked 10 batters in his four starts before he took that week off, but in the three games since his return he's walked only two batters.

· Mississippi has several others at the top of the leader boards in the Southern League. Matt Esquivel leads the league in both home runs (15) and runs batted in (52). Carl Loadenthal leads the Southern League in stolen bases with 24. And Joey Devine leads the league with 15 saves.

· Catcher Clint Sammons is adjusting well to the Southern League since his promotion from Myrtle Beach. He's hitting .364 in the month of June and now has his overall average up to .273.

· Pelicans' first baseman Isaiah Ka'aihue is on a roll. He was 2-for-4 on Sunday with a home run and two RBI. The burly right-handed hitter now has his average up to .290 on the season with 14 home runs and 43 runs batted in. He's third in the Carolina League in homers and tied for second in RBI. ‘KK' has hit .413 in the month of June with 6 home runs and 19 RBI. And if you're worried about how he's done at the always-tough Coastal Federal Field, don't. He's hitting .291 at home (.289 on the road) with his 14 homers split between home and road games. The Braves could promote Ka'aihue to Double-A after the All-Star Break this week.

· Jairo Cuevas had another solid start Sunday (six scoreless innings with three walks and three strikeouts). He almost pitched a no-hitter on Tuesday and has really turned his season around. Cuevas has allowed only three earned runs in his last three starts. This is after he gave up 31 earned runs in his first 10 games of the season (6.49).

· Reliever Kevin Gunderson has not allowed an earned run in the month of June in six games (8.1 innings). Gunderson had struggled in May (9.00 ERA in 10 games) after doing very well in April (1.64 ERA in 8 games).

· On to Rome now where the Braves have an 11-6 record in the month of June. Second baseman Chase Fontaine has improved with a .388 batting average this month. His overall OBP is up to .378.

· In the rotation Jamie Richmond has been the hottest starter. Richmond has a 2.22 ERA since May 1st in eight starts. He's walked only 16 batters in his 13 starts this season.

· Kyle Cofield has also been solid this month. The lanky right-hander has allowed only one earned run in four games (15.1 innings). Cofield has 17 strikeouts and six walks this month.

· Deunte Heath, Cofield's usual piggyback partner in the Rome rotation, has been solid all year. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in a game this season. Heath, who will be in the Sally League All-Star Game this week, has an ERA of 2.07 in fourteen games pitched.

· And Kris Medlen will join Heath on the All-Star roster, replacing teammate Tommy Hanson. Medlen has 11 straight scoreless appearances, and his three walks and 28 strikeouts in 15.2 innings of work are nothing to sneeze about either. Medlen could get a promotion soon to Myrtle Beach, as he has clearly dominated the South Atlantic League.

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 and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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