Atlanta Braves Minor League Review: Mississippi Braves
While the hitters reviewed last Thursday weren’t exactly glowing, pitching was where Mississippi absolutely sparkled. Today, we’ll review the stand outs.
Zachary Bird was acquired in the July trade with the Dodgers. The 20 year-old 6’4 right-hander has tremendous velocity and a killer slider, but he frequently does not know where the pitch is going. His overall numbers between high-A with the Dodgers and AA with the Braves was a 4.69 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 60/103 BB/K ratio over 101 2/3 innings. He was shut down with arm soreness after a short time with Mississippi. He will start with Mississippi again next year, and his live stuff, young age, and good frame will give him plenty of opportunities to succeed.
John Gant was another pitcher who was acquired during the season, being picked up in the Juan Uribe/Kelly Johnson trade with the Mets. He was tremendous with the Braves, finishing 4-0 with Mississippi with a 1.99 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 14/43 BB/K ratio in 40 2/3 innings for the M-Braves. Overall on the season, Gant posted a 3.08 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 50/134 BB/K ratio over 140 1/3 innings. As a former 21st round pick, Gant has really shown to be a great steal for the Mets, and he could continue that path for the Braves now. Gant is 6’5 and 23 years old, and while he doesn’t have top of the rotation sort of stuff that would project him as a future staff ace, Gant could be very valuable as an inning-eater back-end guy.
Steve Janas was the Braves’ 6th round pick in 2013 out of Georgia’s own Kennesaw State University. At 6’5 and 200 pounds, the 23 year-old looks like he should be rocking a mid-90s fastball and a wicked slider with his solid build. However, Janas relies on premium control and keeping the ball low in the zone for hitters to make weak contact. He allowed only one home run the entire season between Carolina and Mississippi. His start at Carolina yielded a 0.49 ERA in 6 starts earning a promotion to AA. He didn’t have quite as much luck at AA, mainly because of an uptick in his walk rate. Overall, Janas posted a line of 3.33 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and a 24/57 BB/K over 105 1/3 innings. He’s the type of guy who doesn’t really have the stuff that would play up in the bullpen, so Janas really will rely on his command and ground ball ability to be a back-end starter.
Fan favorite Greg Ross was an 18th round selection in 2011 by the Braves who made his return to Mississippi after a sparkling partial season in 2015. Ross really profiles as an org pitcher, the type of guy that is a good guy to send out every 5 days for an upper-level team and gives hitters a look at average level breaking pitches, but doesn’t have the stuff to be a major league guy. Ross put up a 3.99 ERA with a 1.40 WHIP and 47/80 BB/K over 137 2/3 innings.
One of the Braves top prospects coming into the season, until August, it looked like 2015 would be a lost season for Lucas Sims. However, he thrived after his promotion to Mississippi after posting over a 5 ERA in Carolina leading up to the promotion. His final combined numbers on the season were a 4.37 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, and a 54/100 BB/K ratio over 92 2/3 innings. His numbers with Mississippi were stellar, however, with a 3.21 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and a 29/56 BB/K ratio over 47 2/3 innings pitched. Sims showed the kind of moxy and control that was missing all season in Carolina in his time with Mississippi, and he very possibly re-established himself on the elite end of the Braves prospect spectrum, likely as the #1 or #2 pitching prospect in the entire organization.
Considered the “third piece” of the Evan Gattis deal, Andrew Thurman was completely rolling in Carolina before the bus crash really altered his season. Considered a “signability” pick when he was selected by Houston in the 2nd round in 2013, a guy they could pay less than slot in order to afford over-paying a number of guys they had selected earlier. However, once he arrived in Houston, his low-90s velocity ticked up with some excellent late movement. He can sit mid-90s now fairly late in a game, but he is still learning to control his new late-moving heat, and that can lead to some struggles with “aiming”, leading to pitches hung too long in the zone for hitters to smash. His overall line was 4.12 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and 28/66 BB/K ratio over 89 2/3 combined innings. He’ll likely start at Mississippi next season, but if he can show the same exceptional control he was able to show in Carolina, he could move up in a hurry.
Next: Mississippi Relievers