Atlanta Braves Week 11 Farm Report: Drew Waters, Christian Pache form dangerous duo

27 Feb 1998: A general view of autographed balls in an Atlanta Braves baseball cap during a Spring Training game against the Kansas City Royals at the Disney Wide World of Sports Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The Royals defeated the Braves 3-2. Mandatory
27 Feb 1998: A general view of autographed balls in an Atlanta Braves baseball cap during a Spring Training game against the Kansas City Royals at the Disney Wide World of Sports Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The Royals defeated the Braves 3-2. Mandatory /
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(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

Week 11 brought us a brand new big league starting pitcher, while also another amazing week from our favorite Atlanta Braves prospects.

It was a busy week in the Atlanta Braves minor league organization. Newly signed Dallas Keuchel made his first two starts as a member of the Braves Family and older members of the Atlanta Braves system continued to put up fantastic numbers, both hitting-wise and pitching.

There’s a lot to dive into so let’s get started!

In case you’ve missed any reports, here’s the previous ten for you to read at your leisure:

Week 1— Week 2

Week 3 — Week 4

Week 5 — Week 6

Week 7 — Week 8

Week 9 — Week 10

(37-31) Gwinnett Stripers (AAA)

Week 11 Record: 2-4

2019 South Division Standings

*As of Monday, June 17th

Team Record GB
Durham (TB) 42-37
Gwinnett (ATL) 37-31 4.5
Charolette (CWS) 26-32 5.5
Norfolk (BAL) 28-39 13

Week at a Glance

Day Opponent Result
Monday Off Day Off Day
Tuesday Lehigh Valley L, 5-1
Wednesday Lehigh Valley L, 3-2
Thursday Lehigh Valley W,5-4 (F/11)
Friday Syracuse W, 11-4
Saturday Syracuse L, 5-0
Sunday Syracuse L, 7-6

Week 11 Notes

The ‘Catcher of the Future’ may be a while… There has really only ever been two players in the running for becoming the Atlanta Braves future Major League catcher.

For several years now, the expectation was that either William Contreras or Alex Jackson would take over once ready and become the Atlanta Braves next homegrown catcher.

Just read this write-up by the AJC in February; they even titled it William Contreras might be Braves’ future, and he isn’t that far away.

For a guy that had never played a single game above High-A, and a catcher with a career .233 average starting the season in Triple-A, we sure have put a lot of faith in these two guys.

Jackson turned some heads this Spring, starting scorching hot in Spring Training and batting nearly .400 in Atlanta’s first 10 exhibition games, though he did cool off and finish with a .873 OPS in 15 total Spring games.

The Atlanta Braves started Jackson in Gwinnett but had to bring him back up for a short three-game stint early in the season. But, it was back to Triple-A.

With the Stripers, Jackson looked as if he was set for a huge year with the bat, topping out at a .276 batting average around the middle of May.

By May 16, Jackson had seven home runs and was getting on base at a .366 clip. In those first two in-a-half weeks worth of games, Jackson was the best catcher in the minor leagues for the Atlanta Braves, and it wasn’t even close.

But now, those first 17 games are long in the past.

(C) Alex Jackson

4/04 – 5/16 5/17 – 6/15
Games 17 23
OPS .995 .650
HR 7 5
K% 27.4% 39.2%
BB% 8.0% 9.5

Don’t get me wrong, the start that Jackson had this season shouldn’t have been expected to continue for a full season; that would have been an epic year!

But, the last three weeks have been very humbling.

Now we remember Contreras’ promotion, right?

Well, that hasn’t panned out quite well yet, either.

Those of you that are unaware, earlier this month Contreras was moved up from the Florida Fire Frogs (High-A) to the Mississippi Braves (Double-A).

To be exact, his final game with the Fire Frogs was on June 4, an 0-for-4 evening by the young catcher.

He has played nowhere near a comparable amount of games in Mississippi to really assess his performance, and this is Gwinnett’s page of the report so I won’t dig too deep into Contreras’ numbers.

But based on how well he was doing in Florida, I’d say he’s taken quite a step back:

(C) William Conteras 

A+ Stats AA Stats
Games 50 10
OPS .692 .269
HR 3 0
Doubles 11 0
RBI 22 0
K% 31.4% 16.6%
BB% 10% 8.3 BB%

Man, for one thing, both Jackson and Contreras sure do strike out a lot. But, you see the point.

I wrote about this when Contreras was promoted to Mississippi, but I had the feeling that his promotion was a clear statement by the Atlanta Braves. They want to see what they have in-house at the catcher position, now more than ever.

The Atlanta Braves just used their first pick in the 2019 MLB Draft on a college catcher, Shea Langliers, and if he’s anywhere close to as good as what people in the industry are describing him as — one of Jackson or Contreras becomes expendable.

It’s a tough situation, but a necessary evil in determining who’s a better fit in the organization, longterm.

But, with the way both of these catchers are playing, it may be a bit longer than we thought before we get a proper handle on this.

Players of the Week

(OF) Rafael Ortega 

5 games, 7-for-21 (.333 BA), 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI

It may seem forever ago, but remember that torrid start Ortega had to begin the 2019 season? I sure do.

From April 4-May 4, the Stripers outfielder batted .321 with a 1.036 OPS — plus, seven home runs. Ortega was getting on base at a .402 clip.

After those first 28 games, he did come back to reality a bit, but frankly, he’s mostly maintained his solid play this season:

2019 Stats: (As of June 16)

  • 62 games
  • .271 batting average
  • .872 OPS
  • 12 home runs
  • 18 doubles
  • 25.8 K%
  • 13.9 BB%

Ortega has obviously cooled somewhat, but we’d be crazy to expect him to continue that first month’s performance. Overall, he’s still one of the leaders in the Gwinnett lineup, as well as the leadoff hitter.

In Week 11, Ortega had three different two-hit performances:

  • Thursday:  2-for-5, 2B, 3 RBI
  • Friday:        2-for-5, HR, 2 RBI
  • Sunday:     2-for-4, HR, RBI

Here’s his two-run double from Thursday and his homer from Friday:

So close to a three-run dinger…

Sunday’s bomb…

It’s a huge weapon having a leadoff hitter who can not only hit for a solid average, but also provide power. Ortega may not be in the running to get a call-up to the Atlanta Braves, but he’s a vital piece of the puzzle down in Gwinnett.

(SP) Kyle Wright

1 start, 1-0, 7.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 10 K

What a year it has been for Kyle Wright. Now the fifth-ranked prospect in the Atlanta Braves organization, this season the expectations were higher than ever for the 23-year-old from Huntsville, Ala.

But, boy has it been a tough year. The doubt was beginning to set in, and thick:

Going into Friday’s start in Week 11 versus Syracuse, Wright had a bloated ERA of 7.22, thanks to four consecutive starts that had all fell short of five innings.

Despite his poor performance this season, Wright had started to turn things around.

Something clicked this week.

On Friday, Wright threw an efficient game, only needing 98 pitches (63 strikes) to get through his 7.2-inning outing (season-high).

He did an excellent job of keeping the ball on the ground, forcing Syracuse to hit 10 ground outs as opposed to only two fly outs.

It didn’t hurt that the Stripers scored 11 runs, either.

Also, Wright’s 10 strikeouts were a season-high.

The dominant start in Week 10 drops Wright’s ERA to a still-terrible 6.02 ERA, but now with back-to-back starts of three earned runs or less, maybe the turnaround is finally happening.

For the season, Wright is now 4-4 after his first 10 starts of 2019. He has 40 strikeouts and 15 walks in 46.1 total innings-pitched, an encouraging strikeout-walk ratio, nonetheless.

It may be a while before we see him back in Atlanta (7.07 ERA in the majors), but if he can continue to chip away at some of his poor early-season numbers — a 2019 showing for the Atlanta Braves is doable.

Week 11 Roster Moves/Injured List

Date Player Destination
(P) Luiz Gohara 7-day IL
(P) Caleb Dirks 7-day IL
May (C) Raffy Lopez 7-day IL
June 11 (RP) A.J. Minter Atanta
June 15 (P) Huascar Ynoa Atlanta

(–) injured before 2019 season began

About Ynoa’s call-up… A super cool moment during Sunday’s rout of the Phillies, by the Atlanta Braves. Ynoa Huascar got his first punch out as a big league pitcher.

Remember that Jaime Garcia trade with the Minnesota Twins back in 2017? Well, Ynoa, along with cash, was the player the Atlanta Braves received in that deal.

He’s a strike-em-out power-pitcher, which could light a spark in the Braves bullpen. His run prevention and walk-rate needs some work, but Ynoa is a solid pitcher.