Editor’s Note: BGS is proud to welcome long time friend Dan Simpson into the fold. Many of you may be familiar with his work, but for those of you that aren’t, you can find him online at @dsimpson88. Dan has an eye for analytics, the minors, and Duke sports. We are trying very hard not to hold the last part against him.
One of the great things about baseball is its extensive minor league system. Even if your team is rebuilding, the minors provide an extensive cast of players upon which to hang your dreams of a better future. The Ladder is a new weekly here at the Store, and aims to highlight those minor league players that have excelled over the past week. For the most part, this series will focus on prospects that have a shot at making an impact in the major leagues, but we won’t neglect organizational players who have stellar weeks. Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
Manny Banuelos, SP, Gwinnett Braves: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 100p/59s
ManBan has been nothing short of stellar since coming over from the Yankees in the off-season. His one start this week was more of the same, as he allowed just six base runners across seven shutout innings. We’d like to see Manny cut down on his walks a bit, but he’s striking out almost a batter an inning and opposing hitters are only hitting .216 against him. The organization wants to keep him in a starting role, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he got a call to Atlanta’s bullpen this year, given the dire needs at the big league level and a potential innings cap for Manny.
Rio Ruiz, 3B, Mississippi Braves: 6-21, 6 BB, 8 K, 2 2B
It’s been a rough start for Rio Ruiz as a Brave, at least as far as batting average goes. Ruiz is batting a paltry .194 after this week, but part of that is explained by a low .235 BABiP (his BABiP last year was .335). But Ruiz has responded in other ways, posting a career best 15.4 BB%. Ruiz’s BABiP luck may be starting to turn however, as he posted a .285 batting average last week. He also walked 6 times, giving him a .444 OBP on the week. Ruiz is the best all-around position player prospect in the Atlanta organization, and he’s starting to show why.
Jake Brigham, SP, Mississippi Braves: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K
Jake Brigham is not a prospect. He’s a twenty-seven year old minor leaguer who spent his career in Texas’s system before spending last year with the Pirates. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention his gem from Thursday night, in which he came within three outs of a perfect game. Brigham retired the first twenty-four men he faced before allowing a double on his first pitch of the ninth inning. He finished out his shutout, however, recording a 10/0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the process. A hearty tip of the cap to Mr. Brigham for the best start of any starting pitcher in the Braves system so far this year.
Dustin Peterson, OF, Carolina Mudcats: 5-21, 2B, 3B, HR, 4 BB, 4 K
After spending about three weeks on the disabled list, Dustin Peterson returned with a bang on Tuesday. The Mudcats outfielder recorded a double, triple, and homer as part of a five-hit week. He also drew four walks and only struck out four times. On the year, Peterson’s line now sits at a pretty .302/.386/.460, with 18 walks and only 25 strikeouts in 47 games. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Peterson get a mid-season promotion to Mississippi.
Ozhaino Albies, SS, Rome Braves: 12-26, 2 2B, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 SB
No hitter had a better week than Rome’s young shortstop, Ozhaino Albies. Albies’s calling card is his bat, and boy, did it show up this week. Albies has a short quick swing and almost preternatural hand-eye coordination which leads to an immense amount of contact. Couple that with his above-average speed and you have all the makings of a guy who can hit .300. He won’t walk much, but he won’t strike out much, either. This week, he posted an obscene 12 hits in 6 games, including a perfect 4-4 night against Lexington on Wednesday. Albies started the season slow (by his standards), but his red-hot week at the plate saw him raise his average up over .300 for the first time all year, all the way to .317. We wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t dip back below .300 for the remainder of the year; he’s that good.