July 2 recap
Four pretty big news items to note today:
First, Tommy Hanson was named Rookie of the Month for June. Perhaps he will prove to be the rare rookie that lives up to the hype...knock on wood. He's looked better and better though, as the year has gone on. You could easily make the case that with Kawakami pitching very well of late (3.18 ERA in his last ten starts), and Hanson up, that the Braves have five legitimate top-of-the-rotation starters.
Second, we're on track to getting yet another top-end starter, as the Myrtle Beach Sun-News is reporting that Tim Hudson is tentatively scheduled to make a rehab start for the Pelicans on July 19th, in about two weeks.
Third, Bill Shanks of scout.com is reporting that Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward have been promoted to Mississippi. It's great to see Salt 'n' Pepper (as they are affectionately known) get their shot at the upper levels. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus has said that he thinks Heyward will be ready for The Show sometime during the 2010 season, and this promotion certainly puts him on the fast track. I'll keep an eye out for "residual promotions" (i.e., who gets moved up from Rome to take their spots at Myrtle Beach). Some of the guys raking at Danville might get to move up to full season ball too.
Fourth, Kelly Johnson has been sent to the DL with tendinitis. Brooks Conrad, who was hitting .259/.256/.413 at Gwinnett, has been called up to take his place on the roster.
Tom's Take: This looks sort of like an excuse to make Martin Prado the starter without having to "bench" KJ. Perhaps Johnson is dealing with a little nagging something that likely wouldn't be DL-worthy if he was hitting. But since he's not, they'll let him take a couple weeks to get 100% healthy and perhaps work on some things without worrying about playing in games. I can't say I'm a big Conrad fan; he's nothing special as a defender on the middle infield, and while his long swing generates some pop, it also generates a healthy dose of strikeouts. I think he's a Quad-A player, and I don't think he's going to give the Braves any reason to keep him around once Infante and/or Johnson are once again field-worthy.
Braves 5, Phillies 2
MVP: Matt Diaz. He pretty much wins MVP because of one play (see below), though he added a single and a stolen base to solidify his case.
LVP: Gregor Blanco. Two groundouts with runners in scoring position when the game was tied (including one with the bases loaded and 2 out in the second inning) killed him, and it didn't help that he was 0-for-4 either.
MIP: Matt Diaz's RBI double with one out in the eighth. The double untied the game, to give the Braves a 3-2 lead late. Interesting to note that all three MIPs in this Phillies sweep have been by people that weren't "regulars" to start the year (two by Prado, this by Diaz).
UotG: Bullpen. Kudos to O'Flaherty, Moylan, Soriano and Gonzalez for 3 2/3 innings of one-hit, shutout ball in a tight game.
Gwinnett: Multi-hit games for Barbaro "do I do anything but rake?" Canizares, J.C. "is there any position I can't play?" Holt, and Brandon "can I really be any worse than Jeff Francoeur?" Jones.
Mississippi: Very little offense for either team in this game, as Canadian lefty Scott Diamond shut down the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx (great team name there). He didn't allow a hit until the fifth, and wound up with eight innings of shutout baseball, allowing two hits and three walks while striking out eight. Diamond has never been a very heralded prospect but he's left-handed (another one? really?) and he keeps getting the job done.
Myrtle Beach: Jason Heyward had two hits and two RBIs in what was hopefully his final game at the Beach, and Cody Johnson added a double, his 21st homer (a grand slam, no less) and five ribbies. Jose Ortegano (yet another lefty with quality stuff) got the start but went just two innings, though he allowed only one hit and no runs...must be an injury there, hopefully not serious. Last year's fifth-round pick out of UVA, Jacob Thompson, came on and tossed seven innings of one-run ball in relief, allowing just three hits (including a homer) while walking two and striking out eight. Thompson was a little erratic in college, and that has carried over to the pros, but he obviously has the talent to succeed.
Rome: Ugh...the R-Braves managed just two hits all night, and Zeke Spruill had a rough five innings (seven hits, five runs, three earned, a HR allowed).
Danville: Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg just keeps on keeping on, as he went 2-for-4 again to lower his average to .543 on the year. A couple of late-round pitchers pitched well in this game; Jeff Lorick, a 20th rounder out of UVA, struck out six in four innings and Tyrelle Harris, the 19th-round pick out of the University of Tennessee, K'd four in three innings.
GCL: It finally stops raining enough for the GCL Braves to play, so instead the team decides to make it rain homers. Alberto Odreman, who was named the Braves' hitter of the year in the Dominican Summer League last year, has come stateside to hit five homers in as many games. Seventeen-year-old bonus-baby Panamanian catcher Christian Betancourt had three hits including a homer. Last year's 15th-round pick Layton Hiller (who has good power), and this year's 8th-round pick Kyle Rose (who's more known for great speed) also added jacks in the game. Also notable is that Ernesto Mejia, who had something of a breakout year as Myrtle Beach's first baseman last year, started his rehab assignment after having offseason surgery to repair a torn ACL.
The other well-regarded signee from last year's international crop, lefty Carlos Perez, got the start and tossed three scoreless innings while striking out four and walking just one, and Aaron Northcraft, the Braves' 10th-round pick out of a California high school, who had offers from some major colleges including USC, struck out two in two perfect innings.