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2010 Preview: Mississippi Braves

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Sure the season has already started. But who really cares? The M-Braves capitalized on a Southern League championship in 2008 by putting a middling team on the field in 2009 and not doing a whole lot of anything. This season's team has some bright spots, however. Lets kick things off right away with the starting rotation, which will be led by last year's first round pick, Mike Minor (BH #5). Minor is apparently going to be rocketing through the system, as he's skipped Myrtle Beach entirely after spending his August in Rome. I'm not arguing this...he showed enough in Rome that should have told the Braves brass that he can move at an accelerated rate, and like most college pitchers, the Braves are throwing him right into the fire. Next in the rotation is Kyle Cofield, the wonderous man who walks as many as he strikes out. It could be a rough time for the Braves when he's in there. Scott Diamond (BH #22), who we briefly mentioned along with Cofield earlier this week as possibly being in the Gwinnett rotation, instead spends his year in Pearl for the second straight year. I don't know what he really needs to prove, aside from maybe getting his control in hand a little more. Groundball machine Richard Sullivan also gets time in Mississippi, after getting 3 starts there in 2009. He's moved through the system very quickly, and will only be 23 in 4 days. He could be a future major leaguer coming out of the bullpen as a DP specialist...think Kevin Gryboski. Finally, theres a completely and fully healthy Erik Cordier, who will look to get his control fully harnessed and become a solid middle of the road starter. Like Gwinnett's, which I looked at earlier this week, Mississippi has a solid bullpen. Brandon Beachy has good control and decent strikeout power for the M-Braves, while Michael Broadway only has the strikeouts and not the control. Brett Butts (BH #37) is a lot like Broadway, but with some vicious offspeed pitches...thing is, his location isn't the greatest and his pitches have a tendency to get away from him a little bit. Lee Hyde (BH #19) had an outside shot of getting a slot in the major league Braves bullpen this spring, but will instead take his insane strikeout power and great control to Mississippi this year to get improve even more, with a callup to Gwinnett not just possible, but likely if he's able to hold steady or improve this season. And then there's Stephen Marek, trying to make Braves fans feel a tad bit less bad about trading Mark Teixeira...its been a season and a half, and Marek has inspired confidence in absolutely no one, getting the hell beaten out of him last season in Gwinnett and Mississippi. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention strikeout phenom Tommy Palica (BH #23), who looks to capitalize on finishing last season in Mississippi and earn a spot in Gwinnett later in the year. If he get can his control...under control (ugh, pun) a little more, a slot in Gwinnett is a certainty in 2010. Finally, there's big Jacob Thompson, who may also serve as a starter or a long reliever this season for the M-Braves. If he does get a slot in the rotation, he'd probably take starts away from Cordier due to his control problems. Or hell, maybe a 6 man rotation. They do stuff like that in the minors. The offense for Mississippi is erm...not nearly as prospect-laden as its pitching staff. Only one of the 13 position players on the roster is a member of the BravesHeart Top 40. The starting catcher for the Braves is Orlando Mercado, signed this offseason from the Diamondbacks organization. He's actually a pretty good hitter, which is shocking for a catcher in this organization. His backup is light hitting Benji Johnson, who spent time at 3 levels last season, including Gwinnett. Also on the roster, but currently disabled, is Chris Anderson, who only got 40 at bats this season, at 4 levels, from Danville to Mississippi. I'll give him some love for spending time at 4 levels in one year, including a short season league...thats dedication to your craft. Hat tip to you, sir. The M-Braves infield is a wasteland of former prospects and offseason signees. In fact, only 2 players, Donnell Linares and Travis Jones, spent 2009 in the Braves organization. Jones is now a backup infielder for Mississippi, while Linares is the starter at third base. Recent Dodger farmhand Juan Gonzalez is the shortstop for the M-Braves, while the big-hitting former Ranger Mauro Gomez is the first baseman. Luis Bolivar, who possesses fantastic speed, is the second baseman. And then there's the former Yankee stud Eric Duncan coming off the bench for the M-Braves. None of these players are classic prospects, ranging in age from 24 to 29. No one here is going to be making a push for the bigs anytime soon, and reinforces the point I made this offseason in my SWOT Analysis about the Braves lack of stud position player prospects at the higher levels of the organization. And then we get to the outfield, home of Cody Johnson (BH #6), who is still only 21 and progressing through the Braves system despite striking out in something like 35 or 40% of his at bats. Its do or die time for Cody here in Mississippi, because I don't think the Braves would promote him to Gwinnett if he strikes out another 160 times this year. I'd love for him to succeed, because he is a very intriguing prospect, but if he can't get the strikeouts under control...its not looking very likely, unfortunately. Starting alongside Cody in the outfield is Concepcion Rodriguez, he of the 50% stolen base rate...just at tip, if you're caught as many times as you're successful in a sample size larger than 10, you should probably not attempt to steal any bases. Just some friendly advice. Cody has a little bit of offensive help in the former of (very) recent signee Alex Romero, who spent his time split between the major league Diamondbacks and AAA Reno Aces last year. Romero had a .348 average and walked more than he struck out last season for Reno, so he could be a nice force to give Johnson some help on this menial offense. The backup outfielder for Mississippi is Willie Cabrera, repeating at Mississippi. After looking at the Mississippi roster, its apparently that they're not going to beat you with offense. Its going to have to be with pitching. Gomez, Johnson, and Romero are the only 3 above average regulars on the roster, and 2 of them aren't prospects. If you're going to a M-Braves game to scout talent, you can go ahead and pay more attention when a pitcher is on the hill than when a hitter is in the box. It could all be worth it though, to see Cody Johnson hit a 500 foot bomb...or to watch him strike out in spectacular fashion. I'd love to focus on the pitching though...Mike Minor is always worth watching, and there are a few other decent to great prospects on the staff. I'm interested to see if Mississippi is indeed able to succeed in this way.

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