Season in Review: Mississippi Braves
Cody Johnson, known for being a strikeout king who could also hit the ball a long way. Johnson struggled mightily in 2010, and finished up the year in Myrtle Beach, which is where he played most of 2009. Not the best career path, but for a player with as many holes in his swing as Johnson has, it was a necessary step. For the season over the 3 levels he played at (including a brief demotion to the GCL), his line was .212/.289/.398. A few positives to take out of this season for Cody...after his demotion to Myrtle Beach, he managed to cut his strikeout rate from an absurd 48.9% (which is absolutely stupefying to look at) to a more manageable 31.9%. His walk rate remained steady, from 9.7% with Mississippi to 9.9% with Myrtle Beach. He can survive with a strikeout rate resembling the one he had in Myrtle Beach. He can't survive striking out nearly 50% of the time, though. The .241 ISO he posted at Myrtle Beach is a lot more like the Cody Johnson that has been hyped since being drafted back in 2006. I assume he'll try again at Mississippi in 2011 and try to finally put it all together.
Mississippi's best hitter was not Johnson, to the shock of many. It was in fact 24 year old Willie Cabrera, who broke through in his second full season in AA. Including a week-long stint in Gwinnett, Cabrera's overall season line was .298/.359/.439. Not terribly sexy, but not bad by any means. Cabrera showed a knack for making contact, striking out only 42 times in 392 at bats. The 30 walks are a little low, though. Cabrera showed great doubles power, mashing 38 on the season, but only homered 5 times, good for a .141 ISO. He's not the most exciting prospect in the world, but Cabrera reminds me a little bit of Matt Young, another guy who puts up solid albeit unspectacular numbers.
A guy that captured my attention this year, and I'm really not sure why, is Cuban signee Yasser Gomez. Let me start by saying that Gomez is not a prospect by any stretch of the imagination: he's 30 years old. But for a guy fresh out of Cuba who only played in 38 games this season, he did some very odd things to catch my eye. First off, in those 38 games and 127 at bats, Gomez walked 19 games and only struck out 9 times. That is a K rate of 7.1% with a walk rate of 13.0%...two absolutely amazing numbers, even if you're a 30 year old in AA. But then, there was something else. In those 38 games, Gomez only had 3 extra base hits, all doubles. That gave him an ISO of only .023, the lowest mark I can ever recall seeing anywhere. I love the first 2 numbers in his stat line...its the third one that makes me shudder. .323! .411!.346? What the hell? So very random and bizarre. But yet, I'll continue to follow Gomez. His plate discipline astounds me.
Orlando Mercado was a midseason all-star for the M-Braves, and actually...he replicated a lot of what Gomez did. In his 291 at bats between Mississippi and Gwinnett, Mercado put together an underwhelming line of .265/.355/.306, for a Gomez-esque (but still much better...) .041 ISO. Mercado walked more than he struck out, 42 times to 39 on the season. This isn't some new skill from him either. Going back to 2005, he's walked more than he struck out in every year except for 2005, when the marks were even. He's organizational depth at catcher. But Mercado is a good piece of depth to have. Players who don't strike out a lot and walk a lot are always fun little toys to have around. Maybe his skills can rub off on some other, younger players.
Like Jesus Sucre, maybe. Sucre played terribly for Myrtle Beach during the first half of the 2010 season, earned a promotion to Mississippi, and began to hit. What he didn't do was walk: in 336 at bats, he walked 8 times, including just once after being promoted to Mississippi in June. Sucre doesn't strike out a ton at least, only K'ing 43 times in 336 at bats. He hit with a little bit of pop too, posting a .128 ISO on the season. Sucre is only 22, so perhaps the patience will come on a little bit with age. Its refreshing to see a young catcher holding his own at AA, but good god, he's not going to be going anywhere if he doesn't learn how to walk once in awhile. Once every 2 weeks would be an improvement.
Acquired from Toronto in the Yunel Escobar trade, Tyler Pastornicky was promoted to Mississippi from the Florida State League after his acquisition in July. He played the season as a 20 year old, and the fact that he didn't turtle up in a ball and cry impressed me. For the season, in both Dunedin and Mississippi, his line was .257/.343/.373, but he struggled a little upon joining his new team with a .619 OPS in July. Tyler managed to get back on track and finish the year strong, and had himself a solid little season. Pastornicky showed a really good command of the strike zone, walking at a 11.6% rate and striking out 16.9% of the time...not terrible at all, especially for a 20 year old. He also showed great speed on the basepaths, going 35/44 on stolen base attempts. I'd imagine he spends 2011 in Gwinnett...a huge step up for him as a 21 year old. Mycal Jones is breathing down his neck on the organizational ladder.
After losing Ernesto Meija to the Royals during the offseason, the Braves went and signed a player who would essentially be his replacement in 2010: Mauro Gomez. Gomez, despite not really being a prospect, hit pretty well and made the signing look decent enough since there really isn't an abundance of first base prospects in the organization past Freddie Freeman. His line was .281/.349/.471, and I'd be going crazy if he were 4 years younger. But since Gomez turned 26 as the season ended, I'm not terribly excited about it. He had himself a good year, and is a nice piece of organizational depth.
Alright, here we go. Time for the meat and potatoes of this entry, and the part you've all been waiting for...a look at the vaunted duo who finished the year with the Mississippi Braves pitching staff. We'll start with the more heralded one, the pitcher who's a top 5 pitching prospect in baseball, the 19 year old Colombian sensation, Julio Teheran. Teheran started the year in Rome, with people all across the globe wondering how he'd do in his first full season. What Teheran did was further cement his reputation as an absolute stud prospect. He threw 142 2/3 innings to put questions about his durability to bed. In his 142 2/3 innings, Teheran allowed a .208 batting average while giving up only 9 homers, 40 walks, and striking out 159 hitters. Did I mention he did this as a 19 year old? Teheran actually struggled after his promotion to Mississippi, walking 17 and striking out only 38 in 40 innings. But the season was overall a success. His 2.59 ERA nearly matched his 2.63 FIP. It was an amazing year for Teheran, no matter which way you slice it. He'll go into 2011 as the Braves #1 or #2 prospect on every prospect list you're going to see.
And now the other half of the dynamic duo. Not as good as Teheran, but oozing with just as much potential...Randall Delgado. Delgado started 2010 in Myrtle Beach, and made the jump to Mississippi at the end of July, the same time as Teheran. He threw more innings, 161, than Julio did, while giving up the same amount of homers, 9. Delgado walked (52) and struck out (162) more hitters than Teheran did, but that is due to the increase in innings pitched. Looking at rate stats, Teheran walked 2.52 per 9 while Delgado walked 2.90, and Teheran struck out 10.03 per 9 compared to Delgado's 9.06. We're not saying anything new here, that Teheran is better than Delgado...but Delgado is pretty damn good himself. I'll take a 2.88 FIP any day of the week. Like Teheran, Delgado struggled once being promoted to Mississippi, walking 20 in 43 2/3 innings. Overall, he's a top 5 prospect in the organization and is top 100 in the game.
A guy I don't think is too great (and as a result, I have his fans and supporters jumping down my throat every time his name comes up) is Erik Cordier, the former Royals farmhand acquired in 2007 for Tony Pena Jr. Cordier would miss all of that 2007 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, and only threw 45 innings in 2008 rehabbing from it. He's thrown full seasons the past 2 years, so he should be fully recovered and we should have a good gauge of his ability by now, right? I'll say this about Cordier: his ERA may not show it, but he dramatically improved from 2009 into 2010. In 2009, he allowed 13 homers in 121 innings while walking 5.50 batters per 9 and only striking out 6.54 per 9. This season, he only allowed 3 homers on the season while walking a still bad but less so 4.76 batters per 9, and striking out a much better looking 7.33 batters per 9. Improving your rate stats that much is admirable, but they still don't look great in the long run. The 3 homers allowed though...now we're on to something. He could survive in the bullpen with a rate that low, but with the high walk rate, I don't think it would end too well. He'll probably move up the ladder and play 2011 in Gwinnett, but I'm not sure if he'll be bound for the bullpen or the rotation.
That's all I really wanna talk about with Mississippi...the rest of the pitchers who excite me finished the year in Gwinnett, and I'll talk about them when I get to that review. Should be tomorrow.
The Braves' AA club had some talent pass through it this season, but overall, it was a rough season for the M-Braves.
63-74, 4th in division
All-Stars: Willie Cabrera (midseason), Brandon Beachy (midseason), Cody Johnson (midseason), Orlando Mercado (midseason), Mauro Gomez (midseason)
I guess the right place to start with this Mississippi team is the offense, though there's not much of anything to see here. The team's most heralded hitter coming into the season was outfielder