Braves Minor League Recap: Ian Anderson dominates in Augusta

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Anderson struck out five batters before rain ended his outing a bit prematurely

Ian Anderson is slowly making his return, hoping to provide a spark in the Atlanta Braves rotation. There was a lot to love about his outing in Augusta, though we still have quite a long way to go before he is a real option. In Gwinnett it was the same old, same old, with Drake Baldwin and Nacho Alvarez providing a punch in the lineup.

(40-46) Gwinnett Stripers 4, (43-42) St. Paul Saints 1

Box Score

Statcast

  • Nacho Alvarez, SS: 1-4, BB, 2 RBI, .349/.429/.581
  • Drake Baldwin, DH: 2-5, HR, .304/.433/.481
  • Eddie Rosario: 0-3, BB, .143/.250/.429
  • Taylor Widener, RP: 2 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 3 K, 6.04 ERA
  • Daysbel Hernandez, RP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2.16 ERA

You can add two more hard hit batted balls to the register for Drake Baldwin, and neither of those include the two hits he has in the game. Baldwin had the start today against a left handed pitcher, and while I have criticized Baldwin’s approach and results against lefties he has undoubtedly started to look more comfortable against them. Today against Saints starter Aaron Rozek he started off with a 107.8 mph lineout that went straight to the center fielder, then later in the game in his third look at Rozek went the opposite way for a home run off of one of Rozek’s sliders. This came after he chased and rolled over a slider in their second matchup, though Baldwin got lucky to reach on the play as the ball skipped off of the first base bag. Baldwin also had a 107.7 mph line out off of a hanging slider against righty Scott Blewett, but this game exposed some of Baldwin’s tendency to chase off of the edges. He had that weak infield single on a chase and a later ground out on a slider off of the plate, and in addition chased multiple times against Blewett’s slider in their first look but Nacho Alvarez being caught stealing wiped out that at bat. Baldwin’s approach seems to still be a work in progress at Gwinnett, with one notable development being his tendency to take until he gets a strike. Baldwin thrice took pitches in the heart of the plate for the first strike of at bats. This isn’t as much a concern as him chasing secondary offerings off of the plate, which he did five times in this game, though even with that last game included his chase rate on non-fastballs is 27.2%, which is a bit below the Triple-A median of 28.4%.

For Nacho Alvarez he did reach base twice in the game but his single was a 74.7 mph bloop hit, and the hard contact for him has been far too inconsistent. The Saints really challenged him in the zone this game for the most part, and Alvarez didn’t answer well to that with no hard hit balls. Alvarez feels like, despite his good results, he is in a bit of a transitional phase where the Braves are having him work on driving pitches in the zone more often. Sometimes his swing and a approach work, and sometimes he can get caught a bit in between his old and new approach and it leads to some weak fly balls. It’s all apart of the process and while I expect his numbers to dip over the next month or so I’m curious to see where he is once all of the changes are fully implemented. Also since I have the numbers in front of me — Alvarez’s chase rate on non fastballs is 24.1%.

It was, I guess, a well-pitched game for Gwinnett. Taylor Widener allowed five walks, the team nine, so it’s hard to really be impressed but they did allow only two hits and one run while striking out 13 batters. The most impressive pitcher on the team right now is probably Daysbel Hernandez, who once again threw a scoreless outing. The Braves have had Hernandez throwing harder lately and he averaged 98.6 mph on his fastball in this game which is well above what he was doing last year. Some of this may also be him still adding velocity since coming off of Tommy John surgery. His swing-and-miss has been a bit inconsistent as he hasn’t really had great command as his velocity has ticked up. He only had one swing-and-miss in this game, but zooming out he has a 28.4% strikeout rate in Gwinnett and over his last nine outings between Gwinnett and Atlanta has 12 strikeouts, one walk, and no earned runs allowed.

Swing and Misses

Taylor Widener – 7

Ken Giles – 6

(36-44) Mississippi Braves 1, (38-41) Biloxi Shuckers 2

Box Score

  • Keshawn Ogans, 3B: 1-3, 2B, BB, .244/.295/.289
  • Landon Harper, SP: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1.17 ERA
  • Trey Riley, RP: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 4.71 ERA
  • Patrick Halligan, RP: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2.22 ERA

The Braves got carved up by Top 100 pitcher Jacob Misiorowski, striking out ten times against him as they were held to only one run. Keshawn Ogans has been the only player to show any sort of consistency at the plate lately, and thankfully he broke a span of not having an extra base hit dating back to June 9th. His double was Mississippi’s only extra base hit in this game, and he has hit safely in six straight games and reached base in all seven games since coming off of the injured list. Ogans is slowly recovering from an awful start to the season, and hopefully more impact can come as he is hitting .308 since the start of June.

The pitching staff had to go to a bullpen game for Saturday, but the ever-reliable Landon Harper, a modern day Connor Johnstone if you will, did a wonderful job and only needed 40 pitches to get through his four scoreless innings. Harper lacks the raw stuff to really project beyond being the last pitcher in a bullpen, but he has done nothing but get outs throughout his entire professional career. Harper has walked only one Double-A batter while recording 21 strikeouts, and has a 2.80 FIP.

Austin Smith on the other hand does have the raw stuff to end up in a major league bullpen, with a live arm and a solid slider, though injuries have significantly delayed his career. He has struck out 12 batters in nine Double-A innings this season, but has unfortunately been a wreck pretty much in every other aspect. He has allowed six runs across his last two outings, and the two he allowed in this one sank him to a loss. Some of Smith’s lack of strike-throwing is due to him not being fully back into rhythm and some is due to the fact that he’s always been raw, but unfortunately we just haven’t seen the results that could point to him being a big leaguer.

Swing and Misses

Trey Riley – 6

Landon Harper – 5

Austin Smith – 4

(41-38) Rome Emperors 2, (46-34) Bowling Green Hot Rods 12

Box Score

  • EJ Exposito, SS: 2-4, RBI, .273/.345/.488
  • Sabin Ceballos, 3B: 1-4, .274/.361/.379
  • Ethan Workinger, LF: 1-4. .270/.359/.412
  • Beau Philip, SP: 1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 18.00 ERA
  • Ryan Bourassa, RP: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2.25 ERA

It’s a good thing the Emperors already have a playoff spot locked up, because a six game sweep and eight game losing streak here would probably have ensured they missed the postseason if it was a full-season affair. The pitching staff hasn’t been great of late, and that’s to be expected after losing their top four arms from the preseason roster, but really it all boils down to the offense as Rome’s lineup which hasn’t really lost talent scored a total of six runs in this six game series. It’s been an abysmal affair, with Kevin Kilpatrick Jr. at the top of the lineup hitting another slump and reaching base three times over the past six games with ten strikeouts. Sabin Ceballos has at least been consistent, with one hit each in the five games he has played, but it’s been seven games now for him without an extra base hit after he really felt like he was breaking out and about to show some power. EJ Exposito broke a five game hitless streak with his two hits in this one, though it’s also fair to mention he had totalled five walks in those prior five games.

Beau Philip was the starting pitcher for this game, and that went about how I would expect it to go. This Hot Rods lineup is incredibly talented — three guys have an OPS over .900 and both home runs Philip allowed were to guys with double digit home runs on the season. Philip has a decent sinker-slider combo but he isn’t really capable at this stage in his pitching journey of facing a lineup like this and it showed as he allowed four runs and two home runs. Ryan Bourassa was the only player to really have a good go in this game, giving Rome two scoreless innings and three strikeouts to lower his ERA on the season to 2.25. Jared Johnson missed bats at a solid rate, you can see below the ten swing-and-misses which is a ton for an outing of less than two innings. However, the command for Johnson just isn’t improving fast enough at this stage. I want to believe in him but it’s really just a case of waiting and seeing if it ever becomes good enough. He’s a major league arm if it does progress, and given his size and the time he lost in his development it wouldn’t be a surprise to just see it take longer than it does for other players.

Swing and Misses

Jared Johnson – 10

Ryan Bourassa – 6

Beau Philip – 6

(33-46) Augusta GreenJackets 6, (44-35) Columbia Fireflies 0 SUSPENDED

Box Score

  • Isaiah Drake, CF: 0-1, 2 BB, .161/.230/.262
  • Kade Kern, LF: 1-1, BB, .203/.278/.316
  • Noah Williams, RF: 1-2, HR, 4 RBI, .191/.300/.265
  • Ian Anderson, SP: 3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0.00 ERA

It was a dominant affair from Ian Anderson, and unlike the last time out you could tell he was really feeling it. Rain, much to his open dismay, ended the outing a bit early for Anderson, but he was already at 47 pitches so there probably wasn’t but a batter or two before he was going to be pulled anyways. Anderson facing these Single-A hitters went exactly how it should have, as none of them knew what to do with his slider and changeup and he mowed through the lineup with relative ease. The command wasn’t great, but wasn’t any worse than what he was doing when he was having success at the major league level, and it was a clear step up from his last start. He also had a bit more juice on his fastball, starting the game sitting around 93 before dropping down to 92 the rest of the start. I don’t think Anderson will be a real option for Atlanta until he recovers his velocity, but it does seem like he’s slowly finding his strength and stamina again. Days like this where the curveball is sharp and the changeup is fading are encouraging to the idea that he can get back to the guy who was once a rookie of the year favorite and threw five no-hit innings in the World Series.

It was a rare offensive outburst from Augusta, and it sucks to see it cut short by rain. Most of the runs came off of the bat of Noah Williams, who took an inside fastball and turned on it for a grand slam in the third innings. Williams has seen his strikeout rate ticking up a bit, but I like a lot of what I’ve seen from him. His swing has some hitches and awkwardness that needs a bit of work, but Williams has above average bat speed and does a good job of finding the barrel. I think power comes in time with him, but he’s going to be a project and like most projects there isn’t a high likelihood of success. Still, betting on that bat speed is quite enticing. Williams seems a bit impatient on secondaries out of the zone, shocking for a Single-A player I know, so there is a lot to clean up here and I don’t think it will be a rapid or sudden ascent. Isaiah Drake drew a couple of walks and stole a couple of bases, and could be a good model for where Williams’s development could go. He’s not at Drake’s talent level, though I do like his swing a bit more from a power production perspective, and it’s been a steady effort to have Drake lay off of those sliders below the zone. Drake has done well at that and it’s why we’ve seen the dip in strikeouts from him.

Swing and Misses

Ian Anderson – 13

(14-31) FCL Braves 8, (28-17) FCL Rays 7

Box Score

  • Luis Guanipa, CF: 0-5, .277/.333/.362
  • John Gil, SS: 4-5, RBI, .276/.377/.378
  • Junior Garcia, LF: 3-5, 2B, 2 RBI, .281/.393/.421
  • David Rodriguez, SP: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 6.17 ERA

Luis Guanipa has been rough lately, and his numbers have taken a huge tumble. The main positive is that he’s still not striking out much, and with the small sample of games he played all it will take is one or two good ones for him to suddenly be looking great again. Perhaps it could turn out like it has for John Gil, who has so far developed exactly we hoped after a short struggle in the middle of the year. Gil broke out with four hits in this game, and while the power still hasn’t gotten to the point I think Gil could get to there is no worries to be had with a guy who has 10 walks and only four strikeouts over his past 60 plate appearances. Gil has a .994 OPS in that time frame, and I think he’s going to get the call to Augusta when the FCL season ends in three weeks. Also have to take note of Luis Parababire, who has a 1.030 OPS, 17 walks to 11 strikeouts, and 10 doubles in 18 games.

(6-15) DSL Braves 10, (14-10) DSL Brewers (2) 11

Box Score

  • Carlos Monteverde, 1B-RF: 2-5, 2B, RBI, .284/.430/.373
  • Juan Espinal, DH: 1-4, RBI, .200/.369/.340
  • Jose Pineda, SP: 0.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 11.00 ERA

This was a DSL special, with the Braves issuing 12 walks and relying on ten walks and three errors to come up with 10 runs on their end. Carlos Monteverde is staying hot at the plate, but otherwise this isn’t a particularly deep lineup and it’s a very strikeout-prone one. They combined for 16 strikeouts with everyone in the lineup except nine hitter Joan Acevedo having at least one. Acevedo doesn’t have great numbers this season, drawing few walks and hitting for only one extra base hit, but the 17 year old has largely kept his strikeout rate in check with it sitting at 22%.

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Title: Braves Minor League Recap: Ian Anderson dominates in Augusta
Author: Garrett Spain

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