Minor league baseball is officially back. Lets look at who will lineup for the Mississippi Braves to start 2022.
With the Gwinnett Stripers first game of the season in the books, Atlanta Braves minor league baseball is officially back underway. While we have to wait a bit longer for the rest of the affiliates to get going (Triple-A got an early start this year), we do have all of the initial rosters for all of the Braves’ minor league squads. There is certainly less depth than there used to be in the minors for Atlanta, each level does have at least a few interesting prospects and the best squad overall may very well be the Double-A Mississippi Braves. Below you will find a brief preview of what to expect from Mississippi to start the 2022 season.
And last, but not least…
Here is your Mississippi Braves Opening Day Roster!
— Mississippi Braves (@mbraves) April 4, 2022
Mississippi’s rotation in headlined by Freddy Tarnok and Jared Shuster. Tarnok saw his stock rise sharply last season after taking a decent bit of time to develop in the lower levels of the minor leagues. His fastball sits in the mid-90’s and he now possesses two breaking balls as he added a slider to his arsenal. Most importantly, he is commanding all of his pitches in the zone now which has brought the walk rate down and has forced batters to not spit on as many non-competitive pitches. Shuster, on the other hand, finds himself having more questions about his upside and future after the 2021 season. His changeup is the best one in the system, but his fastball is a middling low 90’s offering which could be a concern going forward. While his slider is better than it was in college, the overall package is one that seems to have a very limited ceiling if he cannot find a way to get his fastball to play up.
Mississippi also has Darius Vines in the rotation who is another guy whose fastball is a question mark going into the 2022, but whose secondaries are very intriguing. Both his slider and changeup project as at least above average and they both play up because of his command of them. If his fastball can either consistently gain a tick of velocity or become more deceptive in some way, his stock could rise in a hurry. Alan Rangel finally made his way out of the Rome Braves (where we assume that he had a permanent residence in the stadium somewhere) with a really strong 2021 season. After posting a 3.87 ERA (including a seven game stint with Mississippi towards the end of the year) with 136 strikeouts and 26 walks in 104.2 innings of work, Rangel impressed the Braves enough to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft and add him to the 40 man roster.
Amongst the relievers, we have Indigo Diaz who was incredibly impressive for most of the 2021 season, in particular during his time at Rome. The latter portion of the season in Mississippi as well as his time in the Arizona Fall League and in spring training this year was…much less impressive. Jake Higginbotham turned some heads at camp this spring as he looks to get a healthy season under his belt. Hayden Deal is an interesting lefty that appears to be being converted from a starter to relief with a good cutter that helps neutralize opposing righties. Troy Bacon had stretches last season where he was among Mississippi’s best relievers, but he was inconsistent overall.
A couple of the Braves’ top position player prospects will start the season at Double-A with top overall prospect Michael Harris leading the way. He has impressed scouts and coaches alike at each stop along the way with his feel for hitting as well as his defensive acumen in the outfield. The one thing he needs to show this season is that his substantial raw power can play in games more, which is easier said than done in Mississippi’s pitcher friendly home ballpark.
Jesse Franklin V will also start the season at Double-A and for June and July last season, he looked like Babe Ruth. However, he was decidedly more pedestrian outside of that stretch, so it will be interesting to see if he can produce on a consistent basis now that he finally got a healthy full season under his belt in 2021. Joining him from 2021’s Rome squad is Logan Brown who is a very capable backstop who is coming off a less than stellar offensive season (.568 OPS) last year.
There are plenty of holdovers from Mississippi’s championship squad as Drew Lugbauer, Trey Harris, and CJ Alexander all return to Double-A this season. Lugbauer’s raw power has always been evident as a pro, but he was a key component for Mississippi’s offense last year as he posted a sneaky .784 OPS last season even with lingering concern about his hit tool. Trey Harris went from Braves Minor League Player of the Year to a very middling offensive season in 2021. At 26 years old, he will need to get things sorted back out reasonably quickly. CJ Alexander was impressive at third base defensively and continues to have some pop, but he also struck out a third of the time at Double-A while posting a .197 batting average last season which was less great.