31 Mar

make room for …

With the Mississippi Braves’ eighth season just a deep fly ball away — opening day at Trustmark Park is April 5 — it’s time to revisit the All-M-Braves team first presented in 2010 for the Double-A club’s fifth anniversary. At least two spots must change based on performances from a year ago. Ernesto Mejia’s monster season in 2011, when he batted .297 with team records for homers (26) and RBIs (99), displaces what Scott Thorman put up (.305, 15, 65) as the first baseman in 2005. And Tyler Pastornicky rates the nod at shortstop after batting .299 with six homers, 36 RBIs, 50 runs and 20 steals in 90 games last season. He was also as good or better defensively than Diory Hernandez, who batted .307 with seven homers, 59 RBIs and 22 steals in a full season in 2007. Brian McCann (.265, 6 homers, 26 RBIs in two months in 2005) still holds forth at catcher, though it’ll be interesting to see what young Christian Bethancourt does this summer. Second base still belongs to J.C. Holt, who hit .285 with 45 RBIs and 22 steals for the M-Braves’ 2008 Southern League championship club. Third base has not been a particularly hot corner for the M-Braves. Donell Linares batted .279 with seven homers and 62 RBIs last season. It’s a close call, but Wes Timmons’ overall production in 2005 was better. He was an on-base machine, hit .272 with 31 doubles, seven homers and 34 RBIs and played solid defense. In the outfield, the trio of Matt Young (.289, 10 triples, 81 runs, 42 steals in 2009), Brandon Jones (.293, 15 homers, 74 RBIs in 2007) and Jeff Francoeur (.275, 13 homers, 62 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in a half season in 2005) has not been unseated by anyone from 2010 or ’11. The All-M-Braves rotation also remains unchanged: Tommy Hanson, Todd Redmond, Chuck James, Jo-Jo Reyes and Matt Wright. And Luis Valdez (now known as Jairo Asencio) has not been eclipsed as the best closer since posting 28 saves in 2008. This all-time lineup is fluid, of course, and there are several players with the potential to break through in 2012.

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