25 Jun

shout-out to pitching

Most of the highly rated prospects on the Mississippi Braves’ roster are position players. But the Double-A team’s rise to the top of their division can be attributed more to the arms than the bats. The M-Braves have won 19 of 25 to reach 27-18 on the season. Last in the Double-A South in hitting (.211) and next-to-last in runs, they have the best staff ERA in the league at 3.30. Opponents are hitting just .216 against them – lowest in the league – and have a league-low 20 homers in 45 games. There is some power in the M-Braves’ lineup, and they hit three home runs in Thursday night’s 6-2 win over Tennessee at Trustmark Park. But the pitching rates a shout-out, as well. Spencer Strider, Atlanta’s No. 20 prospect (with a bullet), made his Double-A debut and yielded two runs in 4 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts. He has a 1.82 ERA and 64 punchouts in 34 2/3 innings over three levels. The 2020 fourth-round pick from Clemson was followed to the bump by Kurt Hoekstra, Brooks Wilson and Brandon White, who combined to allow just two hits and fan six over the final 4 1/3. White has emerged as a reliable closer with seven saves and a 1.69 ERA. Hoekstra (3.38), Wilson (1.71), Josh Graham (2.33) and Troy Bacon (1.93) have been effective out of the pen. Bacon had a rare immaculate inning (three K’s on nine pitches) in Tuesday’s game. Nolan Kingham, a former Texas star, has emerged as the ace among M-Braves starters. The right-hander tossed 7 1/3 shutout innings Wednesday to improve to 5-1 with a 2.29 ERA. Opening day starter Hayden Deal, a lefty who’ll go tonight at the TeePee, is 1-2 with a 3.28 and has yet to allow a home run. Odalvi Javier is 3-1, 2.78 and A.J. Puckett 1-2, 2.59. The highest-rated pitching prospect on the roster is No. 14 Viktor Vodnik (0-1, 2.51), but he is currently on the injured list. If it’s true that good pitching beats good hitting, the 2021 M-Braves are in good shape.

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