When a minor league double-header happens on a weekend it’s time to make the 90 minute drive from Atlanta to Rome and catch all the prospects I can. It doesn’t happen often, so I have to take advantage. And when I only have to pay $12 to sit right behind the plate (see photo above) and see two games, it’s a great deal. There were a ton of players I wanted to see on the Rome Braves, and with two lineups there was a good chance I’d get to see them all.
The guy I was most excited to see for the first time was Josh Elander. The Braves took him in the sixth round last year, and was considered by some to have a first round bat, but because of questionable defense at catcher his draft stock fell. The Braves have since moved him to left field and will let his bat speak for itself… and it has been. Elander has been raking all season.
Elander is built like a catcher and his wide shoulders resemble those of a running back. And like a running back, he’s visibly athletic enough to play a good outfield, and his arm has plenty in it. His build and profile remind me of old Mets outfielder Kevin McReynolds.
Elander has a closed stance at the plate, with his front foot closer to the plate than his back foot and touching the chalk of the batters box (see photo on right). He steps away from the plate when he strides. This approach seems to allow Elander to easily take the ball to the opposite field while still retaining the ability to pull the ball.
I really like Elander, though it’s not hard to like a good hitter in a system like the Braves that is starved of good hitting prospects. Right now he’s in the back half of the top-10 on my Braves top-prospect list (which will be out at the All-Star break).
The next two guys I really want to point out are pitchers Alex Wilson and Wes Parsons. First Wilson, who was a 15th-round selection in last year’s draft out of Wofford. This being draft time it’s important to remember that Wilson did not seem to be on anyone’s radar last year and was not even Wofford’s closer. But the Braves knew about him and seemed to have guessed right.
Wilson has an easy fastball in the low-90s which appears much faster because he turns his back to the plate in his windup, making it very hard for batters to pick up. This ability for Wilson to get his fastball on hitters quickly makes his off-speed pitches even more effective. Opposing batters are hitting just .155 off him this year, and he helps himself by not walking a lot of batters. I’ll be keeping a close eye on him, as he has the ability to move quickly through the system.
Wes Parsons was a non-drafted free agent that the Braves signed last year. He got off to a rough start in his first two starts this year, but has settled down in his last two. He has a high and slow leg kick, but throws in the low 90s and maintains that velocity all game. He also seemed to throw a heavy slider that was tough to hit. There seems to be room on his frame to bulk up, so I wonder if another year in the Braves system will see him add more velocity.
Shae Simmons got to close out the second game, and I was mighty impressed with him. He has a high leg kick that may need some refinement as baserunners will be able to take advantage, but the velocity was there in the mid-90s with what looked like a killer change.
I also came away with improved opinions of several other guys. Eric Garcia at shortstop and second looks like the prototypical small middle infield guy that somehow finds his way up the organizational ladder. He seems to do everything well. Trenton Moses was impressive at the plate with a well stroked home run to the right of the batters eye. He’s blistering the ball since joining Rome.
Levi Hyams was taller than I thought. His build reminds me of Brandon Hicks. Blake Brown has a very athletic body, but his swing seems to drag through the zone, hence his propensity to strike out. I continue to be nonplussed by Carlos Franco and Felix Marte. Jose Peraza has been battling an injury, and looked like he was dragging. Frank Lafreniere might have some potential, but feels like an organizational arm at this point. No one else really stood out or left an impression.
I had a good time in Rome, as I always do. It’s a great stadium to visit. Great BBQ (see pic on left), great seats, and the people there are all very friendly. It’s an easy 90 minute drive from Atlanta and well worth seeing a game there.
I’m going to try and do these game reports each time I visit the Braves minor league teams.