First, here are the players that were released in the last week: Barbaro Canizares, Cole Miles, Brent Clevlen, Beau Torbert, Chris Garcia, Chris Curley, Yasser Gomez and David Francis.
Now let’s look at the top two affiliates.
The Gwinnett rotation will start with Julio Teheran, considered the best pitching prospect in baseball. Teheran had only seven starts in Double-A late last season, but the Braves are convinced he needs to be pushed to the International League. It shows you how close the Braves believe he is to being ready for the major leagues.
Rodrigo Lopez, the veteran signed back in January, will also be a Gwinnett starter. The Braves are still trying to trade Lopez to a major league team needing a starter at the back end of the rotation. For now, he’ll be on standby in case he’s needed in Atlanta and simply wait to be traded.
Todd Redmond, a veteran in Gwinnett, will also start. He made 28 starts there last season. Lefty Yohan Flande, who was signed as a six-year minor league free agent this winter, will be in the rotation. He made 27 starts for Double-A Reading last season.
Jacob Thompson will be a starter. The Braves are anxious to see what Thompson can do in Gwinnett. Last season in the second half in Mississippi Thompson had a 2.38 ERA in nine starts. Thompson is a pitcher that seems to have turned the corner a bit, so the Braves can’t wait to see how he’ll be tested in AAA.
Of course, for now, Jair Jurrjens will get a rehab start. The situation with Jurrjens and Mike Minor, who was scheduled to start in Gwinnett, is fluid. It all depends on Jurrjens’ health.
The Gwinnett bullpen will be deep and talented. Jairo Asencio, who was known as Luis Valdes, was the closer for Gwinnett two years ago and had 27 saves. He’ll get more chances this season. But expect the Braves to also test Juan Abreu, who has taken more steps forward than almost any other pitcher in the farm system. Abreu was impressive in big league camp, showing off his mid-90s fastball and good curveball.
Cory Gearrin, now on the 40-man, will also be in the Gwinnett bullpen, with Stephen Marek, Anthony Varvaro, Scott Proctor and Jose Lugo. Varvaro was plucked off waivers from the Mariners in the offseason. Proctor lost out the final bullpen spot to Cristhian Martinez, but the Braves re-signed him to a minor league deal. And Lugo is a lefty who came from the Twins’ system late in the offseason. He missed much of the spring with visa issues, but the Braves saw enough of him late in camp to be convinced he can help in Gwinnett.
The Braves will eventually get Tim Gustafson to Gwinnett. For now, he’ll be on the Danville roster and participate in extended spring training. Erik Cordier is rehabbing his elbow. He hopes to be back in late May. And Jay Sborz, a former Detroit farmhand, is having shoulder issues and is on the disabled list.
Wilkin Ramirez and J.C. Boscan will split the catching duties. Castillo hit .256 for Louisville in the International League last season, while Boscan got his first taste of the big leagues in Atlanta.
The Gwinnett infield will have a lot of versatility. Expect Joe Mather to get the majority of playing time now that Barbaro Canizares has been released. Mather will also play some at third and in the outfield. The Braves still believe he can help at some point in Atlanta this season.
Ed Lucas could see some time all over the field, but he might get significant at bats as the second baseman. Diory Hernandez will be the main shortstop. Shawn Bowman will see time at third base. Bowman can also play first base. Dan Nelson and Mauro Gomez will also get infield time.
The outfield will feature Jordan Schafer in center and Wilkin Ramirez in right. Willie Cabrera and Jose Constanza will split time in left.
Now to Double-A, where the rotation will include Randall Delgado, J.J. Hoover, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens and Kenshin Kawakami. The first three are three of Atlanta’s top pitching prospects, and the Braves believe Clemens has the potential to join that category very soon with a good year.
Kawakami will get regular starts in Mississippi. For now, the Braves seem to be stuck with the Japanese right-hander, who has shown no interest in returning to Japan.
Billy Bulloch, who was acquired from the Twins for Scott Diamond last week, will close in Mississippi. He had 27 saves last season between High-A and Double-A for the Twins.
The Braves will also give Benny Pruneda a few chances, as he impressed in spring training. The bullpen will be rounded out by Jaye Chapman, Michael Broadway, Luis Avilan, Rowdy Hardy and Richard Sullivan.
Jesus Sucre and Matt Kennelly will be the catchers. Sucre returns to Double-A after hitting .297 in 38 games there last year. Kennelly hit .226 in Myrtle Beach last season with seven home runs.
First base in Mississippi will be split between Ernesto Mejia and Gerardo Rodriguez. Mejia is back with the Braves after playing in the Royals’ system for a few seasons. Jordan Kreke will play second base. He split last season between Rome and Myrtle Beach.
The Braves will closely watch Tyler Pastornicky as Mississippi’s starting shortstop. He was acquired in the Alex Gonzalez/Yunel Escobar trade last July. Donell Linares returns to Mississippi after hitting .240 with 11 home runs there last season. The Braves signed C.J. Retherford last week. He‘s a veteran Southern League utility man who can play second and third base.
Cory Harrilchak will play right field for M-Braves. Antoan Richardson will mainly play center field, with Gavin Dickey and Marcus Lemon splitting time in left field.
Mycal Jones is on the disabled list with a foot problem. Doctors are still trying to figure out his exact injury. Also, Brett Butts, who had Tommy John surgery last July, should be back in midseason.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WPLA Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, GA and The Atlanta Baseball Talk Show. Shanks writes columns for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.