In a battle of last place teams, the Gwinnett Braves host the Syracuse Chiefs in a three game series.
Offensively, the G-Braves continue to struggle and recently lost Tyler Pastornicky to the major league club when Evan Gattis was placed on the disabled list. Sean Kazmar has started in place of Pastornicky at second base. Paul Janish has received the starts at shortstop. Neither player has performed well this season, despite their major league experience.
Omar Poveda will be back on the mound Saturday. Poveda, 25, has a 4-3 record with a 3.08 ERA and has been one of their most consistent pitchers. He leads the team in wins (5), strikeouts (63), innings (90.2), and starts (14).
The G-Braves bullpen has been good this year. Cory Rasmus has earned some AAA All Star potential. And, while doing well, Ryan Butcher needs to work on his control as he has issued 27 walks in 31 innings.
The Syracuse Chiefs, the AAA affiliate to the Washington Nationals, mirror the G-Braves in every offensive stat. The Chiefs have hit the second most home runs in the International League this year but it hasn’t been enough to make up for other poor offensive numbers.
Syracuse has numerous players on their roster with big league experience including 1B Chris Marrero, OF Corey Brown, OF Micah Owings, and 2B Will Rhymes. Owings, drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a pitcher, has a solid performance of late as he tries to regain entry to the major leagues (.257/.303/.447).
Syracuse will send Ryan Tatusko to the mound on Saturday. Tatusko was an 18th round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2010. He was acquired by the Nationals in 2010 in exchange for SS Cristian Guzman. Tatusko is old for the league and has never been labeled as a top prospect. But, he is pitching well this year with a 3.08 ERA and is splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. He has struck out nearly one batter per inning, but has struggled with his command while walking 5 batters per nine innings.
The Braves should look to capitalize on a taxed bullpen which has been used due to some of their starters’ inability to pitch deep into games.
KEEP AN EYE ON:
Todd Cunnigham - Cunnigham was the second round pick of the Braves 2010 draft. He worked his way through the minor league system and had a breakout year in AA Mississippi last year. He doesn’t strikeout much and has excellent speed. He is not a power hitter, so don’t expect too many home runs or doubles. Cunnigham has been scouted as a great defensive outfielder and projects to be a 4th outfielder in the majors. Cunnigham has heated up with the weather this year. He is hitting over .350 for the month and is making a case for a September call-up, if he continues his good play.