May 13 - 7:05 p.m.
Rome Braves (20-14)
RHP Frank Lafreniere (33 IP, 3.82 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 15.7 K%, 8.6 BB%, .324 BABIP)
Augusta GreenJackets (20-15)
RHP Martin Agosta (31.1 IP, 2.01 ERA, 2.50 FIP, 35.4 K%, 10.2 BB%, .303 BABIP)
Lafreniere was drafted three times, each time in a lower round than the last. He was originally popped by the Giants in 2008 out of a college in Canada, then by the Phillies the next year out of the same school. He transferred to a college in Florida and finally signed in the 47th round in 2010 by the Braves.
Lafreniere is a tall, slim right-hander, but his strikeout totals haven't matched his projection. He's more of a ground ball guy, recording rates above 50 percent each year as a pro. Not surprisingly, his BABIP has been pretty high so far in his career, as poor defenders have yet to be weeded out in the lower levels. But he does have a slick shortstop behind him in Jose Peraza.
The GreenJackets are looking for another solid performance from Agosta, who has the sixth-best FIP and second-best strikeout rate in the South Atlantic League. Agosta allowed one run on three hits in 5.1 innings against Asheville last time out, setting a career high with 10 strikeouts. He has eight strikeouts or more in each of his past three starts.
Rome Braves ranked in the top 30 of the Atlanta Braves system by Baseball America:
RHP Lucas Sims (5)
RHP Mauricio Cabrera (6)
SS Jose Peraza (10)
OF Josh Elander (19)
3B Carlos Franco (21)
LHP Carlos Perez (28)
Sims was figured to be the prize of Rome this season, but things started slowly for the 2012 first-round pick out of Brookwood High School in Georgia. He has pitched the entire season out of the bullpen to date, working on control and command while limiting the workload on his arm.
Sims is a premium athlete for the position, a big draw for the Braves as they returned to the local high school roots for their first pick. He has a plus fastball that can run up to 95 with life up in the zone. His curveball is a plus-potential pitch and his changeup can become average to above average once he gains command of it. The drawback of Sims right now is the usual with young pitchers: command. He has trouble repeating his delivery and finding his release point, and that leads to spotty command at times. He has a tendency to miss up and away when he's fighting his mechanics.
The Braves have let Cabrera loose in the rotation, throwing bullets in the mid-to-high-90s with boring action. He pairs that with a slurvy offering that has potential as a plus pitch, but is a ways away. He has an advanced feel for a changeup, which currently profiles as plus potential. The fact that Cabrera has a feel for a changeup is a positive sign as a prospect with a hard fastball, but he must gain a feel for pitching and hitting his spots if he wants to succeed as a starter. Cabrera has a 3.19 ERA but has walked 27 to 21 strikeouts.
I've heard numerous positive reports on Peraza already this season. Baseball America boldly claimed he has a higher ceiling than any shortstop in the Braves system, including Andrelton Simmons. He has plus-plus speed and a good hit tool to utilize it. His power has yet to play in pro ball, and there are concerns his bat could play empty in the higher levels. As a result, drawing walks should be a necessity. Peraza's glove is above average with the potential for plus, displaying solid range and footwork. He has a plus arm. Despite hitting just .245 entering the series, Peraza's tools have caused scouts and writers to gush.
The Braves likely selected Elander with the notion that he would be moved from catcher soon. His defensive skills behind the plate were below average, even at TCU, and it didn't take long for him to find a home in a corner outfield spot. Elander has a good swing from a sturdy frame, and he shows the ability for in-game above-average power. Elander is also an average runner and good athlete, which would have meant more as a catcher, but is nice to have, nonetheless.