Ex-Braves prospect Matt Lipka working his way back through the system

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A former Atlanta Braves first-round pick took a big step toward regaining his prospect status in one night.

Center fielder Matt Lipka, playing for the Braves Class-A Advanced Lynchburg Hillcats, hit for the cycle Thursday as part of a 15-8 win over Winston-Salem.

Lipka went 4 for 5 with five RBI. He secured the cycle with a single in the ninth inning.

Lipka, drafted 35th overall by the Braves in 2010, has struggled as a professional, combining to hit .258 with a .317 on-base percentage in four minor league seasons. He suffered a complete tear of his right hamstring last season, limiting him to 51 games.

The athletic shortstop-turned-outfielder, who turned down a football scholarship at Alabama, returned to Lynchburg for 2013, where he continues to work his way back to a top-10 prospect in the Braves system. He entered the season ranked 14th in the system by Baseball America.

STRIKEOUT STUFF: Charleston’s Rafael De Paula is quickly making a name for himself in the New York Yankees farm system.

De Paula, a 2012 Dominican Republic signing, entered the weekend with 33 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs. De Paula has drawn praise for his pitchers and its movement.

He reportedly has a mid-90s fastball with a hard breaking ball and promising changeup.

“De Paula really impressed me. All three of his pitches have MLB-caliber movement, especially his slider,” said Nathaniel Stoltz, contributor to Beyondtheboxscore.com and Big Leagues Magazine. “It’s easy to see how he’s overpowering SAL lineups.”

De Paula reached double digits in strikeouts in two of his first four starts. He struck out 11 in only 41/3 innings against Greenville in his first start April 6, and he fanned 10 in five innings against a strong Hickory lineup April 21.

De Paula received a one-year suspension from Major League Baseball in 2009 for incorrect birthdates and names, and he worked out with the Yankees in the Dominican Republic until MLB approved his signing last year.

DAHL RETURNS: After being reassigned to extended spring training in what appeared to be a disciplinary move, Colorado Rockies first-rounder David Dahl was assigned back to Asheville on Friday.

Dahl, a 2012 10th overall pick, played the first game of the season for Asheville before being demoted. Troy Renck of The Denver Post reported at the time that it appeared to be a “disciplinary move,” citing Jeff Bridich, Rockies senior director of player development, as saying “it had nothing to do with his play in Asheville.”

The move drew attention as Dahl is ranked as one of the top prospects in the South Atlantic League, including No. 2 in the Rockies system by Baseball America.

The outfielder hit .379 with 22 doubles, 10 triples and nine home runs in 67 games for Grand Junction in the Pioneer League last season. He profiles as a potential five-tool player.


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