OFR 2017 Atlanta Braves Minor League Awards

From fabulous suburban Atlanta it’s the inaugural…

Outfield Fly Rule Atlanta Braves Minor League Awards!



Our blue ribbon panel of minor league baseball experts* have toiled behind the scenes to winnow all of the Braves minor league performances and bring to you our picks for the best of the 2017 minor league season down on the Braves farm.

This was a tremendous season for the Braves farm system, as detailed in our Top 30 Prospect Review published earlier this week. But these aren’t awards for the best prospects necessarily. This is for the guys who actually did it on the field. Not all of these guys are top draft picks or bonus babies. Some of these guys just do the work for ridiculously low pay, because as the great fictional minor league manager Joe “Skip” Riggins once said, it beats working at Sears.

That said, most of these guys are prospects. Did I mention this was a tremendous season for the Braves farm system?

The players below are representing the team that he plate appearances or innings pitched with, but the panelists were considering their entire body of work for the year.

So without further rambling, here’s the very first OFR minor league awards.

* we’ve all seen some baseball games this year

Gulf Coast League Braves

Position Player of the Year

Jeffrey Ramos, OF

Ramos lead the GCL Braves in home runs and OPS while showing off a strong arm in left field. Ramos earned a promotion to Danville in August and hit .278/.308/.403 in 20 games with the D-Braves as well.

Honorable Mentions: 3B Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 2B Yunior Severino

Official Atlanta Braves Selection: Jeffrey Ramos

Starting Pitcher of the Year

Yefri Del Rosario, RHP

Del Rosario lead all GCL Braves starters in strikeouts with 29 and pitched to a 3.90 ERA. Also had two starts for the DSL Braves, giving up only 1 run in 5 innings.

Honorable Mentions: RHP Albinson Volquez, RHP Freddy Tarnok

Relief Pitcher of the Year

Miguel Jerez, LHP

Jerez lead the GCL Braves in strikeouts and second in innings pitched, with a 1.38 ERA and 0.897 WHIP. Pitched 9 innings for the DSL Braves, allowing only 1 earned run, walking 1, and striking out 10.

Honorable Mentions: RHP Troy Bacon, RHP Jackson Lourie

Official Atlanta Braves Selection: Miguel Jerez

OFR’s GCL Position Player of the Year Jeffrey Ramos (Photo: Chris Robertson/Danville Braves)


Danville Braves

Position Player of the Year

William Contreras, C

Contreras caught 35 games for the short-season Danville Braves showing solid defensive skills and leadership. Hit .290/.379/.432 and was named as the catcher to the post-season Appalachian League post-season All-Star team.

Honorable Mentions: OF Garrison Schwartz, OF Ray Michel

Official Atlanta Braves Selection: William Contreras

Starting Pitcher of the Year

Odalvi Javier, RHP

Javier lead Danville in innings pitched and was 4th in the Appalachian League. Lead the team with 13 starts, pitching to a 3.14 ERA.

Honorable Mentions: LHP Jaret Hellinger, LHP Bruce Zimmerman

Official Atlanta Braves Selection: Odalvi Javier

Relief Pitcher of the Year

Landon Hughes, RHP

Hughes lead the team with a 1.69 ERA and 0.984 WHIP in 15 appearances and 21.1 innings pitched. Lead the team with 10 games finished and 11.4 strikeouts-per-9 innings.

Honorable Mentions: LHP Zach Rice, LHP John Curtis

OFR’s Danville Starting Pitcher of the Year Odalvi Javier. (Andy Harris/Outfield Fly Rule)


Rome Braves

Position Player of the Year

Brett Cumberland, C

Cumberland lead all Braves minor league hitters with a .409 OBP between Rome and high-A Florida. Was second among Braves minor leagues in doubles. Lead the South Atlantic League in hit-by-pitch despite only playing half a season there; was second in high-by-pitch in the Florida State League, only behind teammate Ray-Patrick Didder.

Honorable Mentions: OF Cristian Pache, C/1B Drew Lugbauer

Official Atlanta Braves Selection: Cristian Pache

Starting Pitcher of the Year

Joey Wentz, LHP

Wentz was only one of five unanimous selections by the panel. Second on the Rome staff with 131.2 innings pitched and a starting 2.60 ERA; lead starters with a 2.68 FIP, only allowing a .209/.279/.281 batting line. Was third in all of the Braves minor league system with 152 strikeouts.

Honorable Mentions: RHP Bryse Wilson, LHP Tucker Davidson

Official Atlanta Braves Selection: Bryse Wilson

Relief Pitcher of the Year

Thomas Burrows, LHP

Burrows was another unanimous selection. Was second on the team with 38 appearances, pitching to a 2.16 ERA/2.49 FIP in 66.2 innings pitched. Held all hitters to a .198/.296/.247 batting line and only 1 home run. His 12.42 strikeouts-per-9 innings was second among R-Braves relievers.

Honorable Mentions: RHP Matt Custred, RHP Brandon White, LHP Jon Kennedy

OFR’s Rome Starting Pitcher of the Year Joey Wentz. (Andy Harris/Outfield Fly Rule)


Florida Fire Frogs

Position Player of the Year

Austin Riley, 3B

Riley finished third in the Braves minor league system in home runs and RBI between Florida and class AA Mississippi. Second in all AA ball with a 162 wRC+ (min 200 PAs) despite being the second youngest position player at that level.

Honorable Mentions: C Alex Jackson, OF Tyler Neslony

Official Atlanta Braves Selection: Alex Jackson

Starting Pitcher of the Year

Touki Toussaint, RHP

Lead all Braves minor leaguers with 167 strikeouts. Struck out 10.37 batters per nine innings in a career high 145 innings pitched. In his first 7 games pitched at the AA level, held opponents to a .207/.320/.317 line, striking out 44 in 39.2 innings, good for a 3.18 ERA.

Honorable Mentions: LHP Oriel Caicedo, RHP Kyle Wright

Official Atlanta Braves Selection: Touki Toussaint

Relief Pitcher of the Year

Corbin Clouse, LHP

Made 23 consecutive appearances (4/22 – 7/26), 34.2 innings pitched, without allowing an earned run. Was second among all Braves minor league pitchers in appearances with 41. Had a 2.53 ERA and struck out 11.8 batters per 9 innings.

Honorable Mentions: LHP Chase Johnson-Mullins, RHP Jacob Webb, LHP Adam McCreery

OFR’s Florida Starting Pitcher of the Year Touki Toussaint. (Photo: MLBPipeline.com via Twitter)

Mississippi Braves

Position Player of the Year

Ronald Acuna, OF

Another unanimous selection by the panel, Acuna lead all Braves minor leaguers in hits, home runs, doubles, triples, and stolen bases. Advanced three levels over the course of the year, improving at each level.

Honorable Mentions: OF Jared James, 1B Joey Meneses

Official Atlanta Braves Selection: Ronald Acuna

Starting Pitcher of the Year

Luiz Gohara, LHP

Gohara ranked second among all Braves minor league starting pitchers (min 20 starts) with a 10.7 strikeout-per-9 inning ratio. Lead Mississippi starters with a 2.60 ERA (minimum 10 starts). Held all hitters to a .232/.302/.335 batting line in 133.2 innings pitched. Advanced from high-A to the major leagues in a single season.

Honorable Mentions: RHP Mike Soroka, LHP Kolby Allard

Official Atlanta Braves Selection: Mike Soroka

Relief Pitcher of the Year

Devan Watts, RHP

Watts had a 2.15 ERA spread over appearances in high-A Florida and Mississippi. Held batters to a .223/.301/.291 batting line. Lead the Braves minor league organization in games finished and had a 1.176 WHIP.

Honorable Mentions: LHP Jesse Biddle, RHP Wes Parsons


Gwinnett Braves

Position Player of the Year

Ozzie Albies, IF

A unanimous selection by the panel, Albies lead all Gwinnett Braves in plate appearances and lead all qualified hitters on the team in batting average (.285) and stolen base percentage (91% on 23 attempts).  Youngest player in the International League until teammate Ronald Acuna was promoted.

Honorable Mentions: OF Xavier Avery, 3B Rio Ruiz, 1B/3B Carlos Franco

Official Atlanta Braves Selection: Ozzie Albies

Starting Pitcher of the Year

Andrew Albers, LHP

Second on team with 120.2 innings pitched, lowest ERA (2.61) among pitchers with at least 10 starts; was third in the International League in ERA among qualified pitchers and lead the league in FIP (2.58). Struck out 8.58 batters per 9 innings while only walking 1.42.

Honorable Mentions: RHP Lucas Sims, RHP Matt Wisler

Official Atlanta Braves Selection: Lucas Sims

Relief Pitcher of the Year

Rhiner Cruz, RHP

Lead all Gwinnett pitchers with at least 10 relief appearances in ERA (2.61) and strikeouts (63). Struck out 11.2 batters per 9 innings, and held opposing batters to a .224/.317/.318 line against.

Honorable Mentions: RHP Akeel Morris, RHP Caleb Dirks

OFR Gwinnett Position Player of the Year Ozzie Albies. (Karl Moore/Gwinnett Braves)


And now for our overall Braves minor league system awards.

Braves Affiliate of the Year:
Rome Braves

Manager Randy Ingle addresses the 2017 Rome Braves before Opening Day. (Jeremy Sewart/Rome News-Tribune)

Rome once again paced the Braves minor league affiliates with a 74-65 overall record and once again was a critical incubator of young talent. For the second season in a row, Rome had the youngest roster in the South Atlantic League, and the youngest players were among the most critical for the team’s success, lead by 19 year old starting pitchers Joey Wentz, Bryse Wilson, and Ian Anderson. The offense was lead early on by catchers Brett Cumberland and Lucas Herbert, and outfielders Randy Ventura, Cristian Pache, and Anfernee Seymour. When Cumberland and Seymour were promoted at mid-season and Ventura traded away, they were replaced with minimal disruption by catcher/first baseman Drew Lugbauer and outfielder Izzy Wilson and Leudys Baez.

The team is lead by the outstanding coaching staff of manager Randy Ingle, bench coach Anthony Nunez, hitting coach Bobby Moore, and pitching coach Dan Meyer, who was named to the South Atlantic League post-season All-Star coaching staff.

Honorable Mentions: Danville Braves, Gwinnett Braves


Overall Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year:
Devan Watts

OFR’s Mississippi and Overall Braves Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year RHP Devan Watts. (Photo: Florida Fire Frogs via Facebook)

Devan Watts catapulted himself near the top of the list of Braves relief pitcher prospects with impressive performances at both the high-A and AA minor league levels. Drafted in the 17th round of the 2016 draft out of tiny Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tennessee, Watts turned his fastball up another notch this season, regularly pumping strikes in the upper ’90s range. Watts pairs this with a wipe-out slider that his is bread-and-butter strikeout pitch.

Watts pitched to a 2.15 combined ERA in 2017 and through a season and a half into his professional career now owns a 1.75 career ERA and a 9.9 strikeout-per-9 innings ratio.

Honorable Mentions: LHP Thomas Burrows, LHP Corbin Clouse


Overall Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year:
Luiz Gohara

OFR’s Mississippi and Overall Braves Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year Luiz Gohara (MLB Pipeline via Twitter)

Gohara slipped in with the win here over Mississippi right-hander Mike Soroka in the most heavily contested category. Gohara’s speedy ascent through the organization, along with his blistering fastball and devastating slider were enough to convince the panel to place him over the steady, but equally impressive Soroka.

Gohara was acquired last offseason from the Seattle Mariners along with Rome Relief Pitcher of the Year Thomas Burrows for outfielder Mallex Smith and reliever Shae Simmons. While the tally of that trade won’t be known for years, the Braves have to be delighted by the progress of the Large Adult Brazilian as he is now laying claim to a 2018 Atlanta rotation spot.


Overall Minor League Position Player of the Year:
Ronald Acuna

Ronald Acuna
OFR’s Mississippi and Overall Braves Minor League Player of the Year Ronald Acuna (Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)

Could it really be anyone else? Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year, USA TODAY Minor League Player of the Year, MLB Pipleline Hitter of the Year, Atlanta Braves Organizational Player of the Year… it was all leading up to this for the 19-year-old phenom from Venezuela.

Acuna was signed in 2014 for a $100,000 signing bonus, with Atlanta beating out the Kansas City Royals in bidding for the 16 year old. Acuna made an immediate impression in instructionals was assigned stateside to the GCL for his first professional assignment, bypassing the Dominican Summer League. Acuna continued to turn heads, and has been doing so every step of the way, with only a broken thumb suffered while sliding into second base while with Rome able to slow him down. This season he was promoted twice, from high-A all the way to AAA Gwinnett, and improving his performance metrics each step of the way. Acuna is a true five-tool player, but he’s rapidly turned those tools into baseball skills that have him on the cusp of the major leagues, making him the most exciting Braves prospect in a decade.


I hope you have enjoyed our little awards “show”. I’d like to thank my fellow panelists and OFR contributors: Chris Jervis, Micah Smith, and Dylan Short. If you like hearing good baseball talk, check out Dylan’s podcast Shellshocked, available on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Thanks everyone for reading.


About Andy Harris 146 Articles
Andy Harris has been a baseball fan since seeing the Big Red Machine in 1978 and hardcore baseball fan since reading Bill James's Historical Baseball Abstract in 1990. Andy moved to the Atlanta area in 1991, which turned out to be a pretty good year for the local team.

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