Series Preview, @ Jackson Generals (Seattle Mariners), April 15-19, Pringles Park (Jackson, TN)
After Saturday night’s 13-inning rubber match loss to the Montgomery Biscuits, the Mississippi Braves are still looking for their first series victory in 2012. They’ll take that quest to Pringles Park in Jackson, Tennessee to face a very good Jackson Generals team, double-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. The Generals are 7-3 so far this season after starting 7-1, their best start in team history. They currently sit in first place in the Southern League North, one game ahead of the second-place Tennessee Smokies. In the pitching-heavy Southern League, the Generals have probably the best stack of prospects in their rotation, boasting numbers one, two, and three on Baseball America’s Mariners prospect list in Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton. The M-Braves offense will need to find runs somewhere, but don’t be surprised if there are some low-scoring games in this series with the talent shown by both pitching staffs so far.
First half: 38-32 (2nd in North Division, 5 GB)
Second half: 30-40 (4th, 12.5 GB)
Braves’ All-Time Record vs. Jackson: 73-70
2011 record vs. Jackson: 13-11
Projected Pitching Matchups:
Sunday, April 15, 6:05 PM – LHP Luis Avilan (0-2, 6.75 ERA) vs. RHP Andrew Carraway (2-0, 0.69 ERA)
Monday, April 16, 7:05 PM – RHP Zeke Spruill (1-0, 1.64) vs. LHP James Paxton (1-0, 0.87)
Tuesday, April 17, 7:05 PM – LHP Sean Gilmartin (0-1, 1.50) vs. RHP Taijuan Walker (1-0, 3.60)
Wednesday, April 18, 11:05 AM – RHP David Hale (1-1, 7.04) vs. RHP Brandon Maurer (0-0, 5.00)
Thursday, April 19, 7:05 PM – LHP Chris Masters (0-0, 4.82) vs. LHP Danny Hultzen (0-2, 4.66)
Projected Defensive Alignment:
C – Jesus Sucre
1B – Rich Poythress
2B – Gabriel Noriega
3B – Francisco Martinez
SS – Nick Franklin
LF – Daniel Carroll
CF – Denny Almonte
RF – Johermyn Chavez
Last Time Out:
The Jackson Generals are coming off a series win on the road against the Tennessee Smokies, taking the first three games to secure the series early. The story of the series was pitching. Jackson allowed just twelve runs in the five-game set, an average of just 2.4 per game. They held Tennessee to just three runs in the first three games.
Jackson Generals 5, Tennessee Smokies 1 (W – Andrew Carraway 2-0, L – Nicholas Struck 1-1)
Jackson Generals 2, Tennessee Smokies 1 (W – Bobby LaFromboise 1-0, L – Kevin Rhoderick 0-1)
Jackson Generals 4, Tennessee Smokies 1 (W – Stephen Pryor 1-0, L – Alberto Cabrera 0-1)
Jackson Generals 1, Tennessee Smokies 4 (W – Dae-Eun Rhee 1-0, L – Danny Hultzen 0-2)
Jackson generals 2, Tennessee Smokies 5 (W – Brooks Raley 1-0, Yoervis Medina 0-1)
In terms of pitching, the Generals return two of their 2012 starting rotation in RHP Andrew Carraway and LHP James Paxton (#3 prospect in Mariners’ organization by Baseball America). Carraway went 9-5 with a 3.66 ERA in 28 appearances, 21 of them starts. He struck out 106 in 137.2 innings. Paxton got a call-up to double-A later in the season, making seven dominant starts at the end of the season. He went 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA. He struck out a whopping 51 in 39 innings. The M-Braves saw both Carraway and Paxton in 2011. Carraway was 2-0 with a 4.26 ERA over five appearances, while Paxton had no record with a 1.42 ERA in one start. I should make note, too, of relief RHP Stephen Pryor. He returns to Jackson after going 2-1 with a 1.19 ERA and converting six of seven saves over 17 appearances in 2011.
For the Generals position players, just about everyone is making a return trip to Jackson. The only two Generals regulars who didn’t play at Pringles Park in 2011 are outfielders Daniel Carroll and Denny Almonte. Infielder Nick Franklin leads the list of prospects, coming in as Baseball America’s #4 prospect in the Mariners’ system. Franklin is looking for a bounceback season after spending time on the disabled list with a concussion, mononucleosis, and food poisoning. He hit .325 with 2 HR in 21 games towards the end of 2011 with the Generals after a late-season call-up. Another highly touted prospect is third baseman Francisco Martinez, the #6 Mariners prospect. He hit .310 with three home runs over 33 games for Jackson after coming over from the Tigers in a July trade. He’s protected on Seattle’s 40-man roster, and he should find his way to triple-A before season’s out.
New Guys to Watch For:
The pitching staff will take over this section. Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen are the top two prospects in the Seattle Mariners’ organization, and they’re the top two pitchers in the Generals’ rotation. Walker, a 2010 supplemental round pick (43rd overall), is just 19 years old, and he didn’t start pitching until his junior year of high school at the age of 16. He skipped right over high-A, debuting at double-A in 2012 after going 6-5 with a 2.89 ERA in 2011 with low-A Clinton. He struck out 113 in 97 innings and held opponents to a .202 batting average. Hultzen, meanwhile, is a polished college guy, taken as the #2 overall pick in 2011. He signed too late to pitch in 2011 after his junior season at Virginia, but he shows good enough promise that the Mariners started him at double-A. So far he’s 0-2 with a 4.66 ERA, but those numbers are inflated after a rough debut. His last time out, he dominated Tennessee, allowing just two unearned runs on one hit, striking out nine over 5 2/3 innings. Game four starter Brandon Maurer is also on the prospect list, coming in at #21.
This is going to be a difficult series. If the Braves can rattle off a few road wins here in Jackson, TN, it will create some serious momentum going into the coming weeks. With the pitching talent each team possesses, expect some low scoring games through the series. Jackson boasts a team ERA of 2.66 (second in the Southern League), while the Braves boast a team ERA of 2.87 (fourth in the Southern League).
Catch each game on 103.9 WYAB in Jackson, MS and online here.