After Mike Foltynewicz introduced himself and chatted with some of the Braves’ minor league pitchers and players of the year in the dugout Friday afternoon, the big-league pitcher said aloud, “The future’s here, guys,” and then bounded up the steps and out to the outfield to shag fly balls during batting practice.
For some of them, the future – the ultimate destination, the major leagues – isn’t here, but might not be too far away.
Winners of the pitcher and player of the year awards for each Braves affiliate included right-hander Rob Wooten and third baseman Rio Ruiz at Triple-A Gwinnett; right-hander Rob Whalen and outfielder Dustin Peterson at Double-A Mississippi, and right-hander Matt Withrow and outfielder Keith Curcio at high Single-A Carolina, and right-hander Patrick Weigel and third baseman Austin Riley at low Single-A Rome.
Peterson and Weigel were selected as the overall organizational player and pitcher of the year.
Peterson, who turns 22 Saturday, hit .282 with 52 extra-base hits (12 homers) and 88 RBIs in 132 games at Mississiippi, with a .343 OBP and .431 slugging percentage. A former third-base prospect in the Padres organization, Peterson – he’s not related to the Braves’ Jace Peterson — has played outfield in two seasons in the Braves organization, primarily in left field. He also played four games in center field this season.
Weigel, who turned 22 in July, was 11-6 with a 2.47 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) this season between low-A Rome and Double-A Mississippi, with 152 strikeouts and 55 walks in 149 2/3 innings. He spent most of the season at Rome and had a 2.18 ERA in three starts for Mississippi.
From the Braves’ rookie-league affiliates, players and pitchers of the year were left-hander Jhon Martinez and first baseman Ramon Osuna at Danville; lefty Kyle Muller and catcher Anthony Concepcion for the Gulf Coast League team; and lefty Filyer Sanchez and outfielder Raysheandell Michel for the Dominican Summer League team.
Among award winners, Whalen was the only one to make it to the major leagues this season. He was 7-5 with a 2.49 ERA in 18 starts at Mississippi, then posted a 1.93 ERA in three Triple-A starts before getting a quick call to the majors after injuries and a trade depleted the Braves rotation.
He was just 1-2 with a 6.57 ERA in five major league starts in August before going on the disabled list with season-ending shoulder fatigue, but Whalen showed some flashes of potential. He won his big-league debut against the Pirates and had quality starts against the Brewers and Nationals.
Among position players, Peterson impressed team officials and teammates all season and has put himself in position for major league roster consideration as soon as 2017, although he’s still young and has only one season above Single-A.
Ruiz could also be ready to compete for a job at some point in 2017, perhaps at spring training. However, Adonis Garcia has played well and presumably secured the primary third-base job going into camp.
Ruiz, 22, finished strong in his first Triple-A season and posted a .271 average with 37 extra-base hits (10 home runs), a .355 OBP and .400 slugging percentage.
Muller, the 44th overall selection in the June draft and the Gatorade national high school player of the year, had a 0.65 ERA in 10 games (nine starts) in his first pro season, allowing just 14 hits and 22 walks with 38 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings in the Gulf Coast League.
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