Minor leaguers honored at Turner Field

The Braves honored their minor league pitchers and players of the year before Saturday’s game at Turner Field, giving Braves fans a chance to put faces with names and numbers.

For J.R. Graham, organizational pitcher of the year, it was a chance to catch a glimpse of his favorite player growing up in the Bay Area in northern California – Tim Hudson.

“I remember telling my dad he was somebody I wanted to be like,” Graham said. “To be playing in the organization he’s in, and I get a chance to see him and meet him, it’s pretty awesome.”

Graham, a fourth round pick by the Braves in 2011, was a closer at Santa Clara University. He still has the dominant fastball associated with that job, with a four-seamer clocked at 95-98 mph, but he said he has used this season to develop his offspeed pitches as well.

Graham went 12-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 26 starts this season for Single-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi. He struck out 110 and walked only 34 in 148 innings at the two levels combined.

“(In Double-A) I really had to start focusing on working on stuff that I wasn’t the most comfortable working on,” Graham said. “My change-up wasn’t coming along, but in Double-A, I was going to need to throw it.”

For outfielder Todd Cunningham, honored as the Braves organizational player of the year, this season was a chance to rebound after a strained elbow ligament cost him six weeks of the 2011 season.

The second round pick from Jacksonville State in 2010 hit .309 (144-for-466) in 120 games for Double-A Mississippi, with 23 doubles, six triples, three home runs, 51 RBIs and 24 steals.

Cunningham can play all three outfield positions but spent most of this season playing center field. He said he took some confidence playing in the Arizona Fall League last October, especially after seeing Surprise, Ariz. teammates like Mike Olt rise to the majors this season with the Rangers.

“It’s kind of that Eureka moment where you’re like I played against those guys and with those guys and you turn on the TV on the bus or in the locker room and they’re playing,” Cunningham said. “…It makes it that much more real, instead of being that far off fantasy type of deal.”

Cunningham will play winter ball in Mexico this year.

The Braves minor league pitchers and players of the year at each level were (respectively): Cory Gearrin, Ernesto Mejia (Triple-A Gwinnett); Sean Gilmartin, Joe Leonard (Double-A Mississippi); Gus Schlosser, Nick Ahmed (high-A Lynchburg); Navery Moore, William Beckwith (low-A Rome), Mauricio Cabrera, Carlos Franco (rookie Danville), Luis Merejo, Jose Peraza (rookie Gulf Coast League), and Michael Flores, Johan Camargo (Dominican Summer League).

3 comments Add your comment

northbeach Scott

September 15th, 2012
5:23 pm

Hope to both kids in Atlanta next September


September 15th, 2012
5:52 pm

I guess with the Braves weak bench, these guys were still not good enough for a seat next to Fredi? Dont know how Mejia could be any worse than Hinski.

lee maye

September 16th, 2012
1:17 pm

It is not that these young guys were not good enough to be brought up. It is more money and not wanting to cut the old guys and still pay them. Wren and Fredi do not want to spend money and start the clocks of the young guys. They also refuse to eat the money necessary to put them on the 40 man roster by releasing the bums like Hinske, Baker, Overbay, and others.
And, they don’t want to spend more money by taking these guys on the expanded rosters on away trips. Braves don’t really play to win, with best rosters possible. Wait until Spring Tr for the young guys. Or, wait until they are traded for some other old bums that are washed up. Story of the Braves under Wren. Remember Loaf and Proctor and dozens of others?

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