LAWRENCEVILLE, GA - The Gwinnett Braves, in conjunction with the Atlanta Braves, announced today their travel roster for the start of the 2016 season. Third-year manager Brian Snitker will lead a club that includes four members of MLB.com's Atlanta Braves Top 30 Prospects list: right-handers Aaron Blair (No. 4) and Tyrell Jenkins (No. 8), outfielder Mallex Smith (No. 11) and third baseman Rio Ruiz (No. 16).
The Gwinnett roster currently stands at 28 players. Players opening on the disabled list will be announced by Thursday, April 7 in order to reduce the roster to 25.
The G-Braves are led by Snitker, pitching coach Marty Reed (sixth season), hitting coach John Moses (second season), coach Billy Nicholson (seventh season), coach Jose Mota (first season), athletic trainer Ricky Alcantara (first season) and strength and conditioning coach Jason Curry (third season).
Gwinnett Braves April 4 Travel Roster
RH Pitchers (14): Aaron Blair, Danny Burawa, Brandon Cunniff, Jhoulys Chacin, Joel De La Cruz, Mike Foltynewicz, Tyrell Jenkins, Casey Kelly, David Peterson, Kanekoa Texeira, Ryan Weber, Chris Withrow, Rob Wooten, Madison Younginer
LH Pitchers (1): Ian Krol
Catchers (3): Blake Lalli, Ryan Lavarnway, Braeden Schlehuber
Infielders (6): Reid Brignac, Daniel Castro, Sean Kazmar Jr., Tyler Moore, Rio Ruiz, Brandon Snyder
Outfielders (4): Chase d'Arnaud, Ronnier Mustelier, Mallex Smith, Matt Tuiasosopo
Blair, rated the No. 56 player in all of Minor League Baseball by MLB.com, is Gwinnett's top prospect. Acquired by the Braves as part of the trade that sent right-hander Shelby Miller to the Arizona Diamondbacks on December 9, 2015, Blair combined to go 13-5 with a 2.92 ERA in 26 games between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno last season. In the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, the 23-year-old went 7-2 with a 3.16 ERA in 13 games (12 starts).
Jenkins, Atlanta's 2015 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and Smith, Atlanta's 2015 Minor League Player of the Year, return to Gwinnett after strong Triple-A debuts last season. The 23-year-old Jenkins went 3-4 with a 3.57 ERA in nine starts, including 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA over his first four starts. Smith, who turns 23 in May, batted .281 with 12 doubles, six triples, 49 runs scored, 13 RBIs and a team-high 34 stolen bases in 69 games. He was the MiLB.com International League Player of the Month for August after batting .336 with league-highs in hits (41), triples (3), runs (24) and steals (13) in 29 games.
Ruiz, the G-Braves' youngest player at age 21, is set to make his Triple-A debut in 2016. In his first season in the Braves' organization last year, he batted .233 with 21 doubles, five home runs and 46 RBIs in 127 games with Double-A Mississippi. Ruiz was acquired by Atlanta alongside Foltynewicz in the trade that sent catcher Evan Gattis to the Houston Astros on January 14, 2015.
Including Jenkins and Smith, the travel roster features 12 returnees from Gwinnett's 2015 club in all. The list includes right-handers Danny Burawa (0-0, 2.08 ERA in 4 games), Brandon Cunniff (1-0, 9.00 ERA in 6 games), Mike Foltynewicz (1-6, 3.49 ERA in 10 starts), David Peterson (2-0, 2.08 ERA in 16 games), Kanekoa Texeira (6-4, 3.55 ERA in 26 games, 14 starts) and Ryan Weber (6-3, 2.21 ERA in 27 games, 6 starts), catchers Ryan Lavarnway (.268, 2 HR, 8 RBIs in 13 games) and Braeden Schlehuber (.158, 9 RBIs in 39 games), and infielders Daniel Castro (.268, 36 RBIs in 89 games) and Sean Kazmar Jr. (.280, 3 HR, 38 RBIs in 106 games). Of that group, Burawa, Cunniff, Foltynewicz, Weber, Lavarnway and Castro also played for the Atlanta Braves last year.
Sixteen players are poised to make their G-Braves' debuts in 2016: Blair, Ruiz, right-handers Jhoulys Chacin, Joel De La Cruz, Casey Kelly, Chris Withrow, Rob Wooten and Madison Younginer, left-hander Ian Krol, catcher Blake Lalli, infielders Reid Brignac, Tyler Moore and Brandon Snyder, and outfielders Chase d'Arnaud, Ronnier Mustelier and Matt Tuiasosopo.
Chacin was assigned to Gwinnett by Atlanta on April 2 after battling for a rotation spot with the Braves this spring. The 28-year-old right-hander is 40-49 with a 3.76 ERA in 129 career Major League games (113 starts) with Colorado and Arizona. He made five appearances with the Diamondbacks last year, going 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA. Chacin signed a minor league deal with the Braves on January 7, 2016.
Kelly, Krol, Withrow and Wooten also bring previous Major League experience to Gwinnett's pitching staff. Kelly, acquired in the trade that sent catcher Christian Bethancourt to San Diego on December 10, 2015, is 2-5 with a 6.69 ERA in nine career games with the Padres. Krol, received in the deal that sent outfielder Cameron Maybin to Detroit on November 20, 2015, is 4-4 with a 4.91 ERA in 110 career relief appearances with the Tigers and Washington Nationals. Withrow, who missed all of last season while recovering from "Tommy John" surgery, is 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA in 46 relief outings with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Wooten, signed as a minor league free agent on January 13, 2016, is 4-5 with a 5.03 ERA in 71 relief appearances with the Milwaukee Brewers.
The G-Braves' lineup is set to benefit from Major League veterans in Brignac, d'Arnaud, Lalli, Moore, Snyder and Tuiasosopo. Brignac has logged the most big league time of the group, batting .219 with 12 homers and 83 RBIs in 356 games between Tampa Bay, Colorado, the New York Yankees, Philadelphia and Miami. Moore (.228, 24 HR, 91 RBIs in 277 games with Washington), Tuiasosopo (.207, 12 HR, 45 RBIs in 152 games with Seattle and Detroit), Snyder (.243, 5 HR, 20 RBIs in 83 games with Baltimore, Texas and Boston), d'Arnaud (.205, 7 RBIs, 13 SB in 75 games with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia) and Lalli (.128, 4 RBIs in 22 games with the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee) have also seen time in the Majors.
De La Cruz, Younginer and Mustelier all have prior Triple-A experience. The hard-throwing De La Cruz went 7-0 with a 3.25 ERA in 15 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the New York Yankees organization last year. Younginer finished 2015 by making his Triple-A debut with Pawtucket of the Boston Red Sox organization, going 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two games. Mustelier did not play for a Major League organization last year, but did bat .290 with 17 homers and 91 RBIs in 186 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre from 2012-14.
The Gwinnett Braves begin the 2016 season on the road, taking on the Norfolk Tides at Harbor Park on Thursday, April 7 at 7:05 p.m. The home opener at Coolray Field is set for Thursday, April 14 at 7:05 p.m. as the G-Braves host the Tides. Listen to all 144 games with Tony Schiavone on 97.7 FM The Other Side of the River and WSBRadio.com.