Newcomb leads final Pitchers of the Week

Braves No. 3 prospect takes Southern honor with seven-inning gem

Sean Newcomb has averaged 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings during his Minor League career. (Ed Gardner)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | September 6, 2016 3:10 PM

Sean Newcomb's final start of the Southern League regular season may have been his best yet, and that could make for some great timing for playoff-bound Mississippi.

The Braves' No. 3 prospect headlines the last group of Minor League Pitchers of the Week for 2016, earning the Southern League honor after allowing just one hit and striking out eight over seven scoreless innings last Friday. It's the second weekly pitching honor of his career -- his first came in August 2015 while in the California League -- and first since joining the Braves organization from the Angels in the Andrelton Simmons trade last November.

Friday's gem equaled Newcomb's longest outing of the season and marked the first time in 2016 that he kept a team scoreless for more than six frames. The 23-year-old left-hander retired the first 15 batters he faced before giving up a single to Blioxi's Javier Betancourt to open the sixth. He allowed a walk to Brett Phillips in the seventh but left after the frame, having allowed just the two Shuckers to reach base. He finished with 102 pitches, 69 of which were strikes.

"I went in attacking with a lot of fastballs," Newcomb told MiLB.com after the outing. "I was throwing it for strikes a lot and putting it where I wanted to, so that made it a lot easier. I didn't need to throw too many of my off-speeds, but I could spot my curveball when I needed to. It was a good day overall. I was attacking hitters and it carried me through seven strong innings."

The start capped an impressive season-ending run for the 2014 first-rounder, who entered August with a 4.44 ERA but went 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA, 51 strikeouts and 14 walks over his last seven starts (39 2/3 innings). The stretch dropped his season ERA to 3.86, its lowest since June 27. He also finishes atop the Double-A leaderboard with 152 strikeouts in 140 innings and third with a 9.8 K/9. His 3.19 FIP also ranked fourth among the 21 qualified hurlers in the Southern League.

Newcomb has earned plenty of praise for his stuff with a fastball and curve earning plus-plus and plus grades, respectively, from MLB.com, which ranks him as the No. 50 overall prospect in the game. It's been his control that's hurt his stock, however. Though he still averaged 4.6 BB/9 on the season, there were some positive steps in that department down the stretch, evidenced by the one free pass Friday.

"I got more aggressive and started to challenge hitters more, and that's been a big part of my success lately," Newcomb said. "I feel personally I've learned a lot this year about myself and pitching. I've taken a lot from the pitching coach [Dennis Lewallyn] and also just from watching a bunch of guys who have come through here."

Friday may have been Newcomb's final regular-season start, but it likely won't be his last of 2016. With the second-best record in the Southern League's South Division, Mississippi is set to face Pensacola (winner of the first- and second-half division titles) in a best-of-5 semifinal series starting Wednesday. Having last pitched Friday, Newcomb could get the start on regular rest in Game 1. The chance to build something positive toward the postseason wasn't lost on the southpaw.

"It was definitely big, personally, to finish this year on a high note and just send a reminder to myself and the team that I can do that kind of thing on the mound," he said last week. "Going into the playoffs, hopefully, I can carry it over to my next start."

Here is the complete list of Minor League Pitchers of the Week for Aug. 29-Sept. 5:

International -- Ben Lively, Lehigh Valley (PHI): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 10 K

Pacific Coast -- Joe Wieland, Tacoma (SEA): 2-0, 1.69 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 10 2/3 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 HBP, 4 BB, 17 K

Eastern -- Tyler Beede, Richmond (SF): 2-0, 0.60 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 1 CG, 1 SHO, 15 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 3 BB, 13 K

Southern -- Sean Newcomb, Mississippi (ATL): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 8 K

Texas -- Alex Blackford, Arkansas (LAA): 1-0, 0.79 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 11 1/3 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 2 BB, 11 K

California -- Brock Dykxhoorn, Lancaster (HOU): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 2 BB, 8 K

Carolina -- Enderson Franco, Carolina (ATL): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 1 SHO, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 2 BB, 7 K

Florida State -- Andrew Barbosa, St. Lucie (NYM): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 11 K

Midwest -- Ryan Helsley, Peoria (STL): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 13 K

South Atlantic -- Alberto Tirado, Lakewood (PHI): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 1 BB, 10 K

New York-Penn -- Gary Cornish, Brooklyn (NYM): 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 0 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 13 K

Northwest -- Dylan Cease, Eugene (CHC): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 10 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 4 BB, 18 K

Appalachian -- Nicholas Economos, Bristol (PIT): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 4 K

Pioneer -- Yosmer Solorzano, Great Falls (CWS): 2-0, 0.64 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 2 CG, 1 SHO, 14 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 19 K

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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