PEARL, MS -- The Mississippi Braves, Double-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, has unveiled its opening day roster for the 2017 season which begins Thursday at Trustmark Park. As ranked by Baseball America, the M-Braves club features four of the Atlanta Braves top 10 prospects including Kolby Allard (3), Mike Soroka (4), Patrick Weigel (9) and Max Fried (10).
With 16 of its players taken in the first nine rounds of their respective draft classes, the Double-A Braves roster includes six first-round draft picks. Eight players were members of the 2016 South Atlantic League Champion Rome Braves while 16 players were members of the Mississippi club that made the Southern League playoffs last year.
Allard and Soroka are both 19-year-olds who were selected by the Braves in the first round of the 2015 draft. Allard went 8-3 with a 2.98 ERA in 16 starts between R-Danville and Low-A Rome last year. The southpaw ranked fifth among all Braves farmhands in starters ERA and ranked tied for seventh in wins last season. Soroka went 9-9 in 25 games for the Rome club last season, posting a 3.02 ERA. He ranked tied for third among all Braves minor leaguers in wins, fifth in total innings pitched (143.0), sixth in starters ERA and eighth in strikeouts (125).
Weigel, 22, combined to post a record of 11-6 with a 2.47 ERA in 25 games between Low-A Rome and Double-A Mississippi last year. He ranked second among all Braves minor leaguers in wins, strikeouts (152) and innings pitched (149.2). Weigel also ranked third in ERA and sixth in H/9IP (6.1). Weigel was selected by the Braves in the seventh round of the 2015 draft.
Fried, 23, was 8-7 with a 3.93 ERA in 21 games with the Rome club. He also ranked among Braves farmhands in wins (t-7th, 8) and strikeouts (t-9th, 112). Fried was originally a first round pick by the Padres in 2012 but was acquired by the Braves via trade as part of the Justin Upton deal in December 2014.
Keith Curcio and Matt Withrow, the 2016 Braves High-A Player and Pitcher of the Year, will also start the new season at Trustmark Park. Curcio, 24, posted a .271 batting average with 29 doubles, eight triples, three homers and 54 RBI in 124 games with the Mudcats last year. He also swiped 24 bags, fourth-most among Braves farmhands. Withrow, 23, went 9-6 with a 3.80 ERA at High-A Carolina last season. He ranked fourth among Carolina League Leaders in ERA (3.80), second in strikeouts (131) and second in OBA (.225).
Seven arms return to the M-Braves pitching staff to start the 2017 season. Right-handers include Akeel Morris, Wes Parsons, Evan Phillips, Chad Sobotka and Weigel. Michael Mader and Philip Pfeifer are the returning southpaws. In addition to Allard, Fried, Soroka and Withrow, other newcomers on the hill at Trustmark Park include LHP Jesse Biddle, RHP Danny Reynolds and LHP Joe Rogers (DL).
Catcher Kade Scivicque returns to the Double-A club after joining the M-Braves in September last year. Armando Araiza and Sal Giardina (DL) join the M-Braves behind the plate to share batterymate duties. Other returnees include infielders Carlos Franco, Reed Harper, Levi Hyams (DL), Joey Meneses and Dylan Moore along with outfielders Curcio, Stephen Gaylor and Connor Lien. Fans will only see a few new faces initially at the plate--infielders Travis Demeritte and Luis Valenzuela along with outfielder Jared James.
There are currently 25 active players and five disabled players on the M-Braves roster.
The Mississippi Braves open the 2017 season Thursday, April 6 with game one of a five-game series against Jacksonville. First pitch is slated for 7:00 PM. Gates open at 6:00 PM. In addition to Thirsty Thursday and the annual Opening Night Fireworks Show, the first 5,000 fans get a free M-Braves magnetic schedule. Tickets are on sale now at the Trustmark Park Box Office.
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