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Multiple moves on the farm: prospect Victor Vodnik is headed to Gwinnett

Multiple moves on the farm: prospect Victor Vodnik is headed to Gwinnett

Today several moves impacted the Braves farm system, more specifically the org’s Double-A affiliate, the Mississippi Braves. Perhaps the most exciting move features one of the system’s up and coming pitching prospects, righty Victor Vodnik.

Also, though I haven’t seen it on Twitter: per MiLB.com’s transaction page, Gwinnett has placed prospect righty William Woods on the 7-day IL. I don’t know any details regarding the injury yet, but it sure is a bummer given how much time Woods has already missed during his career as a pro.

For Victor Vodnik, the promotion itself doesn’t come as a surprise, though the timing perhaps does, for I was expecting possibly a mid-season move for the 22-year-old. But regardless, the kid deserves it. Vodnik has yet to allow a run so far this season, having pitched seven scoreless innings out of Mississippi’s bullpen in 2022, to go with a whopping 14 strikeouts and just three walks. Folks, that’s an average of 18 K/9. Sure, it’s still early and seven innings is a small sample size, but Vodnik passes the eye test as well as he has routinely sat in the upper-90s MPH in his outings this year, and really just looks like he’s overpowering the opposition.

What will be interesting, though, is whether the Braves transition Vodnik back into a starter’s role this season… or ever. If you recall, Vodnik began his pro career in 2018 as solely a reliever but then made a handful of starts in 2019 in High-A, before working entirely out of the starting rotation last year for the M-Braves, including pitching mostly as a starter in the Arizona Fall League later that year. Unfortunately, injuries limited Vodnik last season, and overall he made just 11 starts at the Double-A level, turning in a 5.35 ERA (to go with a 5.70 ERA in 4 starts and 2 relief appearances in fall ball). Either way, though, the kid has talent, and with the move to Triple-A this early, we may see Vodnik pitching out of Atlanta’s bullpen by season’s end.

Jacob Pearson, who can play all three outfield positions, will get another try at the Double-A level, where he actually began this season. The former third-rounder (2017 by the Angels) has been mostly a bust so far as a pro, currently sporting a career .218 AVG and .620 OPS in going on five minor league seasons, and he’s mostly remained the same player since coming over to the Braves from the Twins org back in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft. However, Pearson ironically hits better in the upper-minors, as his .257 career AVG in Double-A is his highest AVG compared to the other classes he’s played at. Regardless, though, the 23-year-old has mostly struggled in 2022, shown by his .141 AVG and .453 OPS in 19 total games between Rome and Mississippi.

For Justin Yeager, this is a deserved promotion to the M-Braves. The 24-year-old reliever has been dominant so far this season with Rome, tossing 12 innings of three-hit ball to go with just one earned run (0.75 ERA). This was Yeager’s second stint in High-A, where he was also strong during the second-half of 2021. Given he’s a former 33rd-round pick out of a small college (Southern Illinois University), this kid is on a nice path developmentally and should become a primary contributor out of Mississippi’s bullpen.

Poor Cade Bunnell, who literally just got promoted to Mississippi last Thursday, just in time for him to play a whopping two games with the M-Braves. He did well too, going 3 for 8 overall with a double. The 25-year-old infielder was never meant to be a prospect in the Braves system, and his numbers this season are pretty middling, but Bunnell has shown some pop, especially last year when he slugged 17 homers for Low-A Augusta.

Justin Dean just recently earned a promotion to Gwinnett, though despite playing some solid defense in the outfield, his bat just hasn’t held up as he’s sporting a .204 AVG and .495 OPS in 19 games with the Stripers so far. I don’t know any details regarding his injury, but as you may know, Dean is a super athletic player who just hasn’t shown he can consistently hit upper-minors pitching yet.

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