The Rome Braves are off to a great start in the South Atlantic League. Heading into Friday’s rain-delayed action, the R-Braves were 28-18, 1.5 games behind division leader Augusta for the first half title. Once again, there are plenty of exciting young pieces on display at State Mutual.
This isn’t a scouting report. Unfortunately, as always, I’m limited to my trips out to Rome this time of year with NCAA championships in full swing. Instead, let’s take a look at three guys I’m looking forward to watching the next time I’m in Rome.
Bruce Zimmerman, LHP
Zimmerman is a personal favorite, having watched him at Mount Olive on the DII beat. While many are surprised with his hot start, this is the player Zimmerman has always been.
The lefty stands 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and commands his arsenal very well. He’s coming off SAL Pitcher of the Week honors and is now 5-2 with a 2.50 ERA and SAL-best 64 strikeouts, all while issuing just 11 free passes. He has a three-pitch arsenal with a low-to-mid-90s fastball, curve and change. While most call them average at best, he seems to know how to use them around the zone and get the most out of his pitches. He’s an extreme ground ball pitcher, which certainly helps keep the few that do reach at bay.
Riley Delgado, SS
I did see Delgado on Opening Night and he did get a hit and an RBI. I wasn’t prepared for him to take off so quickly this season, but he certainly caught everyone’s attention with his tools.
Delgado was selected in the ninth round our of Middle Tennessee State in last year’s MLB Draft. There, he was an All-Conference player, slashing .352/.427/.464 in his senior season. That said, he is a little old for the SAL, but the hit-tool is for real. He won’t wow you for power, hitting three home runs in his senior season and none the year before, but he seems to use all fields well and find the gaps. He’s currently slashing .317/.366/.404 with 11 doubles. He has a 17-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio and was one the toughest players to strike out in college baseball last year.
William Contreras, C
There may not be a Braves prospect I have been more excited to see the past few seasons than Contreras. He started the season in extended spring training and has held his own in the Sally.
Having never seen him live, I spoke to a few people about Contreras last season and the responses were overwhelmingly positive. He seems to have good range behind the plate (posting a ridiculous 9.36 range factor in his first 14 games) and has already thrown out 28 percent of attempted base thieves. He needs to work on honing his receiving skills and overall defense, but there aren’t many 20-year-old catchers who don’t.
At the plate, Contreras is slashing .269/.350/.394 with three home runs and four doubles. I’m hoping to see the power develop and perhaps that will if he fills out his 6-foot, 180 pound frame. There is no denying that he is one the more, if not the most, exciting catching prospects in the system.