(ISN) – PEARL, MS — The Mississippi Braves, Double-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, is proud to unveil its Opening Day roster for the 2015 season which begins Thursday, April 9 at Trustmark Park. As ranked by Baseball America, the M-Braves club features four of the Atlanta Braves top 30 prospects including Jason Hursh (6), Rio Ruiz (11), Tyrell Jenkins (12) and Mallex Smith (19).
Hursh went 11-7 with a 3.58 ERA in 27 games for the M-Braves last season and was named Braves Organizational Pitcher of the Year. His 11 wins tied for fourth-most in the Southern League. A 2013 first round pick by the Braves out of Oklahoma State University, Hursh’s ERA ranked sixth among all Braves farmhands.
Ruiz was selected as an Arizona Fall League Rising Star during the off season. With High-A Lancaster last season, he hit .293 with 50 extra-base hits and 77 RBI in 131 games. Ruiz posted a .312 average against lefties and hit .333 during the month of July (26 games). Ruiz was acquired by the Braves along with Mike Foltynewicz and Andrew Thurman in a trade with Houston that sent Evan Gattis and James Hoyt to the Astros.
Jenkins was acquired by the Braves as part of an offseason trade with the Cardinals that sent Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to St. Louis. The right-hander held lefties to a .174 average last season at High-A Palm Beach (6-5, 3.28). Tabbed by Baseball America as the “Best Athlete” in the Cardinals system for three consecutive seasons, Jenkins was originally selected by the Cardinals as the 50th overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Smith, who was acquired by the Braves as part of the Padres trade for Justin Upton and Aaron Northcraft, was selected as a MiLB.com Organizational All-Star and was named the MiLB.com Fans’ Choice for Best Offensive Player last year. Smith began last season at Low-A Fort Wayne (.295, 65 G) and finished the year at High-A Lake Elsinore (.327, 55 G). He was also selected as a Midwest League Mid-Season All-Star.
In addition to Hursh, six others return to the Mississippi Braves pitching staff. Right-handed pitchers include Ryan Kelly, Jorge Reyes, Andrew Robinson, Greg Ross and Ryan Weber. Ian Thomas is the lone returning southpaw. New arms for the M-Braves include Jake Brigham, Justin Jackson, Jenkins, Victor Mateo, Francisco Rondon and Bryton Trepagnier.
Last season, Kelly ranked fourth among all Braves minor leaguers in saves (10). Ross was selected as a 2014 Carolina League Mid-Season All-Star before moving up to Mississippi. He finished the season ranked first among Braves farmhands in wins (12) and second in ERA (2.80). Thomas started last season in Atlanta but finished with stints at Triple-A and Double-A.
M-Braves fans will see two new faces behind the plate in Chris O’Dowd and Steve Rodriguez. Infielders Daniel Castro, Emerson Landoni and Seth Loman return to Double-A along with outfielders Matt Lipka and David Rohm. New faces to the 2015 team include infielders Kevin Ahrens, Corban Joseph and Ruiz. Outfielders Kyeong Kang and Smith are also new to the club.
Lipka entered last season ranked by Baseball America as the “Best Athlete” and “Fastest Baserunner” in the Braves system. He stole 10 bases before hitting the disabled list with a left hand contusion May 7 and missing the remainder of the season. Rohm posted his best numbers with the M-Braves last season in May, hitting .341 with nine extra-base hits and 18 RBI. Ahrens ranked second among all Braves farmhands with 65 RBI last season at High-A Lynchburg. He also led the Carolina League in doubles (41).
RHP Mark Lamm also begins the season on the Double-A Braves disabled list.
The Mississippi Braves open the 2015 season Thursday, April 9 with game one of a five-game series against the Tennessee Smokies. First pitch is slated for 7:00 PM. Gates open at 6:00 PM. The first 5,000 fans will receive a free magnetic schedule compliments of the Mississippi Army National Guard. It’s also Thirsty Thursday and Pearl Community Night followed by the annual Opening Night Fireworks Show after the game.