I wrote not too long ago that the Lakewood BlueClaws had turned their season around on the back of good second half pitching. If I told you then that they would be sending their 5 best starters to the hill against Rome in the South Atlantic League Championship that they would have the advantage on the mound in the series. The only problem is the strength of the Braves system is starting pitching and the BlueClaws will be running right into the heart of it. Rome will be sending 4 former first round picks all of whom are current or past Top 100 prospects.
Those pitchers are Game 1 starter Mike Soroka, the #28 overall pick in 2015, he is a 3 pitch righty with polish, those three pitches are quality offerings and it helped him put up a 3.02 ERA this year. Rome will follow him with perpetually oozing with potential Touki Toussaint (#16 2014). Toussaint was touching into the upper 90s in relief last series with a great curveball, and while he has been “better” of late he has 71 walks in his 132.1 innings this year. The premium matchup is probably Game 3 where 2015 #14 overall pick Kolby Allard gets the ball, he is a smallish lefty, but he can get it into the mid 90s with a plus curveball and good changeup, he has been just blowing through the SAL since returning from rookie ball. Before the Braves bring back Soroka in Game 5, they will turn to 2012 #7 pick Max Fried. It has been an injury riddled career for Fried who gives Rome a second power lefty. Fried has been on fire of late with 4 walks to 31 strikeouts in his last 3 starts spanning only 18.1 innings.
Lakewood will counter this monstrosity with:
- Game 1 – Franklyn Kilome
- Game 2 – Seranthony Dominguez
- Game 3 – Alberto Tirado
- Game 4 – Harold Arauz
- Game 5 – Jose Taveras
Here is the thing, Kilome has outpitched Soroko since his rough first month, Seranthony has been better than Toussaint even if he lacks the prospect ceiling, and Tirado has been lights out for pretty much the whole second half. Even if the rotation outpitches Rome, their margin for error is very small. No one is going to say that the Lakewood group is as good a prospect group as the Rome group, but they might make this an even series.
Rome will match Lakewood’s Randolph and Pujols with their set of top prospects in Ronald Acuna a young toolsy center fielder and Austin Riley a big power third baseman. Both teams have some veterans shoring up power positions and their share of light bats. Right now it does not look like either team will have a major leaguer rehabbing during the series.
Expect pitching to dominate early and often in the series. Should be a good one. Games 1 & 2 are in Rome (Monday and Tuesday) then the series will return to Lakewood for 3 & 4 & 5 if needed (Thursday to Saturday).