Draft picks learning the ropes of minors
Fans visiting State Mutual Stadium have seen an everchanging lineup lately.
Three of those new faces making their way into the lineup are draft picks from the MLB draft back in June -- A.J. Graffanino, Greyson Jenista and Branden Venter.
Batting coach Bobby Moore is optimistic about the players down the road, but says getting them to realize their potential is a work in progress.
“They’ve obviously got to get their feet wet in pro ball,” said Moore. “I like what i see right now, but it’s going to take time to acclimated to professional baseball. It’s still a process. They’re in the learning stage of being able to handle themselves professionally -- the grind of every-day baseball.”
Jenista, an outfielder taken in the second, finished the 2018 season at Wichita State with a .309 batting average, 54 runs scored, 38 RBIs and nine home runs.
Before coming to Rome in early July, Jenista had 10 runs, seven RBIs and three home runs in only 10 games with the Danville Braves and a .250 batting average.
Jenista’s already had an impact on Rome when he hit an RBI triple in his second game with the team. The hit sparked the scoring for Rome in a 7-5 win against Kannapolis.
Graffanino, an infielder from Washington selected in the eighth round, finished 2018 with a .364 batting average, 16 runs scored and 19 RBIs. He had six RBIs through six games in Danville with a .407 batting average. Graffanino has baseball in his blood being the son of Tony Graffanino, who also spent time in the Braves’ organization, playing for Atlanta from 1996 to 1998. Graffanino is leading the team with a .333 batting average.
Venter, an infielder from Auburn taken in the 13th round, finished his senior year with the Tigers with a .305 batting average, 44 runs, 45 RBIs and 12 home runs. Through nine games in Danville he had five runs, nine RBIs and one home run with a .235 batting average. (See more on Page B3.)
Venter led the Braves to a win in his fourth game with Rome when he hit a walk-off single in the 10th inning of a 6-5 win against Augusta.
Venter and Jenista both agreed the biggest changes they’ve faced is being on the field every night instead of the weekends during their college years, but being on the field more brings more benefits to them as players.
“You kind of learn who you are as a player a little more,” Jenista said. “You’ve got a good idea coming out, but the grind of the season teaches you who you are as a player and to trust your work. You’ve got to keep working.”
Venter got a little extra bonus being drafted by the Braves after playing his college ball a state over at Auburn.
“That’s pretty cool,” Venter said. “A lot of Auburn fans are Atlanta Braves fans since they don’t have a professional team in Alabama. A lot of people congratulated me and were excited for me to start my journey.”
Moore says the players are helping the Braves during their turnaround and sees a lot of promise down the road as the playoffs get closer.
“They’ll continue to get better and improve each and every day,” said Moore. “As far as our lineup, we’re coming down the stretch into the playoffs, and they’re going to do wonderful things for us. Things are going to turn around and they’re going to help carry the load for us.”