Draft picks learn­ing the ropes of mi­nors

The Standard Journal - - SPORTS - BRAVES By Jonathan Blay­lock jblay­[email protected]

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.”

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