0

Braves minor league report: Schaefer's offense catching up with his defense

Jordan Schaefer didn't get to play in an all-star game, but it wasn't his fault.

The center fielder had one of the best first halves in Class A. He just split it between two teams.

Schaefer, who doesn't turn 21 until Sept. 4, hit .372 in 30 games for Rome of the South Atlantic League and continued to swing a potent bat - if not for as high an average - after being promoted to Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League.

Counting his 29 games with the Pelicans, the left-handed hitter finished the first half with a .317 average, 25 doubles, eight triples, eight homers and 38 RBIs. His slugging percentage was .541 and his on-base average .378.

Not bad for someone who had stood out defensively since being drafted by the Atlanta Braves during the third round in 2005, but had not at the plate.

Schaefer, from Winter Haven, Fla., hit .203 his first season in the rookie Gulf Coast League and .240 in 2006 at Rome. Too many strikeouts were a big part of the problem.

"He was chasing balls," Rome manager Randy Ingle said. "He's much more patient now and not missing his pitch when he gets it."

The 6-foot-1 Schaefer appears slender, but Ingle says not to be fooled. "He's strong. He's rock hard," Ingle said.

There was never any question about Schaefer defensively. A former left-handed pitcher, he has a strong arm and covers plenty of ground in center field. Baseball American rated him the best defensive outfielder in the Braves' minor league system.

The same national publication listed Schaefer as Atlanta's 27th best prospect before the season. That ranking is certain to rise.

Richmond (AAA)

Shortstop Brent Lillibridge was named to the USA team for the All-Star Futures Game on July 8 in San Francisco despite just a .247 average with Richmond. ... Right-hander Manny Accosta was 5-1 with nine saves and a 0.90 ERA in his first 26 relief appearances. ... Catcher Bryan Pena hit .392 with a homer and 14 RBIs in his first 18 games of June, lifting his average to .313. ... Ryan Baerlocher, signed out of an independent league, pitched seven scoreless innings in a victory at Pawtucket to make him 1-1 with a 2.81 ERA. ... Outfielder Bill McCarthy was sent to the Royals as the player to be named later in the deal for first baseman Graham Koonce.

Mississippi (AA)

Mississippi won its final two games after a six-game losing streak to claim the first-half title in the South Division of the Southern League by a game over Jacksonville. The M-Braves were 42-28. ... Left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes, who was 8-1 with a 3.56 ERA, was promoted to Richmond. He had earlier won in a spot start for the R-Braves. ... Outfielder Matt Esquivel led the SL with 15 homers and 53 RBIs in the first half, while outfielder Carl Loadenthal's 24 stolen bases were tops.

Myrtle Beach (A)

Shortstop Elvis Andrus had a five-strikeout game and finished the first half hitting just .225, but was named to the World team for the Futures Game. ... Manager Rocket Wheeler missed the final three games of the first half after outpatient surgery. Coach Rick Albert filled in. ... The Pelicans finished 30-39 and last in the Southern Division. ... Moises Hernandez gave up two runs on two hits and two walks in the California-Carolina All-Star Game, which his team lost 10-5 in Stockton, Calif. ... After starting

0-8, Jairo Cuevas won his last three starts of the first half while posting a 1.35 ERA.

Rome (A)

Rome won its last four games of the first half to finish 29-41. That was seventh in the Southern Division of the SAL, a half game in back of Greenville. ... Right-hander Deunte Heath took the loss in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game at Rome on Tuesday, giving up all the North's runs in the fourth inning of a 3-1 loss by the South. The right-hander had a 2.07 ERA in the first half. ... Reliever Kris Medlen struck out the only two batters he faced and outfielder Concepcion Rodriguez was 1-for-2. ... Right-hander Tommy Hanson didn't pitch because of a sore back.

Danville (rookie)

Cody Johnson, the Braves' first-round draft pick in 2006, went 2-for-4 with a home run and walk in the Appalachian League opener. Danville lost 11-7 to Burlington despite the outfielder's good game and a 4-for-5 performance from second baseman Cole Miles. Johnson hit just .184 last season in the Gulf Coast League.