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Braves add slugger Mejia to 40-man roster

Ernesto Mejia's banner 2012 season in Gwinnett didn't earn the first baseman a September promotion to Atlanta, but it has produced a spot on the Braves' 40-man roster going into 2013.

Mejia, who could have become a minor league free agent, will go to spring training with a chance to earn a spot on the bench in Atlanta. If he doesn't, he will likely be back with the G-Braves for another season.

The native of Venezuela was the International League rookie of the year this season after hitting .296 with 24 homers and a league-best 92 RBIs. He was the starting first baseman for the IL in the AAA All-Star Game and also made the postseason all-star team.

The 26-year-old is blocked in Atlanta by first baseman Freddie Freeman, but could be an asset off the bench as a right-handed pinch hitter while serving as a backup.

Mejia, who has spent all except one of his eight minor league seasons in the Braves organization, is off to a hot start in the Venezuelan Winter League. In his first 21 games, he had a .333 average with five homers and 17 RBIs.

Durango, Gartrell now free agents

Outfielders Luis Durango and Stefan Gartrell are among 14 players with Gwinnett in 2012 who are now minor league free agents.

Durango led the International League with 46 stolen bases, while hitting .289. Gartrell hit 20 homers after hitting 26 homers and driving in 94 runs the previous year.

The large group of free agents also includes all three of the G-Braves' 2012 catchers -- J.C. Boscan, Jose Yepez and Shawn McGill.

The other position players who became free agents are infielders Josh Wilson, Rusty Ryal, Ruben Gotay and Terry Tiffee, and outfielders Felix Pie and Josh Kroeger.

The free agent pitchers are Buddy Carlyle, Erik Cordier and Dusty Hughes.

All of the players are still eligible to re-sign, but that appears unlikely in most cases. The Braves did retain outfielder Jordan Parraz and pitchers Johan Flande and Jose Lugo

Gwinnett is expected to have an extensive new look next season after enduring a 15-game losing streak and finishing last in the South Division of the IL. Much of the 2013 roster is expected to be made up of players promoted from Class AA Mississippi.

Gattis off to hot start

Evan Gattis, expected to be one of Gwinnett's top hitters next season, is off to a hot start in the Venezuelan Winter League, posting a .300 average with five homers and 17 RBIs in his first 21 games. Gattis hit .305 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs in 74 games last season with Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Mississippi despite missing time with a wrist injury.

A right-handed hitter, Gattis can play first base and the outfield as well as catch.

Gattis, 26, got a late start on his pro career. But he impressed Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez with his bat during spring training this year and will get a look again next spring.

Ahmed doing well in Arizona

Nick Ahmed, likely to be the G-Braves' shortstop by 2014, was the only Atlanta prospect selected for the Rising Stars Game in the Arizona Fall League.

Ahmed, 22, hit .326 in his first 12 games for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. He was 0-for-1 with a walk and run scored in the Rising Stars Game. A second-round draft choice in 2011, Ahmed stole 40 bases last season for Lynchburg and was an all-star pick in the Class A Advanced Carolina League.