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Lynchburg's title a bright spot in Braves' farm system

Lynchburg's championship gave the Atlanta Braves minor league system something to celebrate despite an overall 315-368 record this season.

The Hillcats won the title in the Class A Advanced Carolina League, eliminating Winston-Salem with an 11th-inning, 5-4 victory in Game 4 of the best-of-five series.

Atlanta's last previous league title came in 2009, when Danville won a rookie championship in the Appalachian League.

Shortstop Nick Ahmed was 4-for-5 with three doubles in the clinching game and was named the most valuable player of the championship series.

Ahmed, ranked as the Braves' No. 11 prospect by MLB.com, hit .357 in the playoffs. The 22-year-old utility player on the Carolina League all-star team was a second-round draft pick by Atlanta in 2011 out of the University of Connecticut and had 40 stolen bases during the regular season.

Right-hander Gus Schlosser was 2-0 and didn't allow a run in the playoffs, pitching eight scoreless innings in the semifinal opener against Wilmington and seven in Game 3 against Winston-Salem. He allowed seven hits, struck out 13 and walked two.

Schlosser, 21, was named pitcher of the year in the Carolina League after going 13-7 with a 3.38 ERA and having 139 strikeouts to 33 walks in 165 innings. He was a 17th-round draft pick by Atlanta out of Florida Southern in 2011.

Lynchburg, which won the first-half in the North Division, got a boost in the playoffs from the rehabbing Andrelton Simmons. He played in four games, including the first two of the final series, and was 6-for-18 with two homers.

Lynchburg won the Carolina League title in 2009, but that was as a Pittsburgh farm team. The Braves won back-to-back CL championships at Myrtle Beach in 1999 and 2000.

Danville was the only Braves team other than Lynchburg to have a winning record this season and made the Appalachian League playoffs as a wild-card team. Rome won a second-half division title in the Class A South Atlantic League, going from 18-52 in the first half to 44-24. Rome, like Danville, was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.Graham, Cunningham honoredRight-hander J.R. Graham and outfielder Todd Cunningham were named the Braves' minor league pitcher and player of the year, respectively. They were honored before Saturday's game at Turner Field against Washington.

Graham, 22, was a combined 12-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 26 starts for Lynchburg and Class AA Mississippi in his first full season. Opponents hit just .228 against him and he had 110 strikeouts to 34 walks in 148 innings. He was a fourth-round draft choice in 2011 out of Santa Clara University.

Cunningham, 23, batted .309 with 51 RBIs and 24 stolen bases for Mississippi and was in contention for the Southern League batting title going into the final game of the season. The switch-hitter, who was named to the SL all-star team, had an on-base percentage of .364. He was a second-round draft choice out of Jacksonville State in 2010.

Graham is ranked as the Braves' No. 6 prospect by MLB.com and Cunningham is No. 11. Cunningham should be a part of the Gwinnett outfield next season and Graham will be a candidate for the Gwinnett Braves' rotation.

Atlanta honored first baseman Ernesto Mejia and reliever Cory Gearrin as Gwinnett's player and pitcher of the year. Mejia, who led the International League with 92 RBIs, was named IL rookie of the year.Sims ranked as

No. 4 prospectBrookwood's Lucas Sims, Atlanta's first-round pick in June, was No. 4 in MLB.com's season-ending list of the Braves' top 20 prospects.

The right-hander was 2-4 with a 3.71 ERA in 11 games for Danville and the Gulf Coast League Braves, striking out 39 in 34 innings and allowing just a .217 opponents' batting average.

Julio Teheran remained ranked No. 1 among Braves prospects by MLB.com despite his 7-9 record and 5.12 ERA with the G-Braves this season, but fell to No. 25 on the overall Top 100 list.

Simmons is ranked as the No. 2 Braves prospect and is No. 32 overall, while Mississippi catcher Christian Bethancourt is No. 3 and No. 59. Left-hander Sean Gilmartin, who finished the season with Gwinnett, is ranked as the Braves' No. 5 prospect behind Sims.