BRAVES MINORS NOTES: Shoulder woes idle Braves' top pitching prospects

At the major league level, elbows have been the problem for the Atlanta Braves. In the minors, it has been shoulders.

J.R. Graham, ranked as the team's top prospect, has been rehabbing in Florida for more than a month and No. 4 prospect Sean Gilmartin landed on the Gwinnett disabled list because of shoulder tendonitis.

Graham's injury was diagnosed as a shoulder strain after he had to leave a start for Class AA Mississippi on May 13 and he still isn't back on the mound.

Gilmartin, the Braves' first-round draft pick in 2011, had made 13 starts for Class AAA Gwinnett, but was 3-7 with a 5.83 ERA.

Graham, Atlanta's minor league pitcher of the year in 2012, was 1-4 with a 4.04 ERA in eight starts for Mississippi before being sidelined.

David Hale, ranked as the Braves' No. 19 prospect by MLB.com, has also had shoulder problems this season. But he returned to the Gwinnett rotation this month and threw six scoreless innings in a victory at Buffalo on Thursday.

With Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty lost to Tommy John surgery and Brandon Beachy working his way back, the Braves need as much pitching depth as possible. But their minor league staffs have been hit by injuries as well.

Other pitchers sidelined include Daniel Rodriguez at Gwinnett, Gary Moran at Mississippi and David Peterson at Lynchburg. Peterson is ranked as Atlanta's No. 13 prospect by MLB.com.

Martin turning heads

Other than Alex Wood's rise from Class AA to Atlanta, Cody Martin may have had the most impressive first half of any Atlanta pitching prospect.

After starting the season in the Mississippi bullpen, the right-hander was promoted to Gwinnett on Tuesday and allowed just two hits over seven scoreless innings while winning his AAA debut. He struck out seven and walked one.

Martin, ranked as the Braves' No. 10 prospect by MLB.com, was a seventh-round pick out of Gonzaga University and went 12-7 with a 2.93 ERA at Lynchburg last season. The 23-year-old was 3-3 with a 2.82 ERA at Mississippi when promoted and had 71 strikeouts in 67 innings.

Hefflinger on tear

Robby Hefflinger is having a breakout season in the Class A Advanced Carolina League.

The outfielder capped a big first half by winning the home run derby and then the MVP award after going 3-for-5 with two doubles as his team defeated the California League 12-2 in their annual all-star game.

Hefflinger, 23, led the Carolina League with 18 home runs, 36 extra base hits and a .580 slugging average.

Memorable debuts

Catcher-third baseman Victor Caratini, the Braves' second-round draft pick this year, was 4-for-4 with a triple and two doubles as Danville opened the rookie Appalachian League season with a 9-1 victory over Princeton on Thursday.

Kyle Wren, the son of Braves general manager Frank Wren, also had a big first game with three hits. The former Georgia Tech outfielder was an eighth-round pick.

First-round selection Jason Hursh, a right-handed pitcher from Oklahoma State, will start his pro career with Class A Rome.


Gwinnett is the only one of Atlanta's four full-season minor league teams with a losing record. Here is how the others finished the first half:

Team Class Record Finish

Mississippi AA 38-32 Second

Lynchburg High A 36-33 Second

Rome Low A 36-33 Fifth