LAWRENCEVILLE — It came in the International League’s bandbox, but the Gwinnett Braves’ Joe Leonard certainly wasn’t going to give back his first Class AAA home run.
The two-run homer in the sixth inning at Charlotte’s new BB&T Ballpark on Wednesday night was a very long time coming.
Leonard didn’t go deep in 119 games with Gwinnett last season and had gone empty again over 64 combined games for the G-Braves and Class AA Mississippi this year.
In fact, he hadn’t connected since hitting a homer for Mississippi at Chattanooga on Aug. 4 of 2012. That was a gap of 208 games and 698 at-bats.
The 6-foot-5 Leonard, who plays third and first base, was considered a potential power hitter when taken by Atlanta in the third round of 2010 draft out of the University of Pittsburgh.
The power, though, just hasn’t developed.
Leonard hit nine homers with Mississippi in 2012 after smacking eight with Class A Advanced Lynchburg in 2011.
The 25-year-old Pennsylvania native does have a good glove and a strong arm, though, as shown by his receiving a Gold Glove as the best defensive third baseman in the minors for the 2012 season with Mississippi.
Leonard hit .248 in a utility role with the M-Braves this year before returning to Gwinnett. He was 4-for-4 with a double on Sunday and 2-for-5 on Wednesday, raising his average from .179 to .229 over a four-game stretch.
Rare power jolt
The G-Braves were still tied for last in the International League in homers through Wednesday despite setting a season-high with their four blasts at Charlotte in a 12-10 loss.
In 117 games, Gwinnett had just 68 homers — the same number as Louisville.
Charlotte, benefiting from the cozy dimensions of their new ballpark, led all of Class AAA with 150 home runs. Toledo was next in the IL with 104.
Gwinnett’s lack of power is illustrated by the fact that Ernesto Mejia is still just one off the team lead with seven homers although he headed to Japan to play in mid-May.
Joey Terdoslavich and Edward Salcedo lead the G-Braves with eight homers, while Brandon Boggs and Mark Hamilton join Mejia with seven. Hamilton was released several weeks ago.
Still no cycle
Todd Cunningham had his third four-hit game of the season Wednesday at Charlotte, falling a triple short of the cycle.
Earlier this season, the center fielder missed the cycle by a home run.
That means that an Atlanta Class AAA player hasn’t turned the trick since former Braves outfielder Tony Tarasco did it for Richmond at Charlotte during the 1993 season.
Cunningham, who had two doubles in addition to a homer and single against the Knights, picked up right where he left off before missing weekend games to be the best man at his brother’s wedding.
The switch-hitter came into Thursday with a .375 batting average for his past 14 games, getting a hit in all except one of them.
Juan Jaime, now up with Atlanta, was the only G-Braves player to be included in Baseball America’s annual list of top players by category in each minor league.
Jaime, who had 16 saves, was selected as the International League’s top relief pitcher.
Like Jaime, many of the IL players on the list are now in the majors. Pittsburgh’s Gregory Polanco was named the top hitting prospect for his time with Indianapolis and Toronto’s Marcus Stroman, former of Buffalo, was recognized as the top pitching prospect.