Ernesto Mejia looks like he is headed back to Gwinnett for a third straight season, but the first baseman showed again this winter that he is capable of putting up big power numbers outside the majors.
Mejia hit 13 homers and had 46 RBIs over 58 games in the Venezuelan League while batting .275 for the Zulia Eagles. He struck out 56 times and drew 34 walks.
Mejia, who turned 29 in December, set the G-Braves season record with 28 homers in 2013 after hitting 24 the previous year. His average, though, dropped from .296 to .249 and his RBIs went from a team-record 92 to 83.
Although the Venezuelan native is on Atlanta’s 40-man roster, there appears to be little room for him with the Braves. The acquisition of Ryan Doumit, who can play first base in addition to catcher, gives Atlanta a veteran backup for Freddie Freeman. Joey Terdoslavich is also available.
Left-handed reliever Ryan Buchter will get a serious look by the Braves in spring training after putting up eye-popping numbers in the Mexican Pacific League.
Buchter struck out 26 in 13 innings while allowing just five hits and had a 0.60 ERA to go with four saves in as many opportunities.
Control is the issue for Buchter, who turns 27 on Feb. 13. He walked eight.
Buchter led minor league relievers with 103 strikeouts for Gwinnett last season while going 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA in 51 games. But he also walked 51 in 62 innings.
Buchter, though, has a chance to make the Braves because Luis Avilan will be the only healthy veteran lefty reliever ready to start the season.
work in progress
Braves catcher of the future Christian Bethancourt showed in the Dominican Winter League that he still has some improving to do as a hitter.
The 22-year-old native of Panama hit .226 in 16 games, although he did end his stint well with his only homer and three of his four RBIs in the final game.
Bethancourt, ranked as the No. 82 prospect by MLB.com, hit .277 with 12 homers and 45 RBIs last season from Class AA Mississippi and appeared in one game with Atlanta.
Bethancourt is expected to start 2014 in Gwinnett, with Evan Gattis getting the first shot to replace Brian McCann in Atlanta.
Vazquez intrigues Braves
Right-handed reliever Luis Vasquez is one of the more interesting minor league free agents signed by the Braves and invited to spring training.
The 27-year-old was 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA in 22 games this winter in his native Dominican Republic and had 19 strikeouts to three walks.
Vasquez was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003 and split the past two seasons between Class AA Chattanooga and Class AAA Albuquerque, making the Southern League all-star game last year. He struck out 46 in 35 2/3 innings last year while posting a 2.52 ERA, but also walked 28.