PEARL, Miss.–Both the Mississippi Braves and the Biloxi Shuckers open theor 2015 seasons tonight. The Braves play at Trustmark Park in Pearl against the Tennessee Smokies, while the Shuckers, newcomers to Mississippi, will play in Pensacola, Fla. Their stadium is still under construction and is expected to open in the early summer.
The Braves, the AA affiliate for the Atlanta Braves, will feature four of the big league team’s top prospects in their opening game, Jason Hursh (6), Rio Ruiz(11), Tyrell Jenkins (12) and Mallex Smith (19).
Hursh went 11-7 with a 3.58 ERA in 27 games for the M-Braves last season and was named Braves Organizational Pitcher of the Year. His 11 wins tied for fourth-most in the Southern League. A 2013 first round pick by the Braves out of Oklahoma State University, Hursh’s ERA ranked sixth among all Braves farmhands.
Ruiz was selected as an Arizona Fall League Rising Star during the off season. With High-A Lancaster last season, he hit .293 with 50 extra-base hits and 77 RBI in 131 games. Ruiz posted a .312 average against lefties and hit .333 during the month of July (26 games). Ruiz was acquired by the Braves along with Mike Foltynewicz and Andrew Thurman in a trade with Houston that sent Evan Gattis and James Hoyt to the Astros.
Jenkins was acquired by the Braves as part of an offseason trade with the Cardinals that sent Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to St. Louis. The right-hander held lefties to a .174 average last season at High-A Palm Beach (6-5, 3.28). Tabbed by Baseball America as the “Best Athlete” in the Cardinals system for three consecutive seasons, Jenkins was originally selected by the Cardinals as the 50th overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Smith, who was acquired by the Braves as part of the Padres trade for Justin Upton and Aaron Northcraft, was selected as a MiLB.com Organizational All-Star and was named the MiLB.com Fans’ Choice for Best Offensive Player last year. Smith began last season at Low-A Fort Wayne (.295, 65 G) and finished the year at High-A Lake Elsinore (.327, 55 G). He was also selected as a Midwest League Mid-Season All-Star.
In addition to Hursh, six others return to the Mississippi Braves pitching staff. Right-handed pitchers include Ryan Kelly, Jorge Reyes, Andrew Robinson, Greg Ross and Ryan Weber. Ian Thomas is the lone returning southpaw. New arms for the M-Braves include Jake Brigham, Justin Jackson, Jenkins, Victor Mateo, Francisco Rondon and Bryton Trepagnier.
Meanwhile, the Shuckers, formerly the Huntsville Stars, the AA affiliate for the Milwaukee Brewers, will feature right handed pitcher Brooks Hall, a star from last season, who was out with elbow irritation some of last season. He bounced back in the fall and made two starts for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League posting a 1-0 record with a 3.38 ERA in eight games, two starts. He was added to Milwaukee’s major league 40-man roster on November 20, 2014.
The Mississippi Braves and the Biloxi Shuckers will play one another at Trustmark Park in May.
Info is from the teams official websites biloxishuckers.com and mississippibraves.com.