Last Saturday the Rome Braves held their annual “Hot Stove” event giving fans the opportunity to meet a handful of the players, coaching staff, and front office members that helped bring the second South Atlantic League championship to Rome in the club’s fourteen year history. It truly was an exciting celebration as even some the Braves top brass, including President of Baseball Operations John Hart, General Manager John Coppolella, Assistant Director of Player Development Jonathan Schuerholz, and Atlanta Manager Brian Snitker were all in attendance.
The event kicked off with an autograph session and was followed by a Q&A with fans. There were several questions that revolved around the team that the big Braves would put on the field in Suntrust Park this season, but John Hart and Jonathan Schuerholz mainly kept the focus on the players in Rome during the 2016 season and everything they accomplished on the field.
It was a special squad that had quite a season in Rome. After a 27-42 record in the first half, the team had a complete turn around to go 43-27 and clinch the second half Southern division title. Combine the improvements in the wins and losses with the fact that this team’s roster averaged just over 20 years old, skipper Randy Ingle notched his 1500th career win, and the pitching absolutely dominated in the final series of the playoffs en route to a 3-1 series win over Lakewood for the Sally League title, it all made for a truly special season. Oh, not to mention this club was named the Minor League Baseball team of the year…
The Rome rotation was a big story last season and they were clearly a fan favorite for the Braves class A affiliate as Touki Toussaint, Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Patrick Weigel, and Max Fried were given an amazing ovation from the fans as they were introduced. This is a group that has a lot of fans excited about the moves the organization has made to add to a long list of high potential arms. Chances are that most of these guys will see a majority of their time with the Fire Frogs in the Florida State league in 2017. This is great news for the Braves new Class A-Advanced affiliate as it will put them in clear contention for a Florida State League title in the their first year of operation as a club. It will be great to watch this core group of guys develop and make their way up the ranks together. However, Rome fans need not worry, as John Hart alluded to at the Hot Stove event, there are still a lot of arms coming up behind that stud rotation that was in northwest Georgia last year. Guys like Ian Anderson and Joey Wentz that spent time in rookie leagues last year will be making the jump to Rome this spring. 2017’s Rome team will have a lot of different faces than 2016, but you may see the same style of play and ultimately the same result at the end of the season.
Rome Braves 2016 Top 6 Starting Pitchers (Listed by Games Started)
All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com