Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka have spent the season pitching beyond their years in Double-A. So it was only fitting that both hurlers dominated on opposite ends of a doubleheader Friday in their final regular-season-starts for Mississippi.
Allard, Atlanta's No. 3 prospect and No. 25 on MLB Pipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, set the tone in the opener as he recorded his first career shutout in a 3-0 win over Birmingham. The left-hander allowed one hit and one walk with five strikeouts in seven innings, throwing 65 of his 98 pitches for strikes.
"We just stuck with what we've been doing all season -- establishing the fastball to both sides," Allard told MiLB.com. "Changeup was working tonight, I was slowing some bats down with that. I went out there and executed pitches, the defense did a good job behind me and got some outs."
MILB Video - Title: Allard finishes shutout - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1799560083
The scoreless performance was Allard's second in a row and put a bow on what has been a hugely impressive campaign. In his age-19 season, Allard (who celebrated his 20th birthday on Aug. 13) posted a 3.18 ERA with 129 strikeouts and 45 walks while making 27 starts for the M-Braves. He completed at least six innings in six consecutive starts down the stretch to finish with exactly 150 innings pitched.
"I had my ups and downs just like any year would have," Allard said. "I think I learned more about myself and more about pitching this year than I have any previous year in my life. This year, I can't thank our pitching coach enough. He's helped me through it and we've done a lot of things and I've become a lot better pitcher because of it."
Following Allard's lead, Soroka (Braves' No. 5, No. 38 overall), took the mound in the nightcap and delivered six innings of one-run ball. Throwing 53 of his 74 pitches for strikes, the 20-year-old righty (also in his age-19 campaign) allowed three hits and struck out seven. He ultimately received a no-decision in spite of the strong effort, as Mississippi edged Birmingham, 4-3, in 13 innings.
He finishes his time in the Southern League with a 2.75 ERA and a 125-to-34 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 153 2/3 innings spanning 26 starts.
Catcher Alex Jackson paced the M-Braves' offense in both contests. The Braves' No. 17 prospect put his team on the board in the second inning of game one with an inside-the-park home run, then connected on a two-run shot to left field in the second inning of the nightcap. The 21-year-old went 2-for-6 at the plate between the two games, finishing with three runs scored, three RBIs and two walks.
The rest of the best performances from top prospects Friday
• No. 10 overall prospect Kyle Tucker (Astros' No. 1) hit a pair of doubles and drove in three in a 3-for-5 showing for Double-A Corpus Christi. The three-hit performance was Tucker's second in 68 games with the Hooks and improved his Double-A slash line to .258/.322/.494. Overall, the 20-year-old outfielder has slashed .270/.345/.518 with 23 homers, 32 doubles and 21 steals in 116 games this season.
MILB Video - Title: Tucker's two-run double - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1799923383
• No. 22 overall prospect Mitch Keller (Pirates' No. 2) struck out a career-high 11 batters over six innings in a scoreless performance for Double-A Altoona. He yielded three hits (all singles) and issued one walk before departing the game after 92 pitches (63 strikes). Keller pushed his strikeout total to 116 in 116 innings (23 starts) with the double-digit strikeout game. His ERA, meanwhile, dropped to 3.03 with the scoreless outing. The 21-year-old righty is a prospect to watch in the upcoming Arizona Fall League, and he recently reflected on his 2017 season (as well as his selection for the Fall League) on the latest MLBPipeline podcast.
"Probably the best I've felt on the mound in a while," Keller told MiLB.com. "Just being able to throw all my pitches for strikes kept them off-balance. Utilizing my changeup to the seven lefties in the lineup was huge for me tonight.
"You're going to have good and bad days on the mound, but I just felt really in control of everything tonight," he said. "I was able to move my fastball to both sides of the plate really well tonight and my changeup just played off that."
MILB Video - Title: Keller's 11th strikeout - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1799025583
• No. 30 overall prospect Bo Bichette's (Blue Jays' No. 2) leadoff home run put Class A Advanced Dunedin on the board and ultimately proved the difference in their 2-1 win against Clearwater. The home run was the 14th of the season for the 19-year-old shortstop, who has produced a .331/.388/.475 line with 14 extra-base hits and 10 steals in 39 games with Dunedin. Altogether, Bichette has raked at a .365/.426/.570 clip, with 59 extra-base hits and 22 stolen bases, in 109 games across two levels in his full-season debut.
• No. 35 overall prospect Kyle Wright (Braves' No. 4) fired two scoreless frames, allowing just one hit and striking out three in his final regular-season start for Class A Advanced Florida. The 2017 first-rounder (No. 5 overall) posted a 2.65 ERA across two levels in his pro debut, totaling 18 strikeouts and six walks while holding hitters to a .186 average in 17 innings.
• After giving up a combined nine earned runs in his two previous turns for Class A Rome, Braves' No. 9 prospect Joey Wentz bounced back to record five scoreless frames in his final regular-season outing. He found the strike zone with 48 of his 84 offerings, allowing one hit and three walks while striking out six. The 19-year-old lefty finishes his full-season debut among South Atlantic League leaders in several categories, ranking first in strikeouts (152) and fourth in ERA (2.60).
• Marlins No. 17 prospect Sam Perez spun seven scoreless innings in a dominant start for Class A Short Season Batavia. Throwing 56 of his 77 pitches for strikes, the 23-year-old righty gave up four hits, hit one batter and struck out four. He ranks second in the New York-Penn League with a 1.88 ERA after the outing.
• Mets No. 29 prospect Corey Oswalt allowed three hits, issued one walk and struck out eight as he won for the fifth time in six starts for Double-A Binghamton. The 23-year-old righty went 7-1 with a 1.31 ERA over 10 starts down the stretch, capping a breakout campaign in the Eastern League that saw him go 12-5 with a 2.28 ERA in 134 1/3 innings (24 starts).
MILB Video - Title: Watch: Oswalt notches 8th strikeout - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1800484783